Who is Rachel Jeantel? Rachel Jeantel is a Florida teenager who was talking on the phone with Trayvon Martin just before he was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012. Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, who now stands trial for second-degree murder, and in on June 26 and 27, 2013, Rachel Jeantel—sometimes described as Trayvon’s girlfriend—took the stand for the prosecution, earning mixed reviews for her testimony.
While some feel Rachel Jeantel helped the state’s claim that Trayvon Martin was a frightened teenager who, following a violent altercation with Zimmerman, posed no threat and certainly didn’t deserve to be shot, others worry that inconsistencies in her story—not to mention her appearance, speech and overall demeanor—might have hurt the prosecution.
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Who is Rachel Jeantel? That’s a question that’s been on many people’s tongues, and during her testimony in the George Zimmerman case, as she talked about Trayvon Martin, whom she met in the second grade, scores of viewers took to Twitter to both praise and criticize the 19-year-old for her performance under oath. “She was alternately soft-spoken and sharp, grief-stricken and defiant, convincing and contradictory,” Jelani Cobb wrote for the New Yorker, describing Rachel Jeantel during cross-examination from defense lawyer Don West.
Rachel Jeantel is dark-skinned and overweight, and by her own admission, she’s plagued with literacy difficulties. She’s admitted to lying about her reasons for not attending Trayvon Martin’s wake, and while talking with Martin’s family’s lawyers, she apparently gave an inaccurate account of what happened the night of the killing. The question “Who is Rachel Jeantel?” may actually boil down to “Is Rachel Jeantel a credible witness?” In a commentary for Global Grind, Rachel Samara called Rachel Jeantel “raw, emotional, aggressive and hostile,” and she worried the jury—overwhelmingly white and female—would not identify with her.
Rachel Jeantel’s testimony holds that Trayvon Martin talked on the phone about being afraid of Zimmerman, who was following him around the gated Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision in Sanford, Florida, on the night of Feb. 26, 2012. “More than any other witness so far, I think the public will be split on Jeantel,” political science professor and author Jason Johnson wrote in a piece for CNN. “No one is going to be swayed from their first impression no matter what she does, and that’s never a good thing, no matter what side of this case you’re arguing.”