Thursday, May 24, 2018
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2 attorneys exit defense in Florida youth's slaying


Hal Uhrig, left, and Craig Sonner address a news conference in Sanford, Fla. The two attorneys for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, said Tuesday they have withdrawn as his counsel because they haven't heard from him in days and he is taking unadvised actions related to the case.

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SANFORD, Fla. — Two attorneys for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, stepped down as his lawyers on Tuesday after saying they had lost contact with him and that he was no longer in Florida.

Lawyers Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they had not heard from Mr. Zimmerman since Sunday and expressed concern about his mental and physical health.

They said he had taken several recent actions without their advice, including calling a special prosecutor in the case and a TV journalist.

"We have lost contact with him," Mr. Sonner said outside the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., the town where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot.

"He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing and who he's talking to," he said.

Mr. Zimmerman told police he shot young Martin in self-defense. He has not been charged in the case and went into hiding after the shooting triggered protests calling for his arrest. Sanford police declined to arrest Mr. Zimmerman after the shooting, saying they found no evidence to contradict his account that he had acted in self-defense.

Meanwhile, the special prosecutor in the case said late Tuesday that she will make an announcement about the case within 72 hours.

Prosecutor Angela Corey didn't indicate what the announcement will be. She is deciding whether to charge Mr. Zimmerman with a crime for fatally shooting young Martin on Feb. 26.

The decision by Mr. Zimmerman's lawyers to step down marked the latest twist in a case that has captured national attention because of race and Florida's self-defense laws.

Young Martin was black; Mr. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.

Mr. Uhrig said the lawyers were concerned about their former client's mental and physical health. Calling the investigation and the media attention "a terribly corrosive process," Mr. Uhrig said Mr. Zimmerman may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had reportedly lost weight.

Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the victim's family, said young Martin's parents were concerned that Mr. Zimmerman could now be a flight risk.

The lawyers said they would resume representing Mr. Zimmerman if he were to request their services. For the time being, however, both said they were concerned that he was taking action in the case without their advice.

They said they were particularly worried that Mr. Zimmerman had telephoned the special prosecutor's office and offered to answer questions. The prosecutor's office told the attorneys about Mr. Zimmerman's call and declined to meet or speak with him without his legal representation.

The attorneys also said Mr. Zimmerman had spoken to Fox TV host Sean Hannity without consulting them, in an attempt to give his side of the shooting.

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