Today, Zimmerman's lawyers held a press conference and announced that they were no longer representing him. They said that he had stopped returning their calls and that he was not following their advice. In a very bizarre twist, Zimmerman directly contacted the special prosecutor earlier this week. Ethical rules in every state prevent opposing counsel from speaking with represented adversaries without their counsel present. At this stage of the investigation, it is fair to say that Zimmerman is in an adversarial position with the state of Florida.
The prosecutor declined to speak with Zimmerman without his lawyers. Shockingly (or not), he said that the men who have presented themselves to the public as his lawyers were not actually representing him. Instead, he said that they were his "legal advisers." Well, that is what lawyers do when they provide representation: they give legal advice.
The situation on Zimmerman's side is unraveling. Yesterday, he launched a website seeking donations. As Think Progress reported, the website contains a picture of a vandalized black cultural center at Ohio State University. The graffiti supports Zimmerman's cause. Another picture shows a poster at a rally offering support for Zimmerman. The rally was sponsored by Terry Jones, a very conservative and openly bigoted anti-Muslim minister from Florida. This is not the public face a potential defendant in a hate crime case should present.
Furthermore, the same day Zimmerman launched his website, a "relative" wrote a bitter letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The letter says that Holder is a racist because he has not charged the New Black Panthers with a federal hate crime. The only apparent reason for saying that Holder is a racist is the fact that he and the members of the New Black Panthers are black. Moreover, as I explained yesterday, the federal hate crimes statute punishes actual acts of violence on the basis of race or other protected categories. Accordingly, DOJ cannot charge the group with a hate crime.
The timing of the letter is very interesting. It coincides with Zimmerman's request for financial assistance. It also makes appeals to conservatives, after polls show that whites -- conservative whites in particular -- believe that he is innocent. I suspect that Zimmerman either wrote the letter himself or directed his "relative" to do so. No sane attorney would have advised a client to send such a letter or to distribute it to the media.
Yesterday, the special prosecutor announced that she was not going to use a grand jury to make a decision about any charges to bring against Zimmerman. I suspect that she will likely find probable cause to charge him with a crime, but it is impossible to make prediction with certainty. Regardless, Zimmerman has really damaged his reputation and is acting in a way that might deter good lawyers from representing him.