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Rachel Jeantel’s Attorney: She Was Never Prepped by the Prosecution

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The last person to speak to Trayvon Martin other than George Zimmerman before he was killed, is Rachel Jeantel. As the story goes, Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon up until the time he encountered an armed Zimmerman.

As such, the once-billed “girlfriend” of Trayvon is now seen as the prosecution’s star witness. For two days last week, Jeantel gave what most consider to be the most unusual but “authentic” testimony anyone has seen in a high-profile court case since Kato Kaelin. Her testimony, however, has since opened her up to ridicule by many with many of them being members of the black community on and offline. At times she was rube, inarticulate; and for some, she was just downright “ghetto”.

For many, she didn’t do a very goo job representing and being the voice of Trayvon. For many interested in justice for Trayvon, her testimony, attitude, damaged any chance of a conviction. After all, as much as race has played a part in the events leading up to this case, many are of the opinion that her performance would not be received well by a majority white jury made up of all women.

Who failed Rachel Jeantel?

Last week on Madness & Reality Radio, our resident legal expert and attorney, “The Janitor” of The Urban Politico said as much. Our show was pretty heated as it centered on much of the backlash to Jeantel’s testimony; as well as, the many explanations and silly excuses for her behavior. On our show it was speculated that Jeantel was not properly prepared by the prosecution — we even had callers who made this suggestion. Ironically, Jeantel’s attorney himself confirmed as much in an interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show recently.

According to attorney Rod Vereen, hr was contacted by a friend who attended Jeantel’s church to counsel her just prior to her testimony. It was the belief of the friend that her rough edges needed some sprucing up. According to Vereen, it was apparent that she was in need of coaching and counsel since the prosecutors failed to do so. Vereen had a lot to say about Jeantel that you can hear in the full interview at the end of this post.

This from Black America Web:

SANFORD, FL - JUNE 26:  Witness Rachel Jeantel gives her testimony to the defense during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court

SANFORD, FL – JUNE 26: Witness Rachel Jeantel gives her testimony to the defense during George Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court

ATTORNEY ROD VEREEN: Well, to answer the question, the short answer is absolutely not. And, you know, sometimes I think it was by design, and when I sit back and reflect on what took place in this case, you know, and watching Mr. De La Rionda, who is the prosecutor of the case, how he’s presented his case. I think what he wanted from Rachel actually is exactly what he got. He just wanted unrehearsed raw testimony.

People don’t know why it is I got involved in this case. About a week prior to Rachel’s testimony I was contacted by a member of the same church that she attends. Who is actually the formal law enforcement officer who had grew up with me, who contacted me and said, Rod, listen, we think that Rachel needs some to assist her because she has not been, you know, vetted, if you will, by the prosecution concerning, you know, how testify in the court, her demeanor, things of that nature. So when I got in contact with Rachel she and I sat down and I spoke with her, albeit briefly, about the testimony she had planned on giving.

Because one, I didn’t have a chance to speak with the prosecution, I didn’t know what the strategy was going to be. I didn’t know the total facts. I mean I knew very little about the Trayvon Martin prosecution as far as the number of witnesses they were going to call, the strategy they were going to use to use in front of the jury. So one of the things I did not do was, you know, sit down with her and go verbatim what she was going to testify to because Rachel had given a number of statements. Okay, and I was not privy to those statements, so I didn’t want to go in and screw things up with the prosecution so what I did …

Full interview below:

Much has been said about Jeantel’s testimony last week, and many people have since come to her defense. In my opinion, though some of the comments about her are beyond ignorant. No matter what you may think about Jeantel, the fact remains: what we saw from Rachel Jeantel last week was a cause for concern. By concern I’m not talking about justice for Trayvon. Instead, I am however talking about the educational system in this country. Why? Because, unless Jeantel has a learning disability, there is no reason why at 19-years-old she’s unable to read and write.

Here’s where we miss the mark

To me, her educational deficiency was the root of what we saw. Of course losing her friend and the awkwardness of facing his killer in court has something to do with it as well. But, I believe that her displayed behavior acted — and continues to act — as a defense mechanism when embarrassed by being outed as such. Like many of you I’ve heard all the excuses for her behavior, and poor communication skills (remember then having to stop proceedings and replaying earlier recordings to decipher her words?). Unlike many, however, I refuse to create excuses which includes any suggestion of her being of Haitian descent. Why? Because she was born and raised in the US.

The thing about grammars, though, is that they rely on language, on a way of speaking and communicating, to give them power. And Rachel Jeantel has her own particular, idiosyncratic black girl idiom, a mashup of her Haitian and Dominican working-class background, her U.S. Southern upbringing, and the three languages – Hatian Kreyol (or Creole), Spanish and English — that she speaks.

rachel-jeantel-don-westThe unique quality of her black vernacular speaking style became hypervisible against the backdrop of powerful white men fluently deploying corporate, proper English in ways that she could not do. The way they spoke to her was designed not only to discredit her, but to condescend to and humiliate her. She acknowledged this show of white male power by repeatedly punctuating her responses with a curt but loaded, “Yes, Sir.”

[…] What we witnessed with Jeantel was a deliberate attempt by the defense to mis-hear and misunderstand her, to suggest, for instance, that statements like “I coulda hear Trayvon, Trayvon,” meant that, in fact, she did not hear Trayvon screaming for George Zimmerman to “get off, get off,” of him. (source)

But beyond that, to create excuses for Jeantel, in my opinion, does Jeantel — and society at large — a huge disservice. You may not agree with me, but to do so is much like her being ignored by the prosecution in this case. Their failure to prepare her for the trial, was just as egregious as ignoring (and sometimes creating excuses for our troubled youth) the many cries for help by many at-risk.

“The real question is not why so many people fall through the cracks, it’s why there are so many cracks.” — Bill Moyers

Rachel Jeantel is who she is. She is as the media now says about her: authentic. Maybe I’m interpreting that word the wrong way, folks. But when I hear it used to describe her, I see it as just another code word to mean, “just another typical dumb negro that we can’t help”. Sadly, in our tribal need to defend Jeantel, most of us do her a disservice much like the prosecution in this case has with their “star” witness. I don’t know too much about Jeantel other than her age, her level of education, and the fact that she was the last person to speak to Trayvon. What I do know, however, is that somewhere along the line, she has been failed by many including the prosecution in this case. As irony would have it, this is overlooked.

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Written by:

Published on: July 3, 2013

Filled Under: Justice, Race

Views: 797

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  • Pellinore

    You seem to love victim blaming people, black women in particular. If you had been paying attention you would have realized how uncomfortable this girl was representing both herself and her DEAD friend in front of not only his murderer but his parents as well. You take a part a person’s character when she is doing her best to tell the truth in front of a bunch of unempathetic and unsympathetic white people. But all you can do is complain about is her perceived lack of education. Why does it matter that she’s in special education? Does that make her stupid to you? I’ll admit that sometimes it is hard to understand her but that’s what subtitles and interpreters are for. Why was she not provided an interpreter? I suppose that’s her fault, too? So according to you it’s her fault if George Zimmerman walks a free man? There’s only so much her testimony can do in this case. Even if she was fucking Kerry Washington it wouldn’t necessarily move the all WHITE jury. It’s already been determined by lengthy research that white people have a hard time seeing black people as people. And they have an even harder time recognizing that we feel pain. Poor them.

    I can’t stand people like you. You see a person with a speech impediment and suddenly you cease to view that person as another human being. Suddenly she becomes a problem, a symbol of the failures of the US educational system. What does that have to do with a fucking murder trial? I wish you would people would just focus on the god damn problem. More than likely Zimmerman is going to walk a free man and then there will be riots.

    As far as I’m concerned Rachel is extremely intelligent. She speaks more languages than most US citizens and her only flaw is her mishandling of English. B/c English is totes important, guise! The language that has led to the destruction of many native peoples and languages. The reason why the descendants of slaves in this country can barely remember anything reminiscent of African languages (mostly grammar). But no, let’s just bully this girl cause she can’t speak English good. Ignore her other languages b/c they are all less valuable than the almighty English. Girl, you live in ‘Merica so speak American!!!

    English is a Germanic language, it’s incompatible with the Romance languages she’s more capable in. Had you considered that living as a Haitian woman in Florida is fucking hell? Maybe that had an impact on her learning? You know, things like racism, sexism, misogyny, colorism, fat-antagonism and ableism. Do you even know why she and Trayvon were friends in the first place? Perhaps the reason is lost on you but he was one of the few guys who never tore her down for being what she was. He liked her and did not bother her about her flaws.

    • http://rippdemup.com/ RiPPa

      An interpreter for a person born and raised in the US who speaks English? Really? Speech impediment? I never heard a speech impediment. Did you even watch her testimony? Seriously, your entire comment and argument is poorly constructed. Fuck, I’m surprised that you didn’t type in in some ancient African language.

  • http://www.coffeerhetoric.com/ TiffJ

    As a Rachel Jeantel supporter, I think there’s definitely space to have the conversation about the education system Rachel is a product of, particularly since she *was* born and raised in the U.S., despite her heritage. The commentary about her *looks* is indefensible, and I refuse to abide that. But I think what concerns me somewhat, is that Rachel’s dialect– Kreyole/Spanish– is permissible because of her heritage; whereas, if she here a Black-American speaking AAVE, people wouldn’t be so forgiving, I don’t think. And would write her off as “ratchet”.

    Either way, it troubles me that she’s come under such heavy scrutiny and most of the dialogue her testimony has prompted, isn’t productive nor is it framed around Florida’s educational system or whatever learning disability Rachel may or MAY NOT have. Most of the discourse has been about her aesthetic… in the face of seeking justice for Trayvon Martin.

    All other productive conversations (like, possibly, the one presented here) have gotten lost in translation, and I think this is why many of us feel compelled to root for her.