Trayvon Martin's friend, 'Witness 8,' testifies in George Zimmerman's murder trial

Rachel Jeantel discusses Trayvon Martin's final phone call

Published On: Jun 26 2013 07:58:39 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 27 2013 12:35:58 AM EDT
rachel jeantel
SANFORD, Fla. -

The state called Rachel Jeantel, Witness 8, to testify on Wednesday about the phone call she had with Trayvon Martin moments before the teen was fatally shot by George Zimmerman.

Jeantel, who gave a consistent testimony with an attitude appearing to amuse and befuddle jurors, testified that she told Martin to run the night of the shooting after he told her he thought he was being followed.

Zimmerman told police he was keeping track of the teenager because there had been a rash of crime in the area. A confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman said he was forced to kill Martin in self-defense.

[CHAT RECAP:  Tony Pipitone inside the courtroom]

Jeantel, 19, was only identified as 'Witness 8' leading up to the trial. She said in the courtroom on Wednesday that she and Martin were only friends and never dated.

Jeantel, who was being questioned by prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, said that Martin told her that a "man was watching him," and Martin described him as "creepy-a** cracker." Jeantel said she was worried that the man was a "rapist."

Jeantel said Martin told her he wanted to lose him by walking back home and then he said the man was following him.

"He said 'now the n**** is following me," Jeantel said, adding that she told him run. Jeantel said the phone connection cut out when he started to run. Jeantel said she called him back and Martin picked up, saying he thought he lost the man following him.

Jeantel said a couple of seconds later, Martin said "oh s***, the n***** is behind me." Jeantel then said she heard Martin say "why are you following for?" then heard a hard breathing man, "what are you doing around here?"

She says she heard Martin's phone headset fall and then Martin say "Get off!"

Jeantel said she checked her phone and it showed the call with Martin ended at 7:16 p.m. De la Rionda asked Jeantel why she didn't attend Martin's funeral and Jeantel didn't go to the funeral because she "didn't want to see the body."

Jeantel, who wiped her eyes with a tissue on the stand, said she initially lied about not being able to go to the funeral because she was in the hospital because she "felt guilty ... I was the last person that talked to their son."

De la Rionda ended the state's questioning by asking Jeantel if she heard the screams in the background of the 911 calls. Jeantel said the screams on the tape "sounds like Trayvon's."

Defense attorney Don West cross-examined Jeantel on Wednesday asking how she met Martin. Jeantel said that she knew him in second grade and got reacquainted with him through friends in her neighborhood. She said she saw Martin a lot through the month of February 2012 before he went to Sanford.

Jeantel said she talked to Martin the whole day of the shooting and sometimes with other people on the phone. West showed her a list of 9 calls starting at 5:09 p.m. through 7:15 p.m. with start and end times between her and Martin.

West then asked her if she remembered what time she was talking to Martin while he was going to the 7-Eleven, asking why it took Martin 45 minutes to walk a mile from 7-Eleven to the neighborhood. He also asked if she had any idea how far Martin traveled and she said "no, I've never been there."

Jeantel said after she called back and got no answer that she "thought it was a fight" and "never thought it was that deadly serious."

West asked Jeantel why she never contacted law enforcement about being the last person to talk to Martin. Jeantel said she thought the case was closed and the shooter had already been arrested so she thought she wasn't a witness.

"Do you watch "The First 48"?  They call the first number the victim talked to," she told West, saying she thought police were supposed to contact her.

Jeantel said Tracy Martin contacted her after he realized she was the last person to speak to his son before the shooting.

West then asked if Jeantel lied about her age, saying she was 16 years old instead of 18 years old. Jeantel responded "yes." Jeantel said Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, contacted her and wanted to talk to Jeantel's mother about meeting up with Jeantel to talk about what happened the night Martin died. Jeantel's mother agreed for Jeantel to meet up with Fulton on March 19, 2012.

Jeantel said she didn't want to meet up with Fulton because she didn't want to see Fulton cry.

"You don't know how I felt," Jeantel told West about not going to Martin's funeral service. "Do you think I really want to go see his body after I just talked to him?"

West asked if Jeantel lied under oath to prosecutors about why she didn't go to the funeral, to which Jeantel said she did lie about going to the hospital on Martin's funeral. He then asked why she didn't meet the Martin family in person and did a phone interview instead.

West also asked if Jeantel knew about the phone interview being recorded and broadcasted by ABC and she said she wasn't aware of it. Jeantel said she knew Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump was recording it but didn't realize anyone else was recording it.

She later told West she didn't take the interview with Crump seriously and that she didn't want to be interviewed but had already committed to it.

West asked if Jeantel and Martin were dating and Jeantel said the amount of text messages made it seem like they were boyfriend and girlfriend but they were not. "There was another young lady he was seeing," she said.

Jeantel argued with West about why the defense didn't interview her on the specific day they had planned.

West then had Jeantel read over a written transcript of her interview with Crump. Jeantel then became hostile with West's questions, asking him "are you listening?" Earlier in the day, Jeantel answered a question from West and then told him to continue on.

"You can go on," she said. "Go on."

West responded, "I'm sorry it takes me time to form the next question."

As the day closed, Jeantel told West she wanted to be done testifying on Wednesday and West asked if she was refusing to come back on Thursday. Nelson interjected and told West to continue questioning Jeantel.

When West told the judge he would need more hours for cross-examination and redirect Jeantel said, "What?!" appearing upset.

The court was then recessed for the day until Thursday at 9 a.m. Jeantel will continue testifying.

Earlier Wednesday, an alternate juror was dismissed from the trial, Judge Debra S. Nelson announced.

The juror, identified as B72, was dismissed for reasons unrelated to the case, she said. 

The juror, a 22-year-old single Hispanic man, was one of two men serving as alternate jurors in the case.  Jurors themselves, however, don't find out if they will be an alternate or serving on the six-member panel determining Zimmerman's fate until after closing arguments.

Prosecutors on Wednesday continued questioning witnesses who saw some of the confrontation between the neighborhood watch volunteer and Martin that left the Miami-area teen dead.

The testimony of a neighbor of Zimmerman on Tuesday was the first by a witness who saw some of the fatal struggle.

The state's ninth witness, Jayne Surdyka, said she heard a loud voice outside her second-floor condo, sounding aggressive.

"I heard very aggressive voice ... very angry, very agitated ... Then I would hear a lighter, softer, higher pitched voice," she told the court.

Surdyka said she saw two people on the ground, one of top of the other and could hear scuffling so she called 911. She said heard heard the struggle in the same area Zimmerman says he was attacked by Martin.

Surdyka said she "felt" the higher pitched voice was a boy's voice when the defense objected for improper predicate. Nelson overruled the objection.

"It was like a boy's voice," Surdyka said. She continued, saying she heard three popping noises and saw "one person got up and started walking right towards my window .. put his hand to his forehead." Only one shot was fired in the fatal encounter.

Prosecutors then played Surdyka's 911 call, which is when she says she heard a gunshot as she was dialing. The 911 call connected at 7:17:06 p.m., about 10 seconds after the gunshot.

Surdyka grabbed a tissue on the witness stand as she listened to sound of her own voice describe the shooting on the 911 calls, saying she heard a man say "help, help" before the gunshot. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, wiped tears away as the call was played.

De la Rionda finished questioning by asking Surdyka if the event was traumatic for her, to which she responded it was.

West cross-examined Surdyka, indicating he will argue the cry for help was Zimmerman in an "extreme life-threatening situation."

West questioned Surdyka about the non-aggressive voice, who called it "meek." The Sanford Police Department Neighborhood Watch coordinator testified Zimmerman was "meek" on Tuesday.

Surdyka told West the man on top of the struggle had "dark or black" shirt. Martin wore a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and Zimmerman was wearing a reddish/orange jacket that night of the shooting.

West asked Surdyka how Martin could be face down, as she said, yet be shot in the chest. Surdyka said she couldn't explain. West also asked if a teen could have a deeper voice than an adult, which Surdyka conceded.

West also questioned Surdyka on interviews with CNN and why she gave the interviews.

The state called its 10th witness, Jeannee Manalo, who also lived at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, after a short recess Wednesday morning.

Manalo said her husband saw Zimmerman bloodied after the shooting.

"I heard a howling sound ... Forgot about it ... Then I heard the yelling of 'help' .. sat down ... heard rumbling and strugglings," Manalo said.

Manalo said she saw one person on top moving his hands and hitting the person on the bottom. Manalo was about to tell de la Rionda which figure was bigger based on the news when the defense objected.

She said the bigger person was on top of the struggle and later thought it was Zimmerman after seeing him on TV.

During cross-examination, Zimmerman's attorney and former Local 6 legal analyst Mark O'Mara questioned Manalo about where she first heard the howling sound. 

Manalo said she first heard the howling sound farther away from her and closer to the "T" in the path to the right of her unit, then later heard the "help" sound. Her sound placement appears to help Zimmerman's claim that he was attacked just west of the "T" in the path, then the fight moved south.

O'Mara then showed Manalo the picture of Martin in the football uniform to compare size for her to conclude Zimmerman was on top in the fight.

Manalo continued to testify after lunch recess about how she had never seen most recent photos of Martin just before his death. She said she recalls saying Zimmerman was on top because of his size, but used an older picture depicting a younger Martin to make the identity.

De la Rionda asked Manola if the person on top was the person who got up after the fight, meaning Martin was on the bottom.

The state then called Ramona Rumph, deputy of Seminole County communications,  back to stand. She previously testified on Monday and Tuesday to authenticate previous calls to authorities from Zimmerman.

Five calls Zimmerman made reporting suspicious black males and one suspicious incident was played for the jury after the defense's objection was overruled. The state did not introduce a call where Zimmerman reported a white or Hispanic suspicious person.

On Tuesday, graphic pictures of Martin's body were shown to jurors, prompting Martin's father, Tracy Martin, to leave the courtroom.

[Pics: Warning, content may be graphic]

Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense.

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