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Live Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial

Aired June 27, 2013 - 09:00   ET


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Crump played publicly to draw attention to the case. Jeantel admitted to defense attorneys she made the recording hastily and that she didn't really want to do it.

RACHEL JEANTEL, FRIEND OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Crump, you know, didn't mean nothing to me.

DON WEST, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: You didn't take it seriously?



HOWELL: Back here in Sanford, we want to dip into video there in the courtroom. You can see George Zimmerman there and at the stand, Rachel Jeantel is back in the courtroom. Just yesterday when she was told that she would have to return by Attorney Don West. She did seem a bit annoyed. But again she is back here. Don West said that it could take another couple of hours for this testimony to continue.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. George Howell, thanks so much.

And as you can see, as George said, the trial is now under way. Rachel Jeantel is now sitting on the stand. George Zimmerman is standing. You see his attorney behind him. They're waiting for the jury to enter the courtroom. Once the jury is seated, the proceedings will begin.

But right now while we wait for the jury to come into the courtroom, let's take a look at what Rachel Jeantel's testimony means for this case.

CNN's legal analyst Sunny Hostin is live in Sanford, Florida, and with here in Atlanta is Page Pate, a criminal defense attorney.

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning. Sunny, if the Twitterverse is any indication Jeantel is hurting the prosecution, two tweets point to that. One says breaking, Rachel Jeantel guilty of murdering the English language. And another person tweeted, Rachel Jeantel is such a bad witness for Trayvon Martin that Aaron Hernandez was just acquitted.

What's your take on her testimony, Sunny?

HOSTIN: You know, I think that's an unfair characterization of what's happening in the courtroom. Yes, perhaps she isn't the most eloquent witness that we've seen. But I think you have understand that she isn't a professional witness. She's not a detective. She's not someone that has ever testified before. And she actually appears to be reluctant on the witness stand and I think that gives her even more credibility.

I put a lot of people on the witness stand during my career as a prosecutor and oftentimes you do see this. You see people being their authentic selves. People that can't be coached, people that -- are perhaps in many views not the best type of witnesses, but I've got to tell you juries react to that. They react to the realness, they react to the authenticity.

I mean, she is being Rachel, she is being herself, and she has said some things that aren't very flattering to Trayvon Martin. She has said that he used some disparaging language when he talked about George Zimmerman but she still said it. And I think when you take all of her testimony into context, that just helps the prosecution because if this jury, Carol, believes what she is saying, they will believe that George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor.

And under the law, that means that self-defense really isn't available to him. And I think that's why this witness is so very crucial to the prosecution.

COSTELLO: And Page, as a defense attorney, because we've seen that Rachel is becoming combative during questioning by defense attorneys. As a defense attorney, what special challenges does that present?

PATE: Well, it does present challenges. You don't want to beat up a witness who is essentially a 19-year-old girl. But I anticipated that the jury expects that she is going to come in there already biased towards Trayvon. She's a friend of Trayvon's. So what I think you do as a defense lawyer, don't keep her up there for another two or three hours. Hit the key points, show that she's biased, show that she's been inconsistent in her earlier testimony and statements, and then just back off and let the jury take that testimony along with all the other evidence and render hopefully a just decision.

COSTELLO: There are inconsistencies in her story, though, Page. Number one, she lied about her age to Trayvon Martin's parents. She told them she was 16. At least I think so. She also lied about the reason she didn't attend Trayvon Martin's funeral. She said she was at the hospital but she wasn't. In testimony she said well, she just didn't want to see the body.

The testimony has begun. All right. Let's listen again. You two stand by, thank you.


DON WEST, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: That you gave to Mr. Crump over the telephone?


WEST: And were you focused on a part of that interview where you telling Mr. Crump what Trayvon Martin said that you heard, why are you following me? Is what you said that he said, correct?


WEST: And that the first thing that you told Mr. Crump that you heard from Mr. Zimmerman was, what are you talking about? Do you remember saying that yesterday?


WEST: And then that changed to, what are you doing around here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, I am going to object to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rephrase. He said the word changed.

WEST: Pardon me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rephrase your question. The objection is to the word changed.

WEST: The first time you answered the question, what did you hear, you said that the other man, Mr. Zimmerman said, what are you talking about? Do you remember that being your answer?

JEANTEL: I remember that, yes. I don't remember, but yes.

WEST: Because you saw that on the deposition and you agreed that's what you said.


WEST: And then when asked again or when you were talking about that same thing again, instead of saying what are you talking about, it became, what are you doing around here? Correct?


WEST: And then at your deposition, when I took your deposition, you said, in the letter that you wrote --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, I'm going to object, again, as to restating what occurred yesterday as opposed to asking a question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It's a preliminary question, I'll allow it. From another night, reassess it. Just to set where we are.

WEST: In your -- in your deposition, you said, in fact, that in the letter that you wrote to Sybrina Fulton, you said, what are you doing around here, was what you attributed to Mr. Zimmerman?


WEST: At your deposition when we learned for the first time that you had written a letter. Correct?


WEST: You had never said that in any of your other statements.


WEST: The letter was the one that you and your friend put together, the one that you gave to Ms. Fulton on March 19th?


WEST: And you had never mentioned that to anyone prior to you mentioning it to us in Miami in March of this year?

JEANTEL: It was a personal letter for her.

WEST: Of course. I know that's what you said. You didn't even tell the prosecutor about it?


WEST: You met with the prosecutor, though, in Jacksonville in early August, correct?


WEST: And that's when you told him, oh, I didn't go to the hospital. I lied about that.


WEST: But you didn't tell him you'd written the letter?


WEST: May I have the letter, please? Marked as Defendant CC for identification. Let me approach you for a moment and show you this letter. Copy, of course. Will you take a look at it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no objection for it being introduce under evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You seek to have it introduced?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It'll come into evidence as (INAUDIBLE), I don't -- 17, thank you.



WEST: Miss Jeantel, let me show you the letter that is now marked as Defendant's Exhibit 17. And let me then ask you a few questions about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to object to this witness, the letter, there's a reason why and I don't want to make a speaking objection but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, well, please approach.


COSTELLO: All right. The lawyers are approaching the bench to have a private conversation with the judge. Testimony has been paused.

Let's get back to Page. So the defense is beginning its cross examination of this very difficult witness. And you say they can't be too combative, but it sounds like they're going to do just that.

PATE: Well, I think he's doing a good job at this point. He's going to make sure the jury understands what her prior statements have been and what she's saying now and how those two are different. But you do run the risk of getting the jury to side with this witness if you come on too strong. If you start hammering her with these prior inconsistent statements.

Lay them out, let the jury see that she's been inconsistent. Suggest that she's biased and has already made up her mind and has chosen sides here, and then back off. That would be my advice.

COSTELLO: Yes. The thing that really stands out about this witness, Sunny, is she clearly does not want to be there. She does not want to be sitting in that seat.

Sunny Hostin, can you hear me?

HOSTIN: I'm sorry, I could not hear you. I can hear you now.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, I was just saying that it's clear that Rachel Jeantel does not want to be sitting where she is today.

HOSTIN: Yes, you know, that is clear. And, again, I mean, I know that she's taken quite a hit on the Twitterverse and on the Internet, even I think Jay Leno was making some jokes about her. But the fact that she appears to be a reluctant witness lends to her credibility. That is the bottom line. The jurors -- the jurors probably don't want to be there and I think they can probably understand why she doesn't want to be there on that hot seat.


HOSTIN: I think Don West has to be very careful in cross examining her.

COSTELLO: Let's listen again.


WEST: And you and Miss Serve talked about what you wanted to be in the letter and then she helped write it in a way that was legible. Correct?


WEST: But the contents of the letter are your words?


WEST: Are you able to read that copy well enough that you can tell us if it's, in fact, the same letter?


WEST: Are you unable to read that at all?

JEANTEL: Some I do not --

WEST: Can you read any of the words on it?

JEANTEL: I don't understand. Curses.

WEST: Did you sign it at the bottom?


WEST: What name did you use?

JEANTEL: Diamond Eugene. Diamond Eugene.

WEST: Are you saying that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no objection. This thing keeps flashing right here on the computer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Putting the screen up. Can we take the flashlight off.

COSTELLO: All right. We're going to let them sort this out. We're going to take a break and we'll be back with more.


COSTELLO: OK. We're going to take you back live inside the Sanford, Florida, courthouse, where Rachel Jeantel, she's the young woman who talked with Trayvon Martin on the phone moments before he died. She is testifying about the letter that she had written. The letter is written -- it appears that she did not write the letter, but maybe dictated it. She can't read it back and your heart kind of goes out to her.

So, let's listen to see what else she says about this letter.


WEST: Does not contain any response that the person gave to Trayvon Martin when you said, why are you following me?


WEST: Further, you say that you thought this was just a fight.


WEST: This was the letter that you gave to Ms. Fulton on the same day that you talked to her and told her basically what happened.


WEST: You told her then, I take it, that the same thing that you said there or did you tell her more?

JEANTEL: Tell her more.

WEST: Did you tell her that the man that Trayvon said, why are you falling me responded in some way?


WEST: And what did you tell her that he said?

JEANTEL: Repeat your question, again.

WEST: Did you tell Ms. Fulton what the man said when Trayvon Martin said, why you following me? Did you say to Mrs. Fulton what the man said in response?


WEST: What did you tell her?

JEANTEL: What are you doing around here? What are you doing around here?

WEST: So that's what you told Ms. Fulton?


WEST: You are sure you actually had a conversation with Ms. Fulton?

JEANTEL: Not for that long.

WEST: Agreed. I'm not challenging that. But you're saying that you had a conversation about the facts of the case, if you will.


WEST: And the facts including, included you saying that Mr. Zimmerman said what you doing around here?


WEST: You do acknowledge, though, the first time that you were asked that question in your interview with Mr. Crump later that day, your response was that Mr. Zimmerman said, what are you talking about?


WEST: Are you sure those are the words that Trayvon Martin said or could you have been sort of trying to figure out what was said and that's what you came up with?

JEANTEL: I'm sure.

WEST: Which are you sure about? That he said, what are you talking about, or why are you following me?

JEANTEL: "Why are you following me for?" What Trayvon said, "Why are you following me for?"

WEST: You first said in response to that question, what are you talking about was the answer.

JEANTEL: I cannot hear you, sir.

WEST: Your testimony today is what you heard on the phone the man say that George Zimmerman was, what are you doing around here?


WEST: Then the first statement you made to Mr. Crump in his interview of you, you said what Mr. Zimmerman's response was, what are you talking about?


WEST: It was in the interview with Mr. Crump that you said you thought this was a racial thing.

JEANTEL: He asked if it was a racial thing.

WEST: What did he say?

JEANTEL: Do you think the situation was a racial thing?

WEST: Mr. Crump asked you that on the recording?


WEST: Have you had a chance to look at the transcript or listen to the recording? Did you ever hear him say that on the recording?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, compound questions.

JUDGE: You need to break your question up.

WEST: Sure.

Do you remember him saying that specifically to you during that phone interview?


WEST: Have you ever seen a transcript of the recording or listened to the recording to know whether or not, in fact, it's there?


WEST: And it is there?


WEST: But your comment is that you think it's a racial thing?


WEST: So, in other words, Mr. Crump didn't record that part of the conversation where he asked you if he thought it was a racial thing but only recorded your answer when you said you think it's a racial thing.


JUDGE: Sustained.

She can't testify what she thought she can only testify is what she heard. Your question is, did Mr. Crump ever do that? If she's not around him, there's no way for him to know if he did that when she's not there. She could testify as to what she heard.

WEST: Yes. What I'm focusing in on is this. You believe that Mr. Crump asked you in that recorded interview whether you thought it was a racial thing.


WEST: And then when you had a chance to listen to the recording or look at the transcript, you can't find his question anywhere in it.


WEST: You have had a chance, though, to review your transcripts or prior statements, haven't you?


WEST: So you decided it was a racial thing because someone told you it was a racial thing or you came up with this on your own or why did you conclude that this was a racial thing?

JEANTEL: How the situation happened -- how the situation happened.

WEST: How about what was being said on the news?

JEANTEL: On the news?

The interview between me and Crump happened before the news even knew about it. (INAUDIBLE) about the situation.

WEST: So, your belief is that you had the interview with Mr. Crump before this story was in the news about George Zimmerman racially profiling and murdering Trayvon Martin?


WEST: You never heard that before?

JEANTEL: I told you I don't watch the news.

WEST: What about when you talked with Tracy Martin? Did he say, "Would you pleas come forward because we are saying this is a racially motivated murder"?

JEANTEL: No, he just asked if I could talk to his attorney.

WEST: How about when you talked to Ms. Fulton. Did she say, "Would you please come forward and talk to our attorney and record it because we think this is a racially charged event"?


WEST: And you didn't have any information from the news that this was a racially charged event?

JEANTEL: No. I told you I don't watch the news.

WEST: OK. Are you OK this morning?


WEST: You seem so different than yesterday. Just checking.

Did someone with --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a question?

WEST: Yes.

Did someone talk to you last night about your demeanor in court?

JEANTEL: No, I went to sleep.

WEST: So, your testimony is that you hadn't heard anything on the news about this being a racially charged incident?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) repeating the answers.

JUDGE: Sustained.

WEST: May I approach, please?


WEST: You didn't know anything about this case on the news following the shooting on February 26th prior to your interview with Mr. Crump on March 19th.

JEANTEL: No, sir. I haven't. I told you that yesterday. I don't watch the news.

WEST: And no one else told you that there was a lot of noise about this being a racially charged event?

JEANTEL: No, sir.

WEST: So, when you asked, answered Mr. Crump's question that's not on the recording what you think about it being a racially charged event, you said, yes, it was.

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And what did you base your answer that you thought it was a racial thing. What information did you base that on?

JEANTEL: Because that's how the situation happened.

WEST: Tell me. What is it about this event specifically that convinced you it was racially based?

JEANTEL: Trayvon was being followed and it was around 7:00 and it's not that late. And it was in the rain (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was in the rain.

JEANTEL: It was in the rain. It was raining.

WEST: All right. So, it's raining.


WEST: And he's out by himself walking around? And --

JEANTEL: Yes. Not walking around, just standing under a shade when it's raining.

WEST: But you don't really know what he was doing, do you?

JEANTEL: Under a shade, yes.

WEST: You don't actually know that, do you?

JEANTEL: I asked him where he was at. He told me under a shade. WEST: So, what you know about this whole event is what Mr. Martin told you and what you interpreted it to mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Argumentative.

JUDGE: Overruled.

JEANTEL: Repeat your question.

WEST: Sure. That you didn't see anything, you weren't there.


WEST: You still don't know where the mail thing is or where any of the streets are or where on the map Trayvon Martin was staying, correct?


WEST: You don't know how far the man was from him at any given point in time.

JEANTEL: He wasn't that far because Trayvon told me that a man was jut -- he's watching him.

WEST: Right. My -- before I lose track here, everything that you've told us is based upon whatever Trayvon Martin told you that you could remember.


WEST: And then what you interpreted it to mean.


WEST: So, when you say it's a racial event --


WEST: -- what did he tell you that made you think it was a racial event?

JEANTEL: Somebody is watching him and then he described the person, the person that was watching him and following him and that was kind of strange and person keep watching you and following you.

WEST: So, he said --

JEANTEL: He's being stalked, being stalked from that person.

WEST: What makes that racial?

JEANTEL: That wouldn't make that racial, it was (INAUDIBLE) racial --

WEST: One thing about what Trayvon Martin told you that made you think this was racial? JEANTEL: Describing the person.

WEST: Pardon me?

JEANTEL: Describing the person.

WEST: I just didn't --

JEANTEL: Describing the person that was watching him and following him, sir.

WEST: I see. Describing the person is what made you think it was racial?


WEST: That's because he described him as a creepy ass cracker?


WEST: So, it was racial but it was because Trayvon Martin put race in this?


WEST: You don't think that's a racial comment?


WEST: You don't think that creepy cracker is a racial comment?


WEST: Well, you didn't mention it in your letter, correct?

JEANTEL: That's just a personal letter to the mother.

WEST: You didn't tell --

JEANTEL: That's just a personal letter to the mother --

WEST: You didn't tell Mrs. Fulton that the man that was following him was a creepy ass cracker, did you?


WEST: You didn't tell Mr. Crump in the recorded interview that Trayvon Martin described George Zimmerman as a creepy ass cracker?


WEST: And when you met with Mr. De La Rionda for the first time on April 2nd, 2012, you never told him in your interview what Trayvon Martin said a creepy ass cracker was following him?

JEANTEL: No, I did say creepy, sir. WEST: Yes, I agree. You did. You said creepy.


WEST: So, the reason you didn't say that, though, was because you didn't think it was relevant?

JEANTEL: Nobody asked me. You ask me exactly what Trayvon said that night about the person that was following him and watching him. That's what you asked me, when I met up with you.

WEST: So, never before I met with you in March did you ever tell anyone exactly what you heard Trayvon Martin say?