A key witness at the Zimmerman trial took center stage on Wednesday. Rachel Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before his altercation with George Zimmerman which led to his death.
Her testimony was so anticipated, most national networks and many local ones carried her live on the stand.
Jeantel, the closest thing the prosecution has to an eye witness, was touted as a star witness for the state. It was believed her testimony would help establish a timeline and help further the case against Zimmerman.
However, Jeantel’s testimony did not appear to help ― and may have actually hurt ― the prosecution.
Jeantel’s speech was so difficult to understand that the court repeatedly stopped the questioning and asked her to re-answer the questions so the court reporter could understand what she was saying.
Zimmerman’s attorney’s made a request to move to different seats at their table so they could see the witness better in a hope of being able to understand what she was saying more clearly.
The prosecution spent the day walking a fine line between repeating and clarifying the questions and answers while avoiding the appearance of leading the witness.
Jeantel mumbled so badly that many evening newscasts displayed subtitles on the screen for her answers.
Even the Martin family seemed frustrated by the testimony by Jeantel yesterday.
The witness came across as hostile and unreliable, especially toward the end of her time on the stand. She virtually eliminated any credibility she may have had by admitting she had lied under oath months ago when she told the state’s attorneys that she was in the hospital on the day of Trayvon Martin’s funeral. Yesterday, she claimed she did not want to see her friend’s dead body so did not go to the funeral. She said she then felt guilty, so lied to authorities.
The prosecution brought the widely reported lie to the forefront early in the hope that some of the women on the jury would sympathize with Jeantel not wanting to attend the funeral.
Jeantel also undercut her reliability during her description of the conversation she had with Trayvon immediately before the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman. She claimed that during the call, she “could hear wet grass.” The court reporter asked for yet another clarification, unsure what wet grass sounded like.
Jeantel’s description of Martin using racial epithets to describe Zimmerman likely did not leave the jury with a positive impression of Martin.
Her behavior spiraled downward when she became furious upon learning that she would need to return to the court the next morning for cross examination.
The website The Smoking Gun reports that Rachel Jeantel recently deleted dozens of incriminating posts on her twitter account which described extensive alcohol drinking by the 19-year-old and “getting high,” information that could be used to further discredit her as a witness.
Before the trial even started, George Zimmerman saw things break his way. On Saturday, the judge in the case gave a major victory to the defense when she ruled against allowing audio experts to testify. These experts were poised to say that the person screaming for help in the background of a 911 phone call was Trayvon Martin. Judge Nelson said the prosecution could play the tape, but that because the experts techniques had not been tested and established to be reliable, they could not participate in the trial. The jury, said Nelson, could reach their own conclusion about what they hear in the tape.
One of the experts was planning on testifying that he can hear Martin saying “I’m begging you” and “stop” during the call. “The 911 call is probably the best evidence of what happened that night besides George Zimmerman’s testimony and Trayvon’s,” legal analyst Bill Schaefer said.
Even in the selection process of the jurors, it seemed that the tide was flowing Zimmerman’s way. The prosecution strongly objected to two of the jurors, but the judge allowed them to remain on the jury.
Juror B-76 recognized Martin’s mother in the audience and even went as far as to point her out while on the stand. Juror E-6 recognized four names on the witness list. The prosecution tried to unsuccessfully to have E-6 dismissed two different times. Attorneys do not want a juror to have any prior knowledge of the parties involved in a case because they cannot know what pre-conceived ideas that juror is bringing with them into the courtroom. It was not revealed which witnesses E-6 recognized.
This trial will take many twists and turns before it finally reaches its conclusion, but so far, George Zimmerman must be breathing a little bit easier than he was just a few weeks ago.
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