The young woman formerly known as “Dee Dee” or “Witness 8,” who was speaking on the phone to Trayvon Martin moments before he was shot and killed, testified today in George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial that Martin called Zimmerman a “creepy ass cracka.”
Rachel Jeantel, an 18-year-old woman from Miami who said she was “just friends” with Martin, testified that Martin told her that on the phone that Zimmerman might be “a rapist.”
Jeantel also said that Martin told her “this nigga is still following me” in reference to Zimmerman. Zimmerman is accused of following Martin before shooting him.
Jeantel testified that Martin was telling his pursuer “get off, get off” and that she could hear a heavy-breathing man now known to be Zimmerman asking, “what are you doing here?”
Natalie Jackson, an attorney representing the family of Trayvon Martin, told the Daily Caller that Jeantel’s testimony today indicates that “she’s remained consistent.”
Asked about the words used to describe Martin, Jackson said that those are the words “that urban kids use.”
Jackson said that her perception of Jeantel has not changed even though the witness has already been caught lying in statements made under oath.
Jackson maintains that Jeantel’s testimony about what happened that night between Martin and Zimmerman is more important than Jeantel’s inconsistencies.
Benjamin Crump, another attorney representing the Martin family, was the first to gain contact with Ms. Jeantel, who was first reported as either a friend or girlfriend of Martin’s.
After an interview in March 2012, Crump said that Jeantel’s account “connects the dots” and undermined Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.
Crump also urged the media to respect the wishes of Jeantel and her family since, he stated, she was a minor.
Crump initially reported that Jeantel was 16-years-old at the time of the shooting, but has since stated that he did not know Jeantel was a legal adult at the time of the shooting.
When asked in a sworn deposition last year given by state attorney Bernie de la Rionda if she failed to attend Martin’s wake because she was at the hospital “or somewhere else,” Jeantel said “yeah” and cited high blood pressure as her reason for not attending.
Jackson said in a phone interview before Jeantel’s testimony, “I don’t think a jury will reject her testimony.”
“I don’t think that has any bearing on what happened on that night,” she added, referring to Jeantel’s changing statements about her age and whereabouts during Martin’s funeral.
Asked to what extent she believes that Zimmerman’s defense will benefit by focusing on Jeantel’s inconsistent statements, Jackson said that if they do, “it might backfire”.
Jackson said she thinks the jury will take Jeantel’s age and circumstances into consideration when assessing her testimony.
A spokesperson for the Zimmerman family said that they were unable to comment on specific witnesses in the trial.
Mike Weinstein, a former Florida prosecutor and former state representative, says he is not surprised that Jeantel was brought to testify despite her credibility issues. He said that oftentimes, prosecutors “have no choice.”
“Prosecutors had to get this witness on the stand and deal with credibility as it comes,” Weinstein said.
Christopher Brown, a Miami-based defense attorney with experience as a prosecutor, says, like Jackson, that jurors may dismiss Jeantel’s inconsistencies about her age and whereabouts during Martin’s wake. He said the jury may see “a young, African-American girl in a difficult situation” and will perceive her misstatements having “little to do with the value of her testimony.”
“The bigger issue is that she was friends with Martin,” Brown added.
Orlando-based defense attorney Richard Hornsby told TheDC that Jeantel “is a fundamentally flawed witness in every sense.”
He said that many prosecutors would shy away from a witness with Jeantel’s credibility issues, but “embracing such a witness seems to be par for the course for State Attorney Angela Corey.”
During the cross-examination, Jeantel seemed to grow testy when questioned by Zimmerman attorney Don West. In one exchange, Jeantel coaxed West by saying “you can go” several times, indicating that he could proceed with his line of questioning.
Jeantel testified that she didn’t contact police after Martin’s death because she “thought they’re supposed to contact you.” She also admitted that she lied to Martin’s mother and Crump about her age.
West later impeached Jeantel, formally addressing the inconsistencies between her statements to Crump, her deposition testimony and her testimony at trial today.
Jeantel exclaimed “What!” when West told Judge Debra Nelson at the end of court today that he foresaw his line of questioning lasting another couple of hours. Nelson recessed Jeantel’s testimony until tomorrow morning.
*This piece has been updated.