SANFORD, Fla. - Lawyers for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, announced on Tuesday that they are stepping down from the case because they've lost contact with Zimmerman, who is hiding somewhere in the United States.
Zimmerman's lawyers, Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner, said they have not spoken to Zimmerman since Sunday through text messages. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged in the Feb. 26 shooting death, and a special prosecutor is reviewing the case.
"He has gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to," Sonner said. "If he wants us to come back as counsel, he will contact us."
They said a series of events contributed to their stepping down, the most recent one being Zimmerman trying to call special prosecutor Angela Corey earlier Tuesday to offer to come in for questioning. Uhrig and Sonner said they would not have advised him to do that. Corey didn't talk to Zimmerman and he was told by an employee at Corey's office she couldn't talk to him without his attorneys.
"He indicated to the prosecutor's office that it was his intention and goal, if they would let him, to quote unquote 'Come into the prosecutor's office and answer their questions there.' If he was anticipating an arrest, they wouldn't have to run very far to catch him," said Uhrig.
The now former attorneys spent a majority of the press conference defending Zimmerman to reporters, as they would in court. They said they don't think he'll be arrested or charged, and that Corey has most of the evidence she needs to make a decision soon.
Uhrig and Sonner said they would represent Zimmerman if he contacted them, but they are mainly concerned for Zimmerman's safety and his emotional well-being.
"There's a bounty out on his head," said Uhrig, who added that Zimmerman is basically confined to a residence because of threats. "He's emotionally crippled by this case."
Uhrig said that they believe Zimmerman is suffering from "post traumatic stress syndrome" and that they think he "may not be in complete control of what's going on."
They wouldn't disclose where Zimmerman is in hiding but said he is not currently in Florida.
"He's in the United States," Sonner said. He would not elaborate on where exactly Zimmerman is.
Sonner said they also stand by every comment they've made in the case thus far, including how he thinks Zimmerman was acting in "self-defense" and that this case was not a "racial issue."
"I still believe he was acting in self-defense that night," Sonner said.
The attorneys also said they were supposed to set up Zimmerman's website, TheRealGeorgeZimmerman.com, and they even set up a PayPal account for their version of Zimmerman's site to go to an account controlled by his father. Instead, Zimmerman set up the site on his own, and it's not clear where the PayPal account on Zimmerman's site he made is going.
Although Zimmerman wouldn't talk to his attorneys, he posted an update on his site at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, reading:
"I am attempting to respond to each and everyone of my supporters personally. The support has been overwhelming in volume and strength. I thank you all and ask that you permit me the time to respond to each one of you personally. Once again thank you.
Zimmerman also called Fox News and talked to Sean Hannity -- something Uhrig and Sonner wouldn't have recommended, they said. Fox News Channel confirmed Hannity will discuss his conversation with Zimmerman on Tuesday's episode.
Speaking to CNN's Piers Morgan, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, reacted to the attorneys' move and said, "They should be close to him and in close contact with him and able to have communication. So it does bother us that they don't know where he is.
"We just want him to be arrested so he can come before a judge and jury."
Martin's family and attorney said they're worried Zimmerman may be a flight risk and an arrest would benefit both sides.
Despite no longer being his attorneys, Uhrig and Sonner said they don't think Zimmerman is a flight risk.
Hours after the lawyers spoke to the media, Corey announced that she would be holding a press conference within the next 72 hours, either in Sanford or Jacksonville, and would release some new information on the case.
Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch leader, who reported to police that a suspicious man was walking through his Sanford community.
Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self-defense after Martin attacked him and slammed his head against the sidewalk, according to police.
"We hope for the best for George Zimmerman and we hope for the best for the Martin family," Uhrig said.
Martin's death has triggered a nationwide debate about race in America and Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury.
On the night of the shooting, Sanford police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges. Authorities said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there were no grounds, at the outset, to disprove his account that he'd acted to protect himself.
Thousands have converged on Sanford to join in protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest and criticizing the police department's handling of the case.
Watch Local 6 for more on this story.
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