Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s childhood friend from Miami, remained under cross-examination by George Zimmerman’s defense team in Sanford, Florida Thursday as they attempt to discredit her testimony.
Jeantel, now 19, was on the phone with 17-year-old Martin moments before he was shot and killed by Zimmerman. She has been called the prosecution's star witness for her testimony that Martin was being followed by Zimmerman before their confrontation.
Jeantel's testimony would back the contention that Zimmerman was the aggressor, as a racially-biased and over-zealous neighborhood watch captain who followed and shot an unarmed teenager. She claims to have heard Martin ask “why are you following me” then “get off! get off!” seconds before he was fatally shot.
During questioning, Jeantel was forced to admit she could not read a handwritten letter to Martin's family about the events of the night, composed by her but written by a friend, because "I don’t read cursive." The humiliating admission sent a shocked hush through the courtroom.
Defense attorney Don West went through all her previous statements and asked her to go through the final phone call again. Jeantel acknowledged she did not mention hearing Zimmerman say “What are you doing around here?” or Trayvon say “get off, get off” in her initial statements on the case.
She also testified that Martin said he was being followed by a “creepy-a** cracker” on his way home.
In previous attempts to challenge Jeantel's credibility, exposing "several lies," the defense caught her false claim that she was in the hospital at the time of Trayvon's wake, though Jeantel said Wednesday she just didn't want to see the teen's body.
When Sanford police didn't arrest Zimmerman after the shooting, citing his self-defense claim under Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law, it prompted widespread protest and media coverage.
Zimmerman, 29, was later charged with second-degree murder by a special prosecutor. He says he fired in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him and a struggle ensued. Zimmerman faces up to life in prison if convicted as charged.