US & Canada

Trayvon Martin: George Zimmerman lawyers step aside

Lawyers for the Florida man who killed an unarmed black teenager say they have lost contact with George Zimmerman and can no longer represent him.

Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they had not heard from him since Sunday, but said he had personally contacted the special prosecutor's office.

The lawyers added Mr Zimmerman was "probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome".

Mr Zimmerman has said he shot Trayvon Martin, 17, in self-defence.

The death of Trayvon Martin has sparked a nationwide debate over self-defence laws and heightened racial tensions.

His family and protesters around the country have called for Mr Zimmerman's arrest.

A lawyer representing Martin's family said after the announcement he was worried Mr Zimmerman could try to flee if he was charged in the case.

"At this point, we're just concerned that nobody knows where he is at," lawyer Benjamin Crump said.

'Not doing well'

Mr Sonner and Mr Uhrig said it would be unethical for them to continue speaking to the media on behalf of Mr Zimmerman if they were not in contact with him on a daily basis.

"We're not taking the position that we're leaving him. We are open to George Zimmerman. But he has got to reach out to us, the communication can't be one-way," Mr Uhrig told reporters.

They also said that Mr Zimmerman appeared to be acting independently, and without consulting them first.

The lawyers said that - against their advice - Mr Zimmerman had contacted the office of Angela Corey, the special prosecutor who will decide whether he will face charges over Mr Martin's death.

Ms Corey indicated on Tuesday that a news conference would be held "within the next 72 hours" during which new material about the case would be released.

The lawyers also said Mr Zimmerman had published a website soliciting donations to fund his legal and living expenses, but that his legal team did not know about it until they received questions about it from the media.

Mr Uhrig said he was concerned that Mr Zimmerman was "not doing well emotionally", but both lawyers said they would represent Mr Zimmerman again if he approached them.

"Our concern is that for him to do this when he's got a couple of professionals out there working as hard as we were for his benefit, to handle it this way suggests that he may not be in complete control of what's going on," Mr Uhrig said.

The lawyers added that they had not met Mr Zimmerman face-to-face.

'Full attention'

Mr Zimmerman's website , launched on Monday, bears one of the first publicly available statements he has made since the shooting on 26 February.

Though he provides no details about that day, he says "as a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life.

"This website's sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries."

Also on Monday, the special prosecutor said there would be no grand jury hearing to determine if Mr Zimmerman should face trial.

But authorities said that decision would have no bearing on whether he could face charges over the shooting.

Trayvon Martin's family and supporters have said Mr Zimmerman killed him in cold blood after suspecting the teenager was a criminal based on his race and the fact he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Supporters of Mr Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, have said he only opened fire after the teenager attacked him, broke his nose and banged his head against the pavement.

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