Rachel Jeantel (1994- ), a friend of Trayvon Martin, was on the phone with him on February 26th 2012 when Martin’s fight with George Zimmerman began. The phone call went dead just a minute before Zimmerman shot him dead. She was one of the main witnesses at the Zimmerman murder trial in 2013.
According to her Martin told her that a “creepy-ass cracka” in a car was watching him and following him. Martin tried to lose him by going by a back way, away from the street. Zimmerman got out of his car and followed. Then:
Martin: (to Jeantel) Oh shit, the nigga is behind me.
Martin: (to Zimmerman) What you following me for?
Zimmerman: (breathing hard) What you doing around here?
*wet grass sounds*
Martin: Get off. Get off.
The phone call goes dead. She calls back. No answer.
From the 911 tapes we know that right after that were screams for help cut short by a gun shot.
Race: She says that if Martin were white he would still be alive.
Don West cross-examined her for five and a half hours over two days.
West tried to create doubt about her testimony by comparing it with the other four times she told the story. The main difference is that when she first told it at length she lied about why she did not go to the Martin’s wake and cleaned up Martin’s words (no “nigga” or “cracka”) – because at the time Martin’s grief-stricken mother was sitting right next to her, tears in her eyes.
A test of wills: Jeantel says West was disrespectful. She was kind of surprised by that, but kept her cool. She thinks West was trying to get her to blow up on the stand so he could paint Martin as angry and violent.
West: Are you claiming in any way that you don’t understand English?
Jeantel: I don’t understand you, I do understand English.
West: When someone speaks to you in English, do you believe you have any difficulty understanding it because it wasn’t your first language?
Jeantel: I understand English really well.
There is no honest reason to ask that question – not after hours of cross-examination.
Jeantel’s English: After the trial CNN asked one of the jurors:
CNN: Did you find it hard at times to understand what she was saying?
Juror B37: A lot of the times because a lot of the time she was (pause) using phrases I have never heard before, and what they meant.
Juror B37 said Jeantel lacked “communication skills”. In fact, Jeantel speaks three languages. Her English was not the Queen’s English, but it was certainly understandable.
Linguist John McWhorter says she spoke perfect Black English. He says non-blacks over age 50 might have trouble understanding her.
After the testimony was over, West’s daughter Molly posted a picture on the Internet of her eating ice cream cones with her father and sister. Under the picture she wrote:
We beat stupidity celebration cones. … #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit.
- Juror B37
- What did race have to do with the George Zimmerman case?
- Zimmerman Murder Trial, Day 6 – where Zimmerman’s side of the story is presented
- Black English