Zimmerman trial: Trayvon 'was followed,' Rachel Jeantel says - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Zimmerman trial: Trayvon 'was being followed,' Rachel Jeantel says

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

In her second day of testimony, "Witness 8," the prosecution's star witness in the George Zimmerman trial, said Thursday morning she thought the shooting of Trayvon Martin was racially motivated.

"He was being followed," testified Rachel Jeantel, 19, a friend of Martin's who was on the phone with him moments before Zimmerman fatally shot Martin the night of February 26, 2012.

Jeantel took the stand for the second day in a row and for hours, responded to cross-examination questions from defense attorney Don West. He asked why she gave differing accounts about what she heard on the phone that night.

911 calls, George Zimmerman trial pictures at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

Jeantel was the last person to talk to Martin before his fatal encounter with Zimmerman in the gated Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex in Sanford.

On Wednesday, Jeantel testified that "I kind of heard Trayvon say, 'Get off! Get off!' then a bump, and the phone shut off," she said.

But Thursday, she said she hadn't previously mentioned that to Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, who was sitting in the Seminole County courtroom. Jeantel said she didn't mention it to Fulton because she wanted to spare her feelings, and she hadn't been directly asked about them.

With the help of a friend, Jeantel had composed a letter to Fulton to explain her account of what happened. But when West asked Jeantel to read it aloud in court, she said she couldn't read cursive handwriting.

At one point during the hours of cross-examination, in response to Jeantel's testimony that "Trayvon got hit," West angrily replied, "You don't know that? Do you? ... You don't know that Trayvon didn't at that moment take his fists and drive them into George Zimmerman's face."

During questioning by the prosecution Wednesday, Jeantel told the court she heard someone calling out for help.

"The cries for help? Are you able to say whose voice that is?" prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked.

"Trayvon... sounded like Trayvon," Jeantel replied.

Expert analysis, live streaming coverage of George Zimmerman trial testimony at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

She is considered one of the prosecution's key witnesses. The state contends that Zimmerman was the aggressor in the encounter with the unarmed Martin, whom they say was racially profiled before being shot in the chest by Zimmerman on February 26, 2012.

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

Jurors and others in the Seminole County courtroom had a difficult time hearing Jeantel's testimony.

"Could you please repeat it slowly and loudly,"Circuit Judge Debra Nelson instructed Jeantel.

As defense attorney Don West cross-examined Jeantel, she was terse with him, often giving one-word answers, and sometimes cried. She even became argumentative.

"You listening to me?" she asked West.

"Yes ma'am," West replied.

"I had told you what happened in the Crump interview. I had rushed on it," said Jeantel, responding to West's inquiry about a deposition with Martin family attorney Ben Crump. She then appeared to give him a dirty look.

West read a transcript of the deposition taken last year.

"'Was that Trayvon screaming for help or wasn't it' was your answer."

"It could be. Like I said, I don't know," Jeantel replied.

Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy, teared up listening to Jeantel's testimony. Even Jeantel got emotional as she explained why she didn't go to Trayvon Martin's wake.

"I didn't want to see the body."  

Complete George Zimmerman trial coverage at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

She initially told Martin's parents she was a minor when she was 18 at the time. She said she didn't want to get involved in the case.

Although Witness 8 had been described at 17-year-old Martin's girlfriend, Jeantel said they were just friends.

Two other neighbors also testified Wednesday about hearing screams for help. Both thought the screams could have come from Martin, but they weren't sure. Defense attorneys contend Zimmerman was person screaming for help.

Jayne Surdyka, who made a 911 call after the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin, said she heard "pop, pop, pop." Only one shot was fired during the Feb. 26, 2012, encounter in Zimmerman's gated Sanford community.

"I truly believe the second yell for help was a yelp," said Surdyka, who later dabbed away tears as prosecutors played her 911 call. "It was excruciating. I really felt it was a boy's voice."

West challenged Surdyka about her belief that the cry for help was a boy's voice, saying she was making an assumption.

Other neighbors also have testified they heard cries for help, captured on 911 calls to police. In an pretrial hearing, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson disallowed expert testimony from audio experts who analyzed the 911 calls, saying the methods behind the analysis are not reliable.

Earlier Wednesday, Nelson ruled to allow jurors to hear five previous calls to police by Zimmerman to report "suspicious" characters. They were about break-ins that happened months before the shooting.

Under Florida law, Zimmerman, 29, could shoot Martin in self-defense if it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a potential life sentence.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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