Analysis

Why George Zimmerman's lawyers dumped him: 5 theories

In a strange press conference, the Florida shooter's attorneys said they could no longer represent their rogue client. What's behind this bizarre breakup?

The legal case surrounding the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is growing curiouser and curiouser. On the same day Trayvon's shooter, George Zimmerman, launched a cash-soliciting website and the special prosecutor assigned to the case, Angela Corey, said she will release new information within 72 hours, Zimmerman's lawyers held a bizarre press conference to announce that they're dropping their high-profile client. Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said Zimmerman is making it impossible for them to represent him: He's been incommunicado for several days, and has made several bad moves without telling them, or against their counsel. What's really behind this strange parting of ways? Here, five theories:

1. Zimmerman is an impossible client"Zimmerman has gone rogue," says Nick Martin at Talking Points Memo. Sonner and Uhrig say their erstwhile client — who's still somewhere in the U.S. but no longer in Florida — called and spoke directly with Fox News host Sean Hannity behind their backs, and contacted Corey's office in an attempt to set up a one-on-one meeting. For Corey to talk to Zimmerman without his lawyers present would violate "ethical rules in every state," says Darren Lenard Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice. Zimmerman is "acting in a way that might deter good lawyers from representing him" in the future, too.

2. And he might not be in his right mindSonner and Uhrig said Zimmerman is "not doing well emotionally," and is possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Zimmerman's decision to talk to Hannity but not his own lawyers is pretty clear proof that he is "unstrung," says Charlie Pierce in Esquire. He "seems to have decided that the way out of his troubles is to become a cable-television celebrity." If you have "an ounce of human dignity left," Sean, "the next time Zimmerman calls, tell him to get a real lawyer and to do what the lawyer tells him to do. And then hang up the phone."

3. The lawyers were tired of working pro bono for an ingrateAt their "bombshell press conference," Sonner and Uhrig revealed that "Zimmerman has never paid his attorneys," notes Tommy Christopher at Mediaite. Sonner did say, however, that he agreed to represent Zimmerman pro bono until charges were filed. Still, Zimmerman doesn't seem entirely grateful for the free help: Neither lawyer has met Zimmerman in person, and he essentially dumped them by not returning their calls and text-messages.

4. The lawyers are just seeking publicity for themselvesZimmerman is certainly making the lawyers' jobs difficult, says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. But even if they have an ethical duty to dump Zimmerman, "there's a big difference between ending your representation of your client and going on national TV and describing him like an out-of-control freak." Maybe they're trying to cash in on the publicity, or wash their hands of a thankless case, but this doesn't seem like the appropriate way to disentangle themselves.

5. This is an elaborate ploy on Zimmerman's part to stay out of jailThis whole situation might just "be part of an elaborate and not entirely crazy act of self-preservation" on Zimmerman's part, says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. Consider this: He fled Florida and contacted Hannity. Let's say he's seeking refuge in "a very red state." Having Fox News rally conservatives to his side could lead a GOP governor in such a state to "refuse to extradite Zimmerman" to Florida if Zimmerman's indicted. Maybe that's an "utterly ridiculous" theory, but this country is so crazy, I think the plan could actually work.

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