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SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A friend of Trayvon Martin‘s who was on the phone with him shortly before his fatal fight with George Zimmerman testified Thursday that she thought the encounter was racially charged.

Rachel Jeantel testified for the second day in a row, saying she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man.

“He was being followed,” Jeantel said.

Her answer came in response to questioning from defense attorney Don West about why she had given differing accounts about what she had heard over the phone when Martin first encountered Zimmerman on a rainy night on Feb. 26, 2012, at the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex.

West suggested in his cross-examination that 19-year-old Jeantel had raised the racial issue in some accounts but not others. In some accounts, West implied, Jeantel said Zimmerman responded one way when he first encountered Martin, but in other accounts she said he responded another way. Jeantel gave her version of events in a deposition, in a letter to Martin’s mother and in a recorded interview with an attorney for the Martin family.

Jeantel is one of the prosecution’s most important witnesses because she bolsters the contention that Zimmerman was the aggressor. She was on the phone with Martin moments before he was fatally shot.

Jeantel testified Wednesday that her friend’s last words were “Get off! Get off!” before the phone went silent. But on Thursday, under cross-examination, she conceded that she hadn’t mentioned that in her account of what happened to Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.

She had left out some details to spare Fulton’s feelings, and also because neither Fulton nor the Martin family attorney asked her directly about them, Jeantel said. At one point, West handed her a letter she had written with the help of a friend to Martin’s mother explaining what happened. She looked at it but then said she couldn’t read cursive handwriting.

When asked by West if she had previously told investigators that she heard what sounded like somebody being hit at the end of her call with Martin, Jeantel said, “Trayvon got hit.”

“You don’t know that? Do you? You don’t know that Trayvon got hit,” West answered angrily. “You don’t know that Trayvon didn’t at that moment take his fists and drive them into George Zimmerman’s face.”

Jeantel recounted to jurors on Wednesday how Martin told her he was being followed by a man as he walked through the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex on his way back from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancee.

She testified that Martin described the man following him as “a creepy-ass cracker” and that he thought he had evaded him. But she said Martin told her a short time later the man was still behind him, and she told him to run.

Martin said Zimmerman was behind him and she heard Martin ask: “What are you following me for?”

In one account, according to West, she said Zimmerman responds, “What are you doing around here?” In another account, according to West, she says Zimmerman said, “What are you talking about?”

She then heard what sounded like Martin’s phone earpiece dropping into wet grass, and she heard him say, “Get off! Get off!” The phone then went dead, she said.

Later, she bristled and teared up when West asked her why she didn’t attend Martin’s funeral and about lying about her age. She initially told Martin’s parents she was a minor when she was 18. She said she didn’t want to get involved in the case.

The exchanges also turned testy, including one moment when she urged West to move on to his next question: “You can go. You can go.” And she gave him what seemed like a dirty look as he walked away after he had approached her on the stand to challenge her on differences between an initial interview she gave to Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, and a later deposition with the defense. Jeantel explained it by saying she “rushed” the interview with Crump because she didn’t feel comfortable doing it.

And when the judge asked if both sides wanted to break for the day, prosecutors said they’d like to continue, believing the testimony could take another two hours, to which Jeantel reacted with surprise, repeating, “Two hours?” Instead, the judge decided to continue the cross examination Thursday, carefully instructing Jeantel to return at 9 a.m. and not discuss her testimony with anyone.

Jeantel’s testimony was more subdued on Thursday, and West took note of her calmer demeanor. She answered many of West’s questions by repeating “yes, sir,” almost in a whisper.

“You feeling OK today? You seem different than yesterday,” West said.

“I got some sleep,” she answered.

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Zimmerman followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Zimmerman has said he opened fire only after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic and has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin’s family and their supporters have claimed.

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8 thoughts on “Friend: Trayvon Martin Encounter Racially Charged

  1. It is a sad day when a young child dies. This situation will not help anyone, be it a race issue or a gun control issue. There are only two people that know what happened that night, and we will never hear from one.

    Parents, please learn from this, your children (even at 17-18) are still your children take care of them

  2. She can speak 33 different languages and still be illiterate. This young lady was rude, belligerent and totally disrespectful of the court. And a huge detriment to the prosecution. Now let’s just for the sake of argument she is not ghetto. And if that’s so, she did a damn good impression of a hoodrat without nary a notion about how to behave in a public forum. Now you may not appreciate the label, but a thing can only be what it is.

    • klysha on said:

      Rachael’s lack of decorum in the court room is more of a reflection on the attorney’s failure to prep her for court than it is on her character. Some key points to consider before passing judgment:

      1) Rachael is young and most likely not the product of the most elite of socioeconomic backgrounds
      2) English is not her first language. How literate are you in your 2nd and 3rd languages?
      3) She is in a VERY stressful situation. When is the last time you got grilled publicly for hours on end about the murder of your friend?
      4) Rachael is not the one on trial. Although you would think she was based on the criticisms I’ve seen of her.

      You might say well I knew how to act in this situation when I was 19. If so that’s great for you, but not everyone is prepped for how to behave in a nationally televised pivotal court case about the murder of their friend during their formative years.

  3. joey on said:

    THey keep saying he COULD GET LIFE, BUT HE WAS ARRESTED ON SECOND DEGREE MURDER CHARGE WHICH CARRIES, 15 to life sentence. but with an all white woman jury zimmerman proberly will come away with manslaughter which carries 2to 6 years which he will only do 5 years, The reason why I’m saying this is because with an all white jury with one hispanic woman ,,they will not convict him on murder, this jury is crap. THis prosecutor is not doing a very good job

    far as I’m concerned. Because the justice system does not work for people of color. and we all know that it is designed to fail us. and still today we cannot get a Jury of our peers,, THAT is not a jury of Mr. Martin’s peers.

  4. Justice on said:

    I agree with your comments Klysha!!! @Jim!!! Trayvon could have walked away from the situation but Zimmerman decided to take matters into his own hands by shooting the victim!!!! What gives Zimmerman the right to approach someone because he feels they do not look like they belong in his neighborhood?

  5. She was calmer the next day because the prosecution told her illiterate ghetto ass to calm down. What the prosecution also knows is that juries tend to dislike overweight witnesses. It was proven in a huge study that overweight women get convicted at a higher rate than their thinner counterparts. Add the “I can’t read cursive writing” and disrespectful ghetto attitude to the mix, and Dimmerman’s lawyers probably walked out of that courtroom happier than a sissy at the YMCA. Happy to see she got fixed up for court, but that means squat if you show disrespect towards officers of the court.

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