"Everybody Wants the Exclusive" Interview With Rachel Jeantel, Star Witness in Trayvon Martin Case, Her Lawyer Says
Anderson Cooper of CNN wants to see him next week. Last week it was Piers Morgan. "Everybody wants the exclusive," said Rod Vereen, following a community briefing on the George Zimmerman murder trial in Miami yesterday.
His client, 19-year-old Miami resident Rachel Jeantel, testified last month as the prosecution's star witness. Twitter and YouTube users reacted by dissecting her time on the stand, their comments often targeting her physical appearance, language, and attitude. Supporters called her brave.
"I thought the state's strategy was to make sure her testimony was raw, unadulterated, and unrehearsed," Vereen said. "That's exactly what they got from Rachel."
Jeantel is significant in the case because she was on the phone with Trayvon Martin right before his fatal confrontation with Zimmerman. Members of her church reached out to Vereen a week before she was set to take the stand.
She traveled from Miami to Sanford (a three-hour trip) and arrived to testify on the same day. "She wasn't happy about it," Vereen said. "She was lonely and frustrated.
"What people saw with Rachel going into that courtroom was her emotions taking over," he said. "The first day, people say [defense attorney] Don West got the best of her. But after that night, she was fed, told to go back to her room and relax."
Jeantel found television trucks camped outside her house when she returned from Sanford and is currently staying away from home. "Other than that, she is in good spirits," Vereen said. "I speak with her about three or four times a day. She is anxious for this to be over."
Her testimony and the public's response sparked a national discussion on language and the cultural divide between her and the lawyers questioning her. One example was her use of the phrase "put a rush on it." The defense lawyer had no idea what she meant, said Vereen.
He also rejected comments made about her lack of education, pointing to her ability to speak Creole, Spanish, and English.
Jeantel will be able to talk to the media once the defense rests. In the meantime, she has been sporadically updating her Twitter account:
I might smile,laugh,drink but its all out of stress,confusion,pain,and sadness all this on a 18yrs old last year wow
— Ms.Rachel Jeantel (@MsRachel_94) July 6, 2013
"She wants to share her story," Vereen said. "This is a young lady who lost one of her best friends. And she never got the chance to mourn his death because she has been inundated with the state and the defense since she became a witness in this case. So for the last year and a half, her life has been turned upside down."
After finishing her senior year of high school, she plans on going on to college.
"She is not going to be the same 19-year-old kid when she walked into that courtroom," he said. "But I think she will be fine."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.