Tom Joyner Morning Show commentator Roland Martin talks with Rachel Jeantel’s attorney Rod Vereen about the 19-year-old’s crucial testimony in the George Zimmerman case, the misrepresentation of her character in the media and he reveals exclusive details about her friendship with Trayvon.
According to Vereen, Martin was one of the good guys who did not ridicule the teenager. Vereen recounted a prior interview with Jeantel where she explained their bond, “she said he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion… about my weight.”
Read the entire interview below to find out more details about Jeantel’s friendship with Trayvon Martin and Vereen’s opinion on how the trial has fared thus far.
ROLAND MARTIN : Tom, so many people were discussing Rachel Jeantel on social media. It was the commentary about her and unfortunately she can’t talk right now publicly because she is still under subpoena. But Rod Vereen is her attorney, and we wanted to reach out to him because there are still so many questions about, you know, her testimony, the prosecution, how she is doing, he joined us right now. Rod, good morning.
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Good morning, how are you today, Roland? Good morning.
ROLAND MARTIN : Rod, let’s get right to it. One of the things that so many people are talking about, there was a lot of criticism on her testimony the first day. Was she prepared by the prosecution? Was she walked through this process at all?
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Well, to answer the question, the short answer is absolutely not. And, you know, sometimes I think it was by design, and when I sit back and reflect on what took place in this case, you know, and watching Mr. De La Rionda, who is the prosecutor of the case, how he’s presented his case. I think what he wanted from Rachel actually is exactly what he got. He just wanted unrehearsed raw testimony.
People don’t know why it is I got involved in this case. About a week prior to Rachel’s testimony I was contacted by a member of the same church that she attends. Who is actually the formal law enforcement officer who had grew up with me, who contacted me and said, Rod, listen, we think that Rachel needs some to assist her because she has not been, you know, vetted, if you will, by the prosecution concerning, you know, how testify in the court, her demeanor, things of that nature. So when I got in contact with Rachel she and I sat down and I spoke with her, albeit briefly, about the testimony she had planned on giving.
Because one, I didn’t have a chance to speak with the prosecution, I didn’t know what the strategy was going to be. I didn’t know the total facts. I mean I knew very little about the Trayvon Martin prosecution as far as the number of witnesses they were going to call, the strategy they were going to use to use in front of the jury. So one of the things I did not do was, you know, sit down with her and go verbatim what she was going to testify to because Rachel had given a number of statements. Okay, and I was not privy to those statements, so I didn’t want to go in and screw things up with the prosecution so what I did …
TOM JOYNER: Well, how do you think it worked out?
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Well, you know, listen, every trial, no matter, you know, what the charges are, you’re going to have good witnesses, you’re going to have bad witnesses. One of the things that I thought was good about Rachel’s testimony; it was one that was actually unrehearsed. Her emotions got to her the first day and I think that’s because of the fact that Rachel, you got to remember now, she’s a 19 year old young lady who has had no experience what so ever with the criminal justice system. All right? And she didn’t understand that there’s a different dynamic in the courtroom concerning how you’re going to be treated by one side versus the other. All right? Whatever side calls you is going to be the side that’s really going to be the nicest to you. They’re going to be, they’re going to coddle you, when you get on the stand they’re going to ask you questions that you’re familiar with what the answers are going to be.
She did not understand that there was going to be this good cop, bad cop type of personalities in that courtroom. She didn’t – and when she came in contact with Don West, even at the deposition, she didn’t understand that he was going to be jumping all over her, because her question, to me, after, when she was, when we were sitting down speaking, she says, well, my first contact with Don West he was very hostile towards me. And, you know, these aren’t the words she used, these are my words. And then she inquired, she said, well, doesn’t he want to know the truth? And I said, you know, unfortunately sometimes when we get to these cases they don’t want to know the truth. They want to know what they need to know, and what they want you to, what they can manipulate to say that’s going to help them in their case.
ROLAND MARTIN : Ron, how is she doing? How is she mentally because so many people, and unfortunately way too many African Americans were just trashing this young girl. Is she off of social media? Are people texting her? How is she doing today?
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Well, she is doing just fine. And I say that with reservation. This was traumatic for her. I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was some, you know, they had a town hall meeting somewhere here in Miami. And one of the, I think they had psychiatrist, psychologist saying, oh, yeah, it is clearly obvious that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. I differ with that. I beg to differ. What she went through was traumatic, yes. You know, but she is dealing with it as best she can. She lost a good friend.
And let me just say this, this is what a lot of people don’t know. The relationship she had with Trayvon Martin, she was a close personal friend. They had gone to elementary school together, separated over the years with regards they hadn’t seen each other, and then they connected again a couple of years ago. But when I asked her, because I thought she was the girlfriend initially, that’s how it was brought to me, that she was the girlfriend. She says, no, I was not the girlfriend of Trayvon Martin. She said Trayvon Martin had another young lady he was dating.
But Trayvon was one of the few guys, okay, and this is what, I mean, this ripped, tore my heart apart. She said he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion, you know, about my weight. And she said, so we communicated, because Rachel was, she was pretty much an introvert and so for her to be a 19-year-old young lady, who speaks three different languages. Now I hate to hear people talking, oh, she’s ignorant and she speaks three different languages, English being her third language. Her education, yeah, is lacking in some …
ROLAND MARTIN : Rod, what are the other two languages?
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: She speaks Creole, she speaks Spanish.
SYBIL WILKES : Her dad is Dominican and her mom was Haitian.
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Her father is from the Dominican Republic, her mother is Haitian, and she speaks English. She doesn’t read cursive well, but then again the officer that was testifying the other day on the stand couldn’t read cursive well either. She was sitting there, you know, struggling over a letter. All right? They don’t teach that in school today. All right, so when I hear these folks jumping all over her and castigating her in the court of public opinion, it makes me say to myself, now see this is why people do not want to come out and be witnesses in cases when they see things happen because they’re going to be ridiculed and just castigated in the court of public opinion.
TOM JOYNER: And she liked Trayvon because he didn’t tease her.
SYBIL WILKES: He was nice to her.
TOM JOYNER: He was nice to her.
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Very nice to her. Trayvon was a handsome little boy, all right? He was a cute kid. You know, and so here’s a young lady who’s infatuated the fact that somebody like Trayvon Martin befriended her and then she was just struck at the fact that their friendship was the way it was and they texted each other all the time. They called each other all the time, you know? And this is the way she communicated with them, you know.
And so she was familiar with his vernacular, okay. And so when I heard that, you know, the testimony of Zimmerman on the audio tape and the video tape about the words that were used, one of the things I spoke about last night on Piers Morgan was the fact that, that was not the vernacular of Trayvon Martin, or any kid I’m going to, you know, the word ‘homie’? I mean, c’mon man, we used that ten years ago. Now that may have been something I would have used, okay, but Trayvon Martin? No, that’s not something he’d use.
And if you listen, okay, because as a defense attorney, and as a prosecutor, when you listen to the words that Zimmerman was saying on that audio tape, and on the video tape, he was trying to say every, you know, what we call, word, okay, hit word, that would be something that you would say, okay, this now authorizes him to use deadly force. He says Trayvon Martin says to him, you’re going to die today. No, no, no, no, no, you don’t go from running from somebody to why are you following me until oh, I’m going to kill you, you’re going to die today. Because you’re trying to say all these key words to say this is why I did it. Because he put this fear in my mind that he was going to kill me, or you’re going to die today. Oh, then he put his hands on his nose, I mean, his hands over my mouth and over my nose, again, because if he cuts off my breath I can die. Then it changes to he was pounding my head, okay, on the pavement. No concussions, no hematomans. I mean there’s too much lacking…
SYBIL WILKES : You know what? They need you on the prosecution.
ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: You know what? I wish I could go to Jacksonville today and they swear me in right now because I would tell Mr. De La Rionda just let me do the closing argument. Okay? Because what’s lacking in this case is that they don’t have anyone to sit here and decipher for that audio tape for them, that video tape for them, and show them, you know, where the problem is with regard to Zimmerman’s statement. But here’s one of the main things I want people to realize.
…Zimmerman said that he mounted Trayvon on his back. And that he stretched his hands out while he still had his gun in his hand when the other gentleman says, hey, I’m about to call the police and call 911. He says, no, don’t do that, help me with this guy. If that’s the case, and we we knew that Trayvon Martin was dead, why is it that when they found the body both of his arms were tucked up under him? Because Zimmerman is lying. Because Zimmerman is lying.