Zimmerman’s Attorneys Go After State’s Key Witness

     SANFORD, Fla. (CN) – Attorneys for accused murderer George Zimmerman on Thursday tried to discredit the state’s star witness, who spoke on cell phone to Trayvon Martin moments before Zimmerman killed him.
     Nineteen-year-old Rachel Jeantel, who had several testy exchanges from the witness stand Wednesday, exhibited a changed demeanor Thursday. She answered questions with “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.”
     Jeantel testified Wednesday that her friend Trayvon Martin told her on their last phone calls that he was being followed. She said the last words she heard him say were, “Get off, get off,” then it sounded as if someone rolled over his phone headset.
     Zimmerman, 29, shot 17-year-old Martin in February 2012. He claims self defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. He is charged with second-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.
     On Thursday, Zimmerman attorney Don West asked Jeantel why she left out certain details in a letter she wrote to Martin’s mother, and why she changed her story.
     “It was a personal letter,” Jeantel said. “I didn’t want her to cry or hear Trayvon used certain words.”
     Jeantel said she had a friend write the letter for her because English is not her first language. She is Haitian and speaks Creole.
     West asked her if she thought Trayvon’s killing was a racial issue.
     Jeantel said she thought it was racial, because he was being followed.
     “But was it racial because Trayvon put race in this?”
     “No,” she replied.
     “The phrase creepy-ass cracker is not racial?” West asked.
     “No,” Jeantel said.
     West told Jeantel she couldn’t know for sure if Martin was at his father’s house, or that he didn’t start a fight with Zimmerman.
     “Why would he lie about that, sir?” Jeantel asked. “That’s real retarded, sir.”
     West asked if she told investigators that she heard someone get hit.
     “Trayvon got hit,” she said.
     “But you don’t know that, do you?” West asked. “You don’t know that at that moment Trayvon didn’t drive his fist into George Zimmerman’s face.”
      At that point, Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson told West to lower his voice.
     Jeantel replied, “No, sir.”
     West returned to the issue later, asking Jeantel if the reason she did not call the police is because she knew Trayvon started the fight.
     “No, sir!” she said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
     Jeantel said Martin would not allow her to be on the phone if he was about to fight.
     She said she met Martin in second grade but had recently reconnected with him through friends in the neighborhood. She said they were not dating, only friends.
     At a press conference after the trial recessed Thursday, one of the Martin family’s attorneys, Daryl Parks, said that sometimes young people use language they should not. Parks said it was ironic that Martin had used the words “cracker” and “nigga” to describe the same person: Zimmerman.
     Also testifying Thursday was Jennifer Lauer, a neighborhood resident who made the 911 call in which a voice is heard screaming for help in the background.
     Lauer said she heard yells that turned into a cry for help, from a voice she couldn’t identify. She said she was not sure if it was just kids playing around, but ducked down in the kitchen and called the police.
     She described the screams as “life-threatening.”
     Judge Nelson has barred testimony about the 911 call from voice recognition experts.
     Finally on Thursday, the state called Selma Mora, who spoke through an interpreter because she speaks Spanish. Mora lived in the townhouse community as well.
     She said she saw someone wearing red and black sitting on top of someone as if riding a horse.
     She said she asked what was happening but nobody replied. When she asked again, she said, she was told to call the police.
     Judge Nelson recessed court for the day after Mora’s testimony.
     At a separate press conference, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara said he was pleased with how the trial was going.
     “It’s only been four days but it feels like three weeks,” O’Mara said.
     He said that Zimmerman was happy that the trial was progressing but wished he had his family present.
     Fifteen witnesses have been called so far. Jeantel is still under subpoena and could be asked back.
     Testimony continues today.

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