Trayvon Martin's childhood friend from Miami heard him ask, "Why
are you following me" then "get off! get off!" seconds before George Zimmerman
fatally shot the Miami Gardens teen last year.
Rachel Jeantel, 19, a rising senior at Miami Norland Senior High, testified Wednesday at Zimmerman's murder trial that she had been talking on a cellphone with Martin during his trip to and from a Sanford convenience store the night he was killed.
"He kept complaining that a man was just watching him," said Jeantel, who had known Martin since elementary school.
At some point on Martin's walk back to the home of his father's fiancee on Feb. 26, 2012, Martin told Jeantel that a "creepy-ass cracker" was following him. She suggested he run, but Martin said no.
Jurors appeared transfixed by Jeantel's testimony, leaning forward and taking rapid notes. Others struggled to decipher the Miami teen's slang; a court reporter and defense attorney Don West frequently asked Jeantel to slow down, speak up or repeat what she had said.
The much-anticipated testimony could be key in the case. Prosecutors have tried to depict Zimmerman as an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer who followed and shot Martin, a 17-year-old who was unarmed. Defense lawyers have said Martin was the aggressor and Zimmerman shot in self-defense as Martin hit his head on the sidewalk.
Jeantel, known only as Witness 8 until Wednesday, said Martin became alarmed as he tried to lose Zimmerman near the community mailboxes at Retreat at Twin Lakes.
" 'Oh, sh--,' " she said Martin told her. " 'The (expletive) behind me.' "
The next thing Jeantel said she heard was Martin asking the man, "What are you following me for?"
"Then I heard a hard-breathing man say, 'What are you doing around here?' "
Jeantel said she then heard a bump that she assumed was Martin's cellphone headset hitting the ground, followed by the sounds of crumpling grass and Martin's voice: "Get off! Get off!"
Under direct examination, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked if Jeantel attended Martin's funeral and memorial service. She did not, she said, wiping away tears from her eyes, because "I didn't want to see the body."
Asked if she'd heard the 911 calls with the audible voice of someone crying out, apparently for help, Jeantel said she had. The panicked voice, she said, "sounds like Trayvon's."
On cross-examination, West tried to chip away at Jeantel's credibility. He pointed out that she initially lied to Martin's mother about her age, saying she was 16 when she was actually 18, and about her reason for missing the funeral, which Jeantel told Sybrina Fulton was because she had been hospitalized.
"You got to understand," she said to West in one of several tense exchanges. "You're the last person who talked to a person. You don't know how I felt. You think I really want to go see the body after I just talked to him?"
West also noted that several statements Jeantel made during her March deposition differed from her testimony on Wednesday.
In the deposition, she did not say she heard Zimmerman ask Martin, "What are you doing here?" She also seemed less confident in her deposition than she did on Wednesday in identifying screams on a 911 recording as coming from Martin.
West told the judge he needed "a couple more hours" on Thursday to finish his
Most Popular Stories
- Slow Week Ahead of December FOMC Meeting
- Hispanics Seek to Grow School Board Members
- U.S. Companies Eager for Iranian Business
- 'Knockout Game': Myth or Menace?
- Questions Remain in Jenni Rivera's Death
- Banks Fret as Volcker Vote Approaches
- Bitcoin Used to Buy Tesla Car
- GM Bailout Saved 1.2 Million U.S. Jobs, Report Says
- Paul Walker Fans Pay Respects
- Entrepreneurs' Next Creation May Be New Laws