Although she was hard to watch at times, Rachel Jeantel gave critical testimony in the trial of George Zimmerman.
Prosecution star witness Rachel Jeantel may not have received many points in courtroom etiquette, but the 19-year old did give the court critical evidence in the final moments in the life of Trayvon Martin.
Jeantel took a beating on social media for her demeanor — which at times appeared testy. It wasn’t the greatest testimony by a star witness, but far from the worst. At some point in our lives, we all needed a Rachel Jeantel.
I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t easy watching star prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel on the stand during the George Zimmerman trial. My emotions ranged from embarrassment to disbelief to anger and back down to embarrassment. What many (including myself) failed to realize was there was a 19-year old on the stand — who was asked to relive the moment she talked to her friend for the last time — hearing the verbal confrontation which led to his death. In full view of the man who committed the murder.
Many of us speak about our open disdain for Zimmerman, but imagine being directly associated with the incident.
Jeantel didn’t come across as the most eloquent, court savvy witness and maybe that’s where she began to annoy some of us — because she reminded us of someone we knew — even ourselves. Jeantel admitted to lying about her age during questioning and struggled with some questions which were being asked of her during the cross-examination. She had trouble recalling certain answer given during a pre-trial deposition — at times overcome by the enormity of the situation. As an African-American I’ve witnessed the anxiety that comes with dealing with the law.
There were moments during her testimony which left me baffled. At one point she told defense attorney Don West she did not go to police initially because she watches a crime show called ‘First 48’. She explained in the show how police reach out to potential witnesses. After another series of questions Jeantel said to West, “You can go. You can go.”
The most important part of Jeantel’s testimony was the conversation she had with Trayvon Martin the moment George Zimmerman approached him. Martin told Jeantel he was being followed and feared the man might be a rapist. Jeantel said she heard Martin ask Zimmerman, “Why are you following me?” Jeantel stated she heard a hard-breathing man reply, “What are you doing around here?”. From there she heard a “bump” and could hear Martin — who was wearing a bluetooth device yelling, “Get off. Get off.” — seconds later Martin’s phone went dead.
Three days later, she learned Trayvon Martin died that night.
Jeantel continued her testimony — which at times was emotional — she will be asked to return to the stand in Day 4 of the trial.
Looking back, I can’t fault Jeantel for those uncomfortable moments as much as I do the prosecution team. She was poorly prepped for the witness stand. Did they mention the array of questions she would be asked? How about how she might be asked the same question several times? Or that it could be a lengthy process? Hopefully the worst is over for Jeantel and she’ll have a better idea of what to expect in her second day of testimony.
As African-Americans, we have become caught up in a person’s appearance and/or their speech (see Charles Ramsey). We wouldn’t dare “snitch” on the kids selling drugs on the corner, but if a stray bullet intended for one of them struck a loved one, we’re taking applications for a “snitch”.
Red bottom heels and the ability to consistently conjugate a verb aren’t requirements for Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin and it shouldn’t be for the rest of us.
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