“And then I heard a hard-breathing man come say, ‘What you doing around here?’ … And then I was calling, ‘Trayvon, Trayvon.’ And then I started to hear a little bit of Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off.'” – Rachel Jeantel
THE TESTIMONY of Rachel Jeantel, the friend of Trayvon Martin being called the prosecution’s “star” witness, finally finished today, with parts of it infuriating, other moments breathtakingly heartbreaking.
In a painfully embarrassing moment, Rachel Jeantel was asked to read the letter out loud in court.
“Are you able to read that at all?” defense attorney Don West asked.
Jeantel, head bowed, eyes averted whispered into the court microphone, “Some but not all. I don’t read cursive.”
It sent a hush through the packed courtroom.
At another point, the prosecution asked Miss Jeantel about her upbringing, with the young woman stating that her mother doesn’t speak English very well and the she originally spoke Cajun. She can, however, understand English well, she stated emphatically.
I’ll let the Global Grind explain, because they do it much better than an Scots-Irish broad living in the Beltway could ever do. That doesn’t mean I don’t concur with what they wrote yesterday about Rachel Jeantel, because I do.
It seems the middle-aged white men on both sides of this case are totally unaware of what Rachel’s life is like – a 19-year-old high school student of Haitian descent who knows nothing more than the few block radius she has grown up in. The cultural differences here are exponential.
But if the lawyers, and especially the jurors, were really listening, they would see that although she comes off aggressive, Rachel was consistent. Yes, the defense proved she had lied in the past, but she didn’t deny it. On the contrary. She was very honest about it, and even led us to sympathize with her reasoning for it – she did not want to see Trayvon’s body, she did not want to face Trayvon’s mother and she wanted to wipe her hands of the situation because of the emotion and trauma. She was the last person Trayvon spoke to and she wanted everyone to understand what that means. This is in no way easy for her.
Rachel is the prosecution’s key witness, but I am going to call her the misunderstood witness. She holds vital information that both the defense and prosecution need, but these middle-aged white men questioning her do not get it. Sadly both the prosecution and the defense [but more so the defense] have an extreme disconnect from her reality, like I said. The constant text messaging between her and Trayvon is normal for two high school kids who may like each other, the nonchalant use of racial slurs like “cracka” and “n*gga” are slang (as Rachel put it) and that doesn’t mean it comes from a racist place.
No matter where you read about Rachel Jeantel, especially defense friendly sites, nothing could be truer.
The people pontificating on cable about Miss Jeantel don’t understand her at all, so it’s hard to hold out hope that jurors will sympathize. But will they believe her when she says she heard Trayvon Martin say “get off, get off”? The whole case could depend on it.
This is a window into the divide between the friend of Trayvon Martin, Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with him moments before George Zimmerman shot and killed him. For those of you who haven’t followed the testimony this week, it can possibly give you an idea of the trouble Miss Jeantel could have with defense attorney Don West, who is a much older white man who didn’t even understand the amount of texting that goes on among teens, which became apparent in one cross examination he did.
There is wildly different views on Rachel Jeantel’s testimony, the value of it or the damage of it, with much of it completely ignoring what it must mean for a 19 year-old who can’t read cursive, was originally more familiar with Cajun than English, while also speaking Spanish, living as a young black woman who didn’t want to see Trayvon Martin at his funeral.
Rachel Jeantel has been caught in misstatements throughout her testimony. This is not in question.
What pro Zimmerman factions are seeing as a disaster for the prosecution, others are seeing differently, with people evenly divided. The polarization that’s developed reminiscent of the O.J. reality in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time of the trial. Your view is colored by which side you stand on. I remember the outcome when O.J. was found not guilty, as I watched the rioting move towards my neighborhood.
At the start of Thursday, Mr. West asked if she’d been coached, because the attitude on display on Wednesday was gone. “Yes, sir” replacing the disrespect she showed West, with Miss Jeantel’s anger much more in check. Her response was that she simply got some sleep. It’s hard to accept that she wasn’t advised, because her behavior was worlds apart from yesterday.
What I found about Jeantel is that she is who she is, as Paula Deen might offer. There is much to find confusing, even baffling about her, but at no time did I get the impression she was lying. At times when Mr. West tried to characterize events in a manner with which she disagreed, she vehemently shot back with passion that its foundation cried out that what she was saying was true, even if she didn’t get every detail perfect.
That in no way means the jury will find her credible. As the hip hop site Global Grind admitted, “And if the 5 white jurors (excluding the 1 Latina) are like most white people I know, they are unfortunately not going to like Rachel.
Defenders of George Zimmerman across social media, in comments and everywhere else are tearing Rachel Jeantel’s testimony apart, sure that she didn’t help prosecutors.
None of these people have a clue about “First 48,” the show Rachel Jeantel mentioned on Wednesday, which threw everyone, especially Don West, for a loop.
Throughout it all was the complete inability for anyone in the trial to appreciate what Rachel Jeantel is attempting to do, which comes down to speaking for Trayvon Martin, because his killing silenced him forever.
Amid her disjointed testimony that showed many times she had gotten statements twisted, with tapes not helping, because of the “low” way she speaks, as she describes herself, there is an authentic foundation. It’s met with what seems to be a tragic back story of a young woman in the eye of a media storm that would make anyone nervous, but whose experience, education and mentoring from adults seems lacking in the extreme. It’s got to be overwhelming.
It was an impossible position for defense attorney Don West. It was made worse by the length of time he kept Rachel Jeantel on the stand, many times allowing her to dilute the points he was making as the questioning rambled on amid a blizzard of objections and the Florida judge sustaining many. Several times when West wanted a sidebar she refused, while allowing many.
The six jurors have no reason to empathize with Rachel Jeantel. There were misstatements and she admitted lying about her age to protect her privacy, as well as the reason she didn’t got to Trayvon Martin’s funeral.
“Under oath, you created a lie and said you went to the hospital?” Don West asked.
“Yes,” Rachel Jeantel offered honestly, then said the reason why is that she didn’t want to see her friend’s body.
Jeantel also testified during cross examination today that when prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda interviewed her in April, because she was sitting next to Trayvon Martin’s mother, she didn’t want to admit what Trayvon Martin had called George Zimmerman.
“Creepy-ass cracker,” Rachel Jeantel told the court today.
All the criticisms coming from outside Miss Jeantel’s world stand in contrast to the chilling thought that Rachel Jeantel says she actually heard Trayvon Martin say “get off, get off,” to George Zimmerman, just minutes before he was shot dead.
TM Note: Rachel Jeantel quote has been corrected.