George Zimmerman’s lawyers withdrew from his defense on Tuesday after the man who shot and killed an unarmed black Florida teenager telephoned prosecutors directly, contacted a television journalist and set up a website all without their knowledge.
Defense lawyers Craig Sonner and Mark Uhrig said they lost contact with their client on Sunday and were concerned for his mental and physical health following a wave a protests across the country that have demanded Zimmerman’s arrest for the death of Trayvon Martin, 17.
“We have lost contact with him,” Sonner told a news conference outside the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Florida, the town where Martin was shot.
The decision by the lawyers to step down marks the latest twist in a case that has captured national attention because of race and Florida’s controversial self-defense laws.
Martin was black and Zimmerman is white and Hispanic.
Zimmerman, 28, has not been charged in the case and has been in hiding since the shooting incident exploded into the public consciousness. Sonner and Uhrig declined on Tuesday to say where Zimmerman was except to say he was in the United States.
Uhrig said he remains concerned about his former client’s mental and physical health, calling the investigation and the media attention “a terribly corrosive process.”
“He probably watches more of this every day than he should,” Uhrig said. “He’s emotionally alone, and you might even say emotionally crippled.”
The lawyers said they would return to representing Zimmerman if he were to reach out and request their services.
For the time being, however, both attorneys said they were concerned he was taking action in the case without their advice.