Rachel Jeantel, 19, who was on the phone with Trayvon the night he was killed, takes the witness stand.
The young woman who was the last person to speak by phone with Trayvon Martin on the night he was killed testified in the second-murder trial of George Zimmerman on Wednesday, saying that the teenager was deeply concerned about being followed on the dark night in the gated apartment complex in Florida.
Rachel Jeantel, a 19-year-old resident of Miami, said she had warned the teenager to run when he complained about being pursued while walking from a convenience store to the home of his father’s girlfriend in Sanford, Florida.
Jeantel, who is a key witness for the prosecution’s case against Zimmerman, said she heard Trayvon ask, “What are you following me for?” She said that Martin had complained about being followed by a man he described as a “creepy-a-- cracker.”
She said that, once Martin complained about being followed by Zimmerman, she told the teenager to run, warning that “it might be a rapist.” Martin, she said, agreed to go directly to the home where he was visiting. She also testified that the voice in the 911 recording by people near the scene of the fatal scene was that of Trayvon Martin.
“Get off,” she quoted Martin as saying. "Get off."
Zimmerman is on trial for second-degree murder in the shooting of the unarmed Martin in February 2012. Trayvon, who lived in Miami, was in Sanford visiting his father, Tracy Martin. The prosecution is maintaining that Zimmerman shot the teenager as an act of racial profiling. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying that he shot Martin in self-defense after being attacked by him.
In cross examination, Zimmerman’s attorneys seemed intent on finding discrepancies in Jeantel’s testimony and versions of the story she had given previously. She was clearly annoyed by the persistent questioning by the defense and made clear she had little desire to be on the stand.
When the court was about to adjourn at the end of the day, Judge Debra S. Nelson asked how long the witness would still be needed to testify. The lawyer said he would need a few more hours. “What?” Jeantel shouted.
Before Jeantel appeared, the prosecution played recordings for the jurors of the calls Zimmerman made to police over a period of several months before the incident with Martin. The prosecution has sought to portray Zimmerman as an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer who would look for anyone he considered suspicious.
"It shows the context in which the defendant sought out his encounter with Trayvon Martin," said prosecutor Richard Mantei.
The trial, which is now in its third week, is expected to continue for another four weeks.
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(Photo: Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images)