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Caribbean American Witness Spars With Zimmerman’s Defense Attorney

Rachel Jeantel

News Americas, SANFORD, Florida, Fri. June 28, 2013: The plus-size teenager who has become an overnight television and social media sensation as she testifies for the prosecution in the case of her “friend” Trayvon Martin, has definitely given the defense as much of a hard time as they are trying to give her.

“That’s real retarded, sir,” Rachel Jeantel pushed back after Don West, the attorney representing George Zimmerman, said she had altered her story to suit the prosecution and make it seem as if the defendant — not Martin — was the aggressor.

The teen, who was born to Haitian and Dominican Republic parents in Florida, grew up speaking Spanish and Haitian Kreyole so English is her second language.
But that did not stop her from taking on West.

In court Thursday, when West asked her if she recalled saying that to chief prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda on April 2, 2012 that she heard on the phone a noise “like something hitting somebody,” Jeantel replied that she did, and then added: “Trayvon got hit.”

West had the tape played in court. “What did you say there?” he demanded during the muffled exchange.

“I could hear Trayvon,” she replied and added: “Trust me, they messed up,” while insisting that what she really said was that she “could” hear Martin telling someone to “get off.”

West then questioned why Jeantel had told de la Rionda that she also heard Martin on the phone saying “get off,” and why she had not mentioned this during a meeting with Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and the Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, about three weeks earlier.

“Nobody asked me,” said Jeantel, who has described herself as a close friend of Martin but who also says she never alerted police or his family after hearing what she thought was a scuffle. She called Martin back and texted him, but she did not receive a reply.

West suggested that the reason she was not concerned was because she knew that Martin planned to confront Zimmerman.

“It was just a fight Trayvon Martin started. That’s why you weren’t worried,” West said.

“No, sir,” Jeantel said.

Jeantel was on a cellphone call with Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012 when he and Zimmerman crossed paths. The encounter ended with Zimmerman shooting Martin to death and claiming self-defense. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.