The prosecution’s “star witness” against former neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, accused of murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, endured an embarrassing grilling both inside the Florida courtroom and in the national media. From potentially incriminating social-media posts publicized by reporters to major gaffes during her testimony, Rachel Jeantel, 19 (shown), has sparked even more criticism of what legal experts say appears to be an overzealous bid to convict Zimmerman regardless of the evidence supporting his claims of self-defense.
First, reporters uncovered a Twitter account used by Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin shortly before he was killed and has been repeatedly described as prosecutors’ “star” witness in the case. While dozens of the expletive-laced and potentially incriminating messages were deleted or “scrubbed” in recent days, the controversial posts were captured by journalists before being taken down. Jeantel tweeted about everything from “getting high” and drug use to underage drinking and apparent drunk driving.
Inside the courtroom, matters went even worse for prosecutors. Among other controversies, the key witness was forced to admit in cross-examination that she could not understand the handwriting in a letter that she supposedly “wrote” about the killing. “I don’t read cursive,” she responded when Zimmerman’s defense attorney asked Jeantel if she could read the document. The witness claimed that a friend had helped her write it, but media accounts said the explosive revelation sent a “hush” through the courtroom.
Jeantel’s testimony also revealed other major holes in the prosecution’s case. For example, while the establishment media and race-profiteers have been fiendishly trying to paint Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, as a racist, Jeantel said that Martin had in fact made a racist comment about Zimmerman over the phone. According to the witness, Martin told her there was a “creepy-a** cracker” following him. Cracker, of course, is generally considered a racist term used to describe whites.
There were also some apparent contradictions in Jeantel’s story – major ones. During her testimony, for instance, she claimed that shortly before the shooting, she heard Martin ask Zimmerman “why are you following me?” After that, Jeantel claimed she heard Martin tell Zimmerman to “get off!” Under cross-examination by the defense, however, Jeantel alleged that she had not mentioned the supposed remarks in earlier statements because she did not think they were important. In a taped interview with prosecutors before the trial, Jeantel had also said she “couldn’t hear” Martin tell Zimmerman to get off.
While on the witness stand, Jeantel even admitted to telling several lies under oath. Defense attorney Don West pointed out that the witness, who had known Martin since elementary school, lied to Martin’s mother about her age, claiming she was 16 when she was in fact two years older than that. Jeantel also told Martin’s mother that she did not attend the funeral due to hospitalization, which was untrue as well. The witness claimed the lies were told because of how she felt.
Unsurprisingly, defense attorneys seized on the testimony to argue that Jeantel was an unreliable witness. West, co-counsel for Zimmerman, also suggested that Jeantel did not call the police after hearing the confrontation “because Trayvon Martin started the fight, and you knew that.” Jeantel responded by denying the accusation and saying she did not know what West was talking about. Eventually, Jeantel was finally forced to admit under oath that she did not know who started the fight.
In the court of public opinion, meanwhile, the “star” witness was being grilled as well. The Smoking Gun, an online service that publicizes “exclusive documents,” managed to track down Jeantel’s profiles on social media services. In a series of explosive reports, the site exposed numerous Twitter posts by the witness that were embarrassing at the very least – and incriminating at worst. The account was promptly scrubbed, but the damage was done.
“Party time let get high,” one of the posts read. Another said: “Omg everybody high” followed by “Lol we going to hell for smoke on Sunday I need some more drink.” Separate tweets apparently referring to driving while under the influence were also deleted. “I hope I dnt hit no one tonight lord plz watch my driving,” Jeantel reportedly wrote. “Just got home thank u lord good night,” she added later. Numerous pictures and expletive-filled comments were deleted as well.