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Lawyers withdraw from shooting case

Lawyers for the US neighbourhood watch volunteer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in a case that sparked widespread protests have withdrawn from the case, saying they have lost contact with George Zimmerman and fear for his emotional state.

Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said Zimmerman, 28, contacted the prosecutor who will decide whether he should face charges and even talked to a TV host after they told him not to speak to anyone.

They said they worried about Zimmerman suffering under the weight and isolation of the case.

The lack of an arrest in the shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin, 17, has led to a national debate about race and the laws of self-defence. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother Hispanic.

Zimmerman says he shot the teenager in self-defence after following him in a gated community in Sanford on February 26. He said he was returning to his truck when the teenager attacked him and that he shot him during the fight. Zimmerman was not arrested, partly because of Florida's self-defence law.

Mr Sonner said he had talked to Zimmerman almost every day for the last couple of months, but the lawyers had not heard from him since Sunday.

"He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to," Mr Sonner said. "George Zimmerman, in our opinion, and from information made available to us, is not doing well emotionally, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome," Mr Uhrig said.

"George can't get in a car and drive down to some office centre to go in and see the psychologist. There's a bounty out on his head, whether it's believed to be real or not, it's out there. "

He said the "final straw" came when they learned Zimmerman contacted special prosecutor Angela Corey's office and said he wanted to meet. He also spoke with Fox TV host Sean Hannity in an attempt to give his side of the shooting. The lawyers said Ms Corey refused to talk to Zimmerman without his lawyers' consent and Mr Hannity would not tell them what was discussed.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Trayvon's family, said they were concerned that Zimmerman could be a flight risk if he was charged with a crime, since his ex-lawyers did not know how to contact him. "At this point, we're just concerned that nobody knows where he is at," Mr Crump said.

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