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Trayvon Martin's friend Testifies.

Aired June 27, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I've learned that she can't read cursive either. She sounds like she is struggling, maybe with her education, because you can just hear in her grammar at times, the court reporter can't make out what's being said. Jurors have asked, I don't understand what she's saying, frustrating, and making the testimony longer.

George Howell is watching this gavel to gavel.

And you have a better feel for this being in Sanford, seeing these players every day, going in and out of court, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, absolutely. And watching this right now, this is interesting. We're hung up on two words, is it could or could of. We're just hearing she heard Trayvon Martin tell her --

BANFIELD: George, hold on one second. George, there's an audio transcript they're playing.


RACHEL JEANTEL, WITNESS: Get off some stuff.

DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You heard get off?

JEANTEL: Get off.

WEST: Could you tell who was saying that?


WEST: I'm sorry?

JEANTEL: I could of heard Trayvon. Trayvon.


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: And your question to Miss Jeantel is?

WEST: That she said on the recording that I couldn't hear it was Trayvon or couldn't hear Trayvon or could of Trayvon, whatever you can tell us that's said.

RIONDA: You Honor, I object. In terms of this witness being able to hear because the next part she clears up what it is. The answer. They have cut it off.

WEST: That's true, judge, but the theory is that Mr. De la Rionda walked her down the path, suggested things to this witness under the circumstances she just followed along and agreed to.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: I asked what is your question to this witness?

WEST: What did she say? What did you say right there?

JEANTEL: I could of hear Trayvon.

WEST: I could hear Trayvon?


WEST: Let's play it again.

WEST: Did you hear the man say anything or did you hear Trayvon say anything?

JEANTEL: I could hear a little bit.

WEST: What could you hear?

JEANTEL: I could of just hear like -- I guess like the headphone because the headphone, he might have got off but I could still hear a little bit like --

WEST: What could you hear?

JEANTEL: Like a little get off some stuff.

WEST: You heard get off?

JEANTEL: Like, a little get off. But --

WEST: Could you tell who was saying that?


WEST: What exactly did you say there? Would you just tell us what that says?

JEANTEL: Could hear Trayvon.

WEST: That's your testimony?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: Play it for the jury and let them make up their own mind what they say.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Any objection to this being introduced into evidence?

RIONDA: Yes, your honor. UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: What is your objection?

RIONDA: The objection is she stated what it is. The interpretation the defense arguing this says something different.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Please approach. I don't take speaking objections.

RIONDA: I apologize.


BANFIELD: OK. So this is tricky. Yet another tale of the tape.

What's critical here is in an interview that Rachel gave to the prosecutors, they're talking about what she says she heard over the phone before Trayvon Martin was shot, get off, get off. And when the prosecutor says who was saying that, now we're at a problem. Because the way this young woman speaks is so muffled at times it happened during this interview as well. Could have been tray von or I could hear Trayvon. That's what they're arguing over at this point and while the mikes are silent that's when we're going to go silent for a short break. We're right back as soon as the action is back right after this.


BANFIELD: Do you remember when Bill Clinton said depends on what "is" is? That's a problem here too. Watching a live picture as Rachel Jeantel is now taking a break from the stand. One thing that's critical to know, this happened actually during a side bar, the jury was asked to leave the room. There's an issue here with this tape. With what is said on this tape. And it is the tape of the interview that young woman gave a year ago to the prosecutors as they investigated this case and put their case together. And it's all about what words were used and what was being identified as the speaker that young woman could hear during the confrontation with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

Want to bring in Sunny Hostin, former federal prosecutor, CNN legal analyst, as well.

Sunny, this is really critical stuff. This is the kind of thing that can really bias a jury and they need to get this down before the jury is able to make sense of the stuff we're trying to make sense of.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right and that's why the jury was asked to leave the room, of course, because these are legal matters at this point. These aren't factual matters. It's -- they're going to determine whether or not the tape is going to come in. I have to tell you, I was just in the courtroom, Ashleigh, right before coming out to chat with you and this jury is riveted. They don't seem to be having a problem understanding what this witness is saying. They're leaning forward. They're listening to her. They don't seem to be agitated. They are looking at the defense attorney, two or three of them have looks on their faces like get on with it, get on with it. I have to tell you, I've spoken to several people out here in Sanford, spoken to people in the courthouse, everyone likes Rachel. The longer she is on the witness stand, I think the more sympathetic she's becoming that the jurors are riveted, listening and they aren't -- they don't seem to be put off by her presentation.

BANFIELD: That is incredible, Sunny. Like we're watching two different trials. I've always said this, it is so different inside a courtroom. I'm here in tv land watching it on a monitor but I have watched this witness and seen a lot of witnesses take witness stands I find her to be rude, I find her to be sort of full of teenage angst, doesn't like this guy who keeps bugging her with these frustrating and annoying questions and also an immaturity she does not understand this process and how critical the record is.

I want to bring in Faith Jenkins on that point.

It is a big old hassle, Faith, to get stuff on the record and make sure it is crystal clear for many reasons that a teenager might not understand.

FAITH JENKINS, ATTORNEY & FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Rachel seems to express out loud and for everyone to see what other witnesses sometimes think when they're on the witness stand. So she doesn't have that filter sometimes to just keep things inside and keep it together. She just sort of expresses it out to everyone. The prosecutor I think can use Rachel's -- what people may see as her weaknesses as a strength in this case because they can argue listen, this is a witness who clearly does not want to be here, who clearly has not wanted to be involved in this process from the very beginning, why in the world was woo she embellish a story or lie about something to be a part of this case?

BANFIELD: You're right. Oftentimes, the witness that doesn't want to be there, doesn't typically have a dog in the fight. What this defense attorney is trying to say she has a dug in the -- dog in the fight because she's tweeted things that have been specific about let's get that I can't say on TV.

Brian Kabateck, I want you to weigh in because you're doing the same thing I'm doing, watching this on a monitor and no not in the courtroom. What is your perception of how this witness is coming off? You heard Sunny and Faith's analysis and I said what I thought.

BRIAN KABATECK, ATTORNEY: Ashleigh, I'm concerned now for the defense attorney that he's making the mistake that every defense attorney, every lawyer who tries cases ultimately makes which is leaving a witness on too long, adverse witness on too long, get in, make your points, get out. I agree with what I've heard this morning, she's becoming more sympathetic. People are starting to fall in line with her. This could be a mistake for the defense. 30, 45 minutes ago this should have ended and gotten on with it and go on with the rest of the case.

BANFIELD: I hear you. You can over prosecute and you can over defend at times in a courtroom and that may be a case of what's playing out now. We don't have the final strategy. Break while the mics are silent but the live action in moments.

We'll be back in two.


BANFIELD: Live back in the courtroom in Florida where George Zimmerman waits patiently because he has no other choice as his case plays out. And the star witness on the stand, her words are parsed and torn and stretched and twisted and queried. The jury has just come back into the courtroom. The judge is requesting another copy of this much-disputed transcript.

George Howell is watching this gavel to gavel.

I very unceremoniously cut you off before because the live action had begun but I want you to finish your thought, George Howell.

HOWELL: No. Well, it deals with what we're looking at right now. Could or could've. Two words that could have distinctly different meanings. Certainly we're just now hearing this term get off get off. She says that's what Trayvon Martin said, what she heard him say and now the question, the defense is trying to figure out, is it she could have heard Trayvon say that or could've heard Trayvon say that. You see the defense trying to get this tape admitted as evidence. That's why they asked the jury to leave, didn't want the jury to hear this audio as they play it through. If this audio gets admitted and if they can decide what she said there, and you know, she can state exactly what she said, you know, it could be very crucial in this case.

BANFIELD: Can I ask you George, as well, you're there and you're following this, as much as Sunny Hostin is there and following it, she made this comment that everybody she has spoken with and just FYI the play by play here, George Zimmerman stood, the rest of the courtroom stood as they bring the jury back into the jury box and reintroduce them into the courtroom and testimony, the live testimony, she said -- Sunny Hostin said everybody she's asked or spoken with about this case says the longer this witness stays on the witness stand the more likable she becomes. Do you get that sense?

HOWELL: I think that could be a fair assessment. Some people saw yesterday, a combative person, someone who was dismissive. Today you're seeing a different person, more subdued. In fact, the longer she's there, there are people who, you know, feel sympathetic for her going through all of these questions. Again, she is articulated her thoughts, her opinions as best she can and now it's basically going back, reviewing everything she said, to try to determine exactly what she said, why she said it, why did she say certain things to Benjamin Crump, to investigators and why is she saying certain things now, you know, they're methodical and going line by line to figure out exactly what she said. A lot of people see her on the stand feeling sympathetic.

BANFIELD: Here's a question I don't think an anchor person has asked you before. Do you have kids?

HOWELL: No kids, Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: OK. This is the difference between you and me.

HOWELL: Didn't see that coming. We think about kids.


BANFIELD: Here is why, and it doesn't matter if you have nieces or nephews. I'm an angry mom. When my kids, 5 or 6 or 7 years, old talk back to me and say yes, mom, I get annoyed by it. They're following the words and saying the right words but they're copping an attitude and now I have hypersensitivity to it. So maybe I'm seeing in this young student, this woman, this 19-year-old, 12th grader, what I see in my own kids, and that is attitude.

And Faith, you mentioned yesterday it was worse. Today, not so bad. You still believe that?

JENKINS: Yes. I think she's actually much bet better.


BANFIELD: Hold on, George. Want to get Faith to jump in.

JENKINS: I think her demeanor is a lot better today in terms of I think she's just more comfortable today. She's been on the witness stand now for --


BANFIELD: I think she's more annoyed.

JENKINS: She settled into testifying now. Yesterday she seemed to just combat the process, question for question. Today she seems to just sort of settle in and say OK, I'm here, I have to do this. Let me just get through this testimony.

BANFIELD: This testimony would not have taken as long had Don West perhaps truncated a lot of what he was up to but had this witness done what she was asked to do and that is speak more clearly, be more articulate, and not have to repeat things for the stenographer, and also Sunny Hostin said the jury is having no problem. Yesterday, a juror had to say stop, repeat, can't understand. This could have been shorter by her own action as well.

Speaking of short, nice and quiet right now. And we're waiting on the jury to be able to listen in to the testimony when it resumes. So we're going to take a break and be right back.


BANFIELD: You haven't missed a thing. We are hearing once again the tape you already heard, but good to hear it a second time. And this court is hearing it a second time, first time for the jurors, though. It is the audiotape -- rats. Just ended. Let's listen in live as Don West asks her questions about it.


WEST: Did you hear that clearly enough?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: So at one point you said you could hear a little because the headphone might have got off?

JEANTEL: On the grass, sir.

WEST: Right. But what you're saying here is the headphone, meaning you think that maybe the -- the --

JEANTEL: Headset fell.

WEST: That's what you were thinking might have happened?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: But you believe that it was not in the usual position?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And that even though you think the headset was off or got off in some way --

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: -- that you could still hear a little bit?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And what you said was you could hear a little like "get off, get off".

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And when Mr. de la Rionda said, who was saying that, didn't you say "I couldn't know it was Trayvon or I couldn't hear it was Trayvon".

JEANTEL: I couldn't hear it that well that it was Trayvon, but when I heard get off, get off, I started calling his name, Trayvon, Trayvon, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't hear it that will. It was Trayvon. But when I heard get off, get off, and I start calling his name, Trayvon, Trayvon.

JEANTEL: Because it sounded like his voice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said it sounded like his voice.

JEANTEL: Yes, ma'am. WEST: Sounded like his voice or kind of sounded.

JEANTEL: It sounded like his voice.

WEST: Help me understand this better. As far as what you said on the recording, when he said could you tell who was saying that, are you saying that what the jury just heard was you saying I could hear it was Trayvon?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And you didn't say I couldn't hear it was Trayvon or I couldn't know it was Trayvon?

JEANTEL: I said I could hear it was Trayvon. When I speak you cannot hear me that well.

WEST: All right. You were having trouble hearing him because --

JEANTEL: He had trouble hearing me.

WEST: I am really confused. Are you saying that --

JEANTEL: The state attorney had trouble hearing me. Him. The bald headed.

WEST: That doesn't help much, does it?


WEST: So I am sorry that I am not quite clear what you are saying. You are saying first of all to the jury that what you said is I could hear it was Trayvon?

JEANTEL: I could hear it was Trayvon.

WEST: And that he asked you again and you said that's why I was calling his name.


WEST: By then the phone was disconnected?


WEST: So you heard -- when you gave the -- when you answered the questions and gave for the first time that you heard this little get off on April 2nd, the phone cut offer right after you heard get off?

JEANTEL: You could hear grass sounds, wet grass, and you could hear Trayvon saying "get off, get off," and I was saying Trayvon, and the phone hung up. The phone ended. The phone had ended. Ended. Ended.

WEST: So what are you saying is that after you heard something hitting somebody, then you heard grass?

JEANTEL: Repeat the question again.

WEST: After you say that you heard something hitting somebody, then you heard grass?

JEANTEL: I didn't say that. I didn't say somebody was hitting somebody. I heard get off. That's what I said. I heard somebody saying, Trayvon saying get off, sir.

WEST: At the beginning of the recording we just played, Mr. de la Rionda said, so the last thing you heard was some kind of noise like something hitting somebody and you said yeah. Do you agree?

JEANTEL: I said yes, sir.

BANFIELD: You just heard it. Did you hear that?

JEANTEL: No, sir.

WEST: Could we play that again?

JEANTEL: No, sir. Go ahead, sir.

WEST: Can we play that part again?

JEANTEL: Go ahead, sir.


RIONDA: So the last thing you heard was some kind of noise like something hitting somebody.

JEANTEL: Yeah, yeah.


WEST: Did you hear that?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: Was that you?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: Then when he said basically after that did you hear the man say anything or did you hear Trayvon say anything and you said I could hear a little bit. Is that correct?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: So this is the point where in prior statements you said the phone cut off. Correct?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

BANFIELD: Today in Ms. Fulton's living room, and he asked you could you hear anything else, you said, yeah, as a matter of fact, I could hear a little bit. Correct?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: The first thing you said, well, I should just hear like I guess because the head phone might have come off or hadn't gone off, so you are saying there that you heard the head phone in your mind came off.

JEANTEL: Came off.

WEST: And the next thing you heard was grass?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: Can you describe that for me when you say you could hear grass or even wet grass like you said yesterday, could you tell me how wet grass sounds?

JEANTEL: What? Rolling all over. Wet. (INAUDIBLE).

WEST: When you describe the sound as you could hear wet grass, what is it that you actually heard that led you to make that opinion?

JEANTEL: Somebody rolling all -- rolling on top of the grass.

WEST: Are you saying now that you heard people rolling on the grass?


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Sustained. You asked her to describe and she gave you what she could give as a description.

WEST: Well, let's hone in on that just a second. So you said in this interview and then you said today that after the sound of something hitting somebody and you think the head phone might have been off, you heard wet grass. I want to know what it is you actually heard that made you form that opinion.

JEANTEL: The headset.


JEANTEL: The headset, all you could hear is somebody rolling on the headset because Trayvon had his headset.

WEST: Are you saying now that you heard somebody rolling on the headset?

JEANTEL: On Trayvon. It had to be with Trayvon. That's where his headset would be at.

WEST: Are you saying that the sound of wet grass that you used to describe this yesterday, as you describe it today you're saying that you believe that was people rolling around on the ground?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: What's that based on? What is the sound you heard that led to that conclusion?

JEANTEL: I really don't know how to describe it. I really do not know how to describe that.

WEST: Do you know how one of those headsets works?

JEANTEL: Like this.

WEST: Right. So if something brushes against it, you can hear just like what you heard here.

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: So it could have been fabric? It could have been wind. It could have been 1,000 other things than somebody rolling on the ground, couldn't it?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And for that matter, you don't even know what get off means, whether that means somebody on top saying that the person underneath was saying get off or somebody was backing up and saying get off or --

RIONDA: Objection, argumentative.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Let me hear the rest of the question.

WEST: What may have been meant if in fact you even heard it?

JEANTEL: I did hear get off, sir.

WEST: But you don't know what it meant because you didn't see any of this, correct?

JEANTEL: No, sir.