Witness Rachel Jeantel (R) continues her testimony to defense attorney Don West on during George Zimmerman's murder trial June 27, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images)
By Davarian Rousseau, UNF
SANFORD, Fla. -- Thursday was a very eventful day in the trial of George Zimmerman. The
star of the show was the prosecution's witness, Rachel Jeantel, who was
on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night he was fatally shot by George
Zimmerman. Her testimony is a key piece of the trial and could single-handedly sway several jurors' opinion on the events.
day was encouraging for the defense, it was by no means without flaws.
Defense attorney Don West started his cross-examination with a very
pointed, guided attack. West's line of questioning started with great
flow and pointed leading questions, which is the objective of every
attorney in cross-examination. Cross-examination is supposed to showcase
the lawyer as the star as opposed to the witness and produce short
"yes" or "no" answers from the witness.
The flow of the
questioning was interrupted when there was a dispute between Jeantel and
the official transcript. Jeantel swears she said "I could hear it's
Trayvon" when asked if she was certain if he said "get off me," while
the official transcript states she said she "could've heard Trayvon."
The official audio was played, but because of her heavy accent, it was
not entirely clear what she said. Many minutes were spent by West to try
to get Jeantel to state that she wasn't sure she heard Martin's voice.
This lull in the questioning causes West to lose track of his goal in the
cross-examination and resort to badgering the witness.
general, juries do not like when an attorney attacks a witness because
they connect more with the witness than the attorney. West's attack on
Jeantel was very effective in poking holes in her story, but it may
have caused the jury to feel sympathetic towards her.
cross-examination, lawyers are told to end emphatically, something West
tried to do numerous times. At one point in the questioning West stated,
"You didn't do anything because it was just another fight. Another fight
Martin started." Jeantel responds "no" to this, going on to further
explain that Trayvon would have told her if he was going to confront
Zimmerman and was just intent on getting home. This statement sent the
defense back on a mission to attack her from another angle.
was Jeantel's second day on the stand, and she appeared much more
prepared compared to her first day. It was clear that Jeantel had been
thoroughly prepared by the state's council. In today's court session,
Jeantel was dressed more appropriately and answered more respectfully,
constantly responding "yes sir" and "no sir."
In general, Jeantel
displayed a level-headed attitude though she did slip up at one point
and called an assumption made by West "retarded."
Jeantel's demeanor was a bit
unsettling though as she seemed extremely worn out, and at some times
disinterested throughout the questioning. The jury can either decide to
sympathize with her for taking the brunt of the questioning head on, or
become frustrated with her for not seeming to take interest in a case
that involves her dead friend.
Davarian Rousseau is a senior at UNF. He is majoring in political science, minoring in economics and is interested in a career in criminal defense.
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