Zimmerman Trial Watch Day 14: The Defense Evaluates the Star Witness

Rachel Jeantel continued her testimony on Thursday.

Posted: 06/27/2013 05:40 PM EDT

Today in the Seminole County courthouse, the prosecution’s “star witness,” Rachel Jeantel, the 19-year-old friend of Trayvon Martin who was the last person to speak to him before his death, returned to the stand for a second day of questioning in the trial State of Florida v George Zimmerman.

During their cell phone conversation on that night, Jeantel claims she not only heard Martin’s last words, but also some details about Martin’s surroundings that may be key to the resolution of this case.

Jeantel’s in-trial debut began Wednesday afternoon with the State’s direct examination followed by a cross examination conducted by defense attorney Don West. After about an hour-and-a-half of questioning, West stated that he would require at least two more hours for further questioning and thus Jeantel was called back to the stand for 9 a.m. this morning.

During the nearly eight total hours of West’s examination on Wednesday, Jeantel clearly displayed her agitation, though today she held a calmer demeanor with a number of “yes, sir” responses. However, in response to West’s suggestion that Martin had perhaps provoked Zimmerman and lied to her on the phone, she quickly retorted, “That’s retarded, sir.”

Throughout his questioning, West continued to pursue casting a shadow of doubt on her credibility as he questioned the accuracy of statements she had made in previous interviews. Jeantel defended her words by saying there were inconsistencies because of some of the questions posed by various attorneys and officials, and because of the length of the interviews.

When prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda returned to redirect, he attempted to give some clarity to Jeantel’s statements by inquiring about her first language. A native of Haiti, Jeantel’s mother’s primary language is Creole; however, her father’s primary language is English. Coming from a multilingual, Haitian background, she claimed to have learned “three first languages,” but later revealed that she had learned Creole first. 

More inquiry into Jeantel’s literacy was posed when De la Rionda questioned her ability to read and write cursive. This question came on the heels of a letter, supposedly written by Jeantel, which was brought back into court today by the prosecution during cross examination.

The letter, written in cursive to Martin’s mother after his death, detailed what she had heard during the cell phone conversation with him. Today she revealed that she had not physically written the letter, but rather a friend had penned it in her stead and had signed it with one of her pseudonyms.

Although another rough round of questioning with Jeantel has ended, she is still under court subpoena and may be brought back to the stand later in the trial. 

Two additional witnesses were questioned after Jeantel: Raymond MacDonald, a T-Mobile executive, who explained the cell phone call logs from the fatal night, and Retreat at Twin Lakes resident Jenna Lauer, the first person to call 911 that night.  On Lauer’s call, the firing of the gun can be clearly heard.

Frustration was felt throughout the courtroom as the six-person jury was repeatedly asked to exit the courtroom to avoid exposure to certain evidence. Attendees at today’s proceedings recalled juror B-29 appearing seemingly uninterested and avoiding contact with Jeantel to focus more on West.

George Zimmerman, 29-year-old ex-neighborhood watch volunteer, has pled not guilty to the murder of unarmed, 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense after Martin allegedly attacked him in the Feb. 26, 2012 scuffle that resulted in Martin’s death.

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(Photo: Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images)         

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