The state’s star witness in the George Zimmerman trial received terrible reviews Wednesday afternoon. But Thursday morning, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel was getting sympathy.
Bob Fisher, a legal analyst for WOFL-Channel 35, said it was “absolutely offensive” that Trayvon’s mother sat next to Jeantel during the first interview with law enforcement. “Talk about pressure on an unsophisticated witness. That’s offensive to me,” Fisher said.
Jeantel on the stand acknowledged that she changed Trayvon’s language during the interview so as not to offend Trayvon’s mother.
“This young lady was under incredible pressure from external forces, the state attorney’s office, Benjamin Crump, Trayvon Martin’s mom,” WFTV-Channel 9 legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said.
Sheaffer said the state attorney’s way of interviewing Jeantel “bordered on the abominable” and a reasonable person might conclude that Jeantel had modified her statements under pressure. She was talking to Trayvon on the phone before his fatal encounter with Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder.
“The unraveling of the state’s case has begun with this very important witness,” Sheaffer added. He said that the state attorney’s office, law enforcement and Martin family attorney Crump would share a large share of the blame.
WESH-Channel 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby said that Zimmerman’s defense team was trying to establish that Jeantel had “adopted this false narrative” from Crump and the Martin family.
Legal analysts were struck by the change in Jeantel’s demeanor. She was combative Wednesday but more polite Thursday.
Sheaffer theorized that someone had talked to Jeantel, which she denied on the stand. Judge Debra Nelson had cautioned the witness not to talk to any attorneys.
“Wouldn’t a reasonable person conclude that someone talked to her about her attitude last night?” Sheaffer asked. He speculated that someone told her to clean up her attitude.
Diana Tennis, an analyst for WOFL, scoffed at Jeantel’s denial that she talked to anyone Wednesday night. “Somebody talked to her. She is a completely different person,” Tennis said. “She doesn’t know what she can say and be OK at this point. It is not her fault. … The way they have done this totally destroys her credibility, and it’s not her fault.”
Eric Dubois, an analyst for WKMG-Channel 6, said the jury had to be wondering why Jeantel’s demeanor had changed. “What happened overnight?” he asked. “I don’t think she’s talked to any lawyers. She probably watched some of the newscasts. … People were making fun of her, and she probably saw that.”
But there was little sympathy from Mark NeJame, legal analyst for Central Florida News 13. He said because Jeantel was 19 and a woman that she needed to be held to the same standards as any other witness.
“You tell the truth,” NeJame said. “And I don’t believe that’s what we’ve been hearing out of her. And if this is the state’s star witness, I think they have trouble.”
What do you think?