Ex-lawyers say Florida teen shooter not flight risk

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 11, 2012 10:08 AM

(Reuters) - The former lawyers for a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed an unarmed black Florida teen said on Wednesday he is not a flight risk and is prepared to surrender if charged in the slaying.

The comments came just hours after the special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, said she would have an announcement by Friday night about whether George Zimmerman would be charged in the case. The decision is hers to make after she announced on Monday that she would not present the case to a grand jury.

Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner stepped down as Zimmerman's attorneys on Tuesday, saying they had lost contact with him, but on Wednesday said he was not a flight risk.

"He hasn't left the country. He's not going to flee," Uhrig said in an interview on CNN Wednesday.

On NBC's "Today" show Sonner said Zimmerman is in contact with authorities so that he can surrender if charges are brought against him.

"He's where he won't be found. ... I don't believe he's going to flee the country," Sonner said.

The day before, Uhrig and Sonner announced they could no longer claim to act as Zimmerman's lawyers because he failed to take their phone calls or respond to emails for days. They said that without their advice, Zimmerman had taken unusual steps, including trying to personally contact Corey.

Uhrig said on Tuesday that Zimmerman had left the state of Florida, was "not doing well emotionally" and "he may not be in complete control of what's going on."

Sonner told CNN on Wednesday that when the public sees the full picture of what occurred in the gated community of Sanford, Florida, where Zimmerman, 28, shot Trayvon Martin, 17, while on neighborhood watch patrol on February 26, it will be clear that Zimmerman acted in self-defense.

Both Uhrig and Sonner said they had never met face-to-face with Zimmerman but had received emails and spoken by phone with him before Sunday, when they lost contact with him.

Uhrig also told Reuters that Zimmerman had said by phone that he would sign a written agreement acknowledging Uhrig was his attorney and was scheduled to do so last weekend but never did. Florida does not require a signed agreement between attorney and client, although it is "better practice" and nearly every case includes one, Uhrig said.

Zimmerman, who has not been charged in the case, told police he shot Martin in self-defense. Police said they found no evidence to the contrary, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force against adversaries when they fear great bodily harm or death.

At their unusual Tuesday press conference, Zimmerman's former lawyers said one of the steps he took without their counsel was contacting Sean Hannity of Fox News. Hannity on his show Tuesday night confirmed he spoke with Zimmerman but declined to report on the conversation.

Fox News did not immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, David Adams and Paul Thomasch; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Trott)