George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., man at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting death, has gone off the grid. Disappeared. And his attorneys are now no longer his attorneys.
“George can’t go down to the 7-Eleven to buy a Coke,” says former attorney Hal Uhrig. “There’s a bounty on his head. Whether it’s believed to be a bounty or not, it’s out there. He probably watches more of this than he should. He’s largely alone -- whether that means he’s absolutely alone or not, he’s at least emotionally alone. And you might even say “emotionally crippled” by virtue of the pressure of this case.”
Ethically, Uhrig and Craig Sonner say they cannot legally represent a client whom they have no contact with. They say Zimmerman stopped calling them or answering their calls on Sunday. But in perhaps the most bizarre of all of these extraordinary developments in this high-profile case that has consumed the nation for a month, Zimmerman apparently made one key phone call Tuesday, to Jacksonville, to speak directly with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, who right now is deciding whether to criminally charge Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin.
“We heard today that George had contacted the prosecutor’s office directly,” says Uhrig. “One of the things every defense attorney tells his clients is ‘don’t talk to the prosecutors, don’t talk to the cops, frankly don’t talk to anybody until we get control of the situation and do it through counsel.’”
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To Corey’s ethical credit, they say, the special prosecutor did not take advantage of Zimmerman’s outreach, refusing to question him without a defense attorney present.
The special prosecutor announced Tuesday night that sometime Wednesday, Thursday or Friday the charge-or-no-charge decision will be made. The public and media will then get a three-hour notice. The special prosecutor’s news conference, explaining her legal reasoning to whatever her decision is, will take place either in her office in Jacksonville, or in Sanford, the Orlando suburb that has been the scene of marches for justice, cries for an arrest and epicenter of an instance of alleged racial profiling.
The parents of Trayvon Martin released a short statement following the stunning announcement that the alleged killer of their son has gone completely underground.
“The family is deeply concerned that George Zimmerman is currently unaccounted for. They are worried that he could pose a flight risk if he does indeed face charges in the murder of Trayvon Martin. “
In an interview with Fox News yesterday morning, Martin’s mother says they are just breathlessly awaiting the special prosecutor’s conclusion.
“We’re on pins and needles, but we’re waiting patiently,” says Sybrina Fulton. “We’re hoping that we’ll get a call very soon, and that she will meet with us and tell us what her decision is. So we really don’t know, we are being patient and we are staying prayerful.”
But despite no longer representing George Zimmerman, his former attorneys still insist that the evidence and witness testimony available in this case will vindicate Zimmerman, that, under Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law, he acted in self-defense.
“What becomes important is the moment in time when somebody confronted somebody and the first person went from sticks and stones, break my bones, words can never hurt me, the first person that swung, as far as we can tell, was Trayvon Martin,” says Uhrig. That's what changed the character of the entire situation from what might have been an unfortunate misunderstanding into a crime. And the crime was battery against George Zimmerman.”
Which side of this nationally divisive story is adopted by the special prosecutor, we will all learn, live on nationwide television, by Friday.
Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC's Miami-based correspondent.