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Trayvon Martin's Friend Finishes Testimony; Hernandez Denied Bail Again; Defense Asks If Witness Was Coached

Aired June 27, 2013 - 14:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Bottom of the hour, you are watching CNN. As these last moments in Trayvon Martin's life here, the last words his friend heard him say over the phone, whether Martin might have confronted George Zimmerman, dominated testimony today in Zimmerman's murder trial there in Sanford, Florida. These are live pictures.

The last person to talk to Trayvon Martin on the phone returned to the witness stand this morning and just finished just about 5 minutes ago. She is Rachel Jeantel. She is this young woman, 19 years of age, going into her senior year of high school. She was the one on the phone with Trayvon Martin in those moments before he was shot by George Zimmerman.

She faced a full morning of grilling by Zimmerman's attorney who tried to shake her testimony about her retelling of her phone conversation with Martin in the days after she was killed. Jeantel toned down some of the attitude that she exhibited in court yesterday, until this. Let me play this for you, this exchange with Zimmerman attorney, Defense Co-Counsel, Don West.


DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: So you made the decision, then, not to tell Mr. Crump that you'd actually heard Trayvon Martin say, get off, get off, because you were in a hurry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Asked and answered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The word, in a hurry, is an additional part to that question, so I will allow it in the answer.

RACHEL JEANTEL, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FRIEND: Yes, sir, because Crump is not a law enforcer.

WEST: So you weren't worried about telling him, first of all, the truth, or the whole story?

JEANTEL: First of all, crump is not law enforcement. He's not an officer. I knew that he was not an officer. So like I told the mother, from the beginning, if officer wants to talk to me, know the exact story, everything about what happened that night, they will reach me at my number. You got it? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And for the first time, the defense asked Jeantel whether Martin confronted Zimmerman.


WEST: So we told you that he could see the man again. The man was behind him, correct?

JEANTEL: Yes. Close.

WEST: Sure.

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.

WEST: And if he were hiding somewhere and the man walked close to him, they would be close together, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, your honor. Argumentative.


WEST: In any event, yours sense is they got close together at that point?

JEANTEL: He got close to Trayvon. Yes, sir.

WEST: You don't know whether the man was approaching Trayvon at that point in getting closer, or whether Trayvon was approaching the man and getting closer?

JEANTEL: Trayvon would have told me he'll call me back, sir, if he was going to approach him, sir.

WEST: So you're assuming that Trayvon didn't approach the man because he would have told you if he was going to confront the guy, he would call you back when it was over?

JEANTEL: Yes, sir.


BALDWIN: OK, so that was just a sliver of what we've been watching the last couple of hours. Couple of hours, Vinnie Politan.


BALDWIN: We talked about this yesterday. She's been back. First, were you surprised how long Don West kept her on the stand today?

POLITAN: I was. Here's why I'm surprised. Because for cross examining a witness, this isn't the most sophisticated witness in the world, I would think that a criminal defense attorney, as experienced as Don West, could be laser focused, get in, get out, and do all his damage so much more quickly and efficiently, and he didn't do it that. And I think it hurt his case.

BALDWIN: You do?

POLITAN: Yes. This should have been the easiest cross-examination ever.

BALDWIN: It went on and on and on.

POLITAN: It was painful at times. I think at certain points Don West made himself look bad and obviously this witness has a lot of issues with her demeanor on the stand and then ultimately with the way she words things gets very confusing for everyone including the prosecutor, including Don West, including the court reporter, including the judge and including me.

BALDWIN: I want to get to some of the language she was using in just a moment. But obviously he was trying to poke holes in some of the story. Going by, talking about the minutia, you know, the phone calls and the times, and then what he said and the words. Whether or not Trayvon Martin was followed versus whether or not perhaps Trayvon Martin confronted George Zimmerman is what kind of what he was trying to get out, correct?

POLITAN: What Don West is trying to do is get his defense in. He basically laid it out and he said, well, Trayvon could have been hiding and then approached him and attacked him. She said, like, I'm not saying that, not in those exact words. But this is the defense trying to get George Zimmerman's story in front of the jury through this witness, which is kind of bizarre. But I don't think they want George Zimmerman to testify. But the bottom line is that this should have been a quick and easy cross-examination because, yes, the wording she's used in her statements has varied.

BALDWIN: It has varied.


BALDWIN: Want to get a quick break in, but we have to talk about those three little words she used, the crazy bleep cracker. We're going to go there. Do not miss this. I want your opinion.

POLITAN: You want my opinion, but I'm not saying the words.

BALDWIN: I'm not saying the words, either.


BALDWIN: Breaking news, we'll take you back to George Zimmerman in a moment. But this man, former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, we have now learned has been denied bail. So he was denied bail yesterday by the district court judge. Denied bail again as he was clearly pleading to go free. That is not happening. That is news into us at CNN out of Massachusetts.

Let me hop back, though, to the news, the George Zimmerman trial, which is under way in Sanford, Florida. I want to bring Vinnie back in, Vinnie Politan, anchor of HLN's "After Dark." Let's talk about this colorful language.


BALDWIN: That was used today, multiple words actually. We're going to play sort of this first phrase. She initially used it yesterday. It was brought back up today. I want to get to you. You are making a great point during commercial, the fact that the defense team didn't use the word racial, as in racial profiling in this case. You are saying that this possibly re-opened the door to this whole conversation about race because of this conversation. Watch.


WEST: You may not consider it a racial comment, but it's certainly offensive, isn't it?


WEST: You don't think calling someone a creepy ass cracker is offensive?


WEST: So -- but you specifically chose not to tell Ms. Fulton that's what Trayvon martin said?


WEST: Because you thought it would hurt her feelings, didn't you?


WEST: You didn't think that would bother her if you said that her son described the man that was following him in a car on the phone --

JEANTEL: I didn't think that was important.

WEST: -- was a creepy ass cracker?

JEANTEL: I did not think that was important.

WEST: Not important enough to put in the letter and not important enough to tell her --



BALDWIN: OK, so we back up. So initially he was asking her because when we were talking yesterday, she used this phrase and as she was describing, again. She's on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night he's shot and killed. She's describing what Trayvon Martin told her on the phone.

POLITAN: Right. Trayvon's words. BALDWIN: Trayvon's words. She's simply relaying Trayvon's words to the jurors. So she said, describing this man who we now know was George Zimmerman, as a crazy bleep cracker.

POLITAN: Creepy.

BALDWIN: Well, yesterday it was bleep. Today it was creepy.

POLITAN: Creepy. Here's the thing. From my perspective, it helps her credibility to a certain extent because everyone knows she's Trayvon's friend, so she has a side in all this, right? She wants George Zimmerman convicted. She won't say -- I don't know, she's not going to be asked that, but we know which side she comes down. She's Trayvon's friend.


POLITAN: Yet she is saying something that makes Trayvon not look that great. So if I'm the prosecution, I can argue she's truthful, ladies and gentlemen. She's not hiding anything from you. She's not making things up. She even volunteered that statement that Trayvon Martin said. And that doesn't make Trayvon Martin look great. So the defense while they'll use it against Trayvon, the prosecution can use it to bolster her credibility and say, the reason she said it is because it was true.

BALDWIN: OK. Hang on. Hang on. Sunny Hostin, I want to come to you, because you've been down there. You've been sitting inside this courtroom. Here's my question to you also on this phrase she was using today because it was a part of the conversation where Don West is saying, what made you think this was racial? This was part of the conversation. Why was this racial? Why do you think Trayvon thought he was being followed because of the color of his skin? That's when the phrase comes into play. When she was asked later, do you think the word cracker is offensive, she said no. I'm confused.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I was confused as well, but, you know what, I grew up in the northeast, right. I grew up in the Bronx. And so that's not a term that I, quite frankly, had ever even heard of, so that goes to show you that, perhaps, a lot of this is regional. Perhaps that is part of the vernacular that she uses with her friends.

But I tend to agree with Vinnie you know, that the prosecution is going to say, yes, it's a hateful word and it's terrible and she said it, and that means that she's credible because she's not trying to make Trayvon look any better or worse. She's just authentically -- she's just authentic.

She's going to tell the truth. I think the defense is definitely going to hone in on the fact that she said that Trayvon Martin said some terrible things, some disparaging remarks and it shows that he was hateful and he was angry. It could possibly neutralize you know, the argument that George Zimmerman was saying, you know, these f-ing punks. I mean, perhaps, perhaps you see that contrast and I suspect we're going to hear a lot about that in closing arguments. BALDWIN: Mel Robbins, criminal defense attorney. You're in there as well. Do you agree with the sense of authenticity she's bringing?

MEL ROBBINS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I don't think the question is going to be whether or not she's being authentic or whether or not she's quote, "credible."

BALDWIN: What's the question?

ROBBINS: The question is, does she remember this correctly? I mean, this comes down to what was said right before the phone went down. And she said two different things. One of them is, what are you doing around here? And the other statement that she made was that Trayvon actually said first, why are you following me? And he said, why are you asking me that?

So that's two very different things that she said and I think in the end the jury is basically going to say to themselves, I think she's basically telling the truth, but I'm not quite sure if she remembers what actually happened. That doesn't necessarily mean she's lying, by the way.

BALDWIN: Mel, let me stay with you because I think if I was sitting in the courtroom, I'd be staring at the jury the whole time. I'd be listening to the testimony and I'd be watching these six women, five of whom are white, one of whom is African-American, Hispanic. How are they -- are you watching their faces?


BALDWIN: How are they ingesting what's being said?

ROBBINS: Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here, but B29 does not like Rachel. She's not -- I think she was really turned off by the rudeness yesterday and Rachel's frustration and how that came through very in a disrespectful manner. She will not look at this witness, you guys. She stares straight ahead right at the attorneys and as Rachel is saying, no sir, no, sir, no, sir.

Some of the other jurors are like a ping-pong match back and forth watching it go down and she stares straight ahead. There are two other jurors who are very interesting. There's a juror in her mid 30s with blond hair sitting in the back row. She looks down almost the entire time. She is writing down every single word.


ROBBINS: Also the woman from Iowa with the short curly white hair and the glasses who's married to the engineer, she also looking down writing almost every single word. So I would say five out of the six are completely engaged and one of them is either totally checked out or very turned off on that witness.

BALDWIN: It's interesting. Mel, Vinnie, Sonny, stand by for me. Have to get a quick break in. We're watching here, we're continuing to watch this second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman fascinating, absolutely fascinating testimony.

On the other side of the break, we're going to play you more sound of moments that might give you pause.


BALDWIN: Hi. Here we go. Live pictures in Sanford, Florida, as we continue to cover the George Zimmerman trial. You know, one of the riveting parts of this murder trial here is watching the tension. Imagine being in the courtroom, watching on television, the tension playing back and forth between Trayvon Martin's friend, Rachel Jeantel, this 19-year-old woman and Defense Attorney Don West. I'll share these moments that certainly caught our attention a short time ago.


WEST: You don'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 talk --

JEANTEL: Is that a question?

WEST: Yes. Did someone talk with you last night about your demeanor in court yesterday?

JEANTEL: No. I went to sleep.

WEST: Could you tell me how wet grass sounds?

JEANTEL: Wet, rolling all over.

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.


BALDWIN: And it goes on and he actually asks what does wet grass sound like? HLN's Vinnie Politan with me, also Darren Kavinoky, a trial attorney joining me. Hello, welcome. Let's begin with you, Darren, since you're new to the party today. As we keep watching all this, let's go back to the initial question here about, because it was very clear her, Rachel Jeantel's demeanor was different, the yes, sir, yes, sir, no, sir, today, very different than yesterday. The question, do you think it was a legitimate question from Don West to stay, did you talk to someone last night? DARREN KAVINOKY, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yes, it's absolutely a fair question. When it comes to this witness, she definitely gets points for being authentic, but authentic is not the same thing as credible. And when she's on cross-examination, her demeanor is certainly relevant. Whether she's under the influence of any medication is relevant. There was a court order from the judge that she not talk to anybody. That's where Don West was going here I'm assuming.

BALDWIN: No one is supposed to be talking to her between yesterday and today.

KAVINOKY: That's right, absolutely. You want to maintain the integrity of the proceedings even overnight and not have the witness' testimony be influenced by any outside source. And she was totally and completely different today. So it makes you wonder what might have been going on here.

POLITAN: Sarcastic, though. It wasn't like she was saying it in a respectful manner.

BALDWIN: There were two different times where she said, you got it? Remember that. She used a word I'm not going to use when she said, are you --

KAVINOKY: There was definitely some smoldering emotion there. You could see that bubble up to the surface from time to time. And ultimately when the lawyers are talking about witnesses, their credibility, their biases, you can expect we're going to hear that come up in closing argument. It certainly -- we're not done with her. As a matter of fact, we know we're not done, because she's subject to recall. I think we're going to see her again on the stand.


KAVINOKY: And one thing that lawyers do in trial is they try and use the testimony of one witness to impeach testimony from another witness. So we may see somebody else coming up that they'll want to bring her back for to try and use her to then discredit somebody else.

POLITAN: But her big thing is language and her use of language. She dropped the "b" bomb today in describing the prosecutor, bald. She did. She did. She knows his name but she said the bald guy over there.

BALDWIN: How is that sitting with the jurors? Again, I go back to these --

POLITAN: She's searching for words. She's searching for words. One thing that did come out this afternoon was that English, you know, she's been, yes, she's been in this country and speaking, but at home her parents --

BALDWIN: Creole.

POLITAN: They speak Spanish. And at times I saw her searching for words. You can see that the wheels are turning, she's got an idea in her head and she's searching for the word.

KAVINOKY: You could almost smell the smoke at one point, though, because it was on cross-examination when West was asking about the use of certain slang.


KAVINOKY: And you could see the lengthy pause and literally see the cogs turning and some people might say, well, she's just searching her mind in order to be accurate in her reply. Somebody else, somebody more cynical, perhaps, might say, no, she's searching her mind to try to come up with an answer that's going to be helpful, not make her look bad or further her inter interests.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in because we got to get a quick break in. On the other side we're going to dip back in because the next person on the stand, a woman by the name Jenna Lauer. She is a real estate agent who apparently lives in this neighborhood where all of this happened. Back in a moment.