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Did Jeantel help or hurt the prosecution?

caines | 7/11/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Why did she have to testify for two days? Last Monday marked the second week in the George Zimmerman trial but many are still talking about the star witness of week one Rachel Jeantel. Some wonder if the 19-year-old woman of Haitian descent, who grew up speaking Creole and Spanish, and was the last person to speak to Martin before Zimmerman shot and killed him in February 2012, may have damaged the states case more than she helped. Her attorney, Miami native Roderick Vereen, spoke with The Miami Times, and was highly critical of the defenses character assault against Rachel. Vereen, a well-known Black lawyer in Miami-Dade County, lost a bid for state attorney last November. Since then hes returned to basics, representing several Black men that were shot by City of Miami Police officers and another shot by a Miami Gardens policeman. He says representing Jeantel was a last minute request that he felt compelled to accept. Someone from her church reached out to me and after speaking with her, I realized that she didnt understand the magnitude of what she was getting involved in, he said. She was unaware of the dynamics of the courtroom and I was brought in to watch over her. Vereen says that when he got to Sanford last Monday, the day that Jeantel was scheduled to appear on the stand, he sensed some hesitancy from the prosecution in his working with the young woman. I didnt want to touch or alter their strategy or even try to coach her before she testified, but I knew that given her background and upbringing, that she was going to give them raw testimony. Her relationship with defense attorney West was already a negative one. He had been quite hostile to her when she gave her deposition. He basically ridiculed her and turned a one-hour witness into a two-day witness.

Was Jeantel treated like a pawn by defense?

Vereen says that Wests use of a knock-knock joke told during opening statements was shocking. Ive never seen anything like that and have to wonder if the defense even takes this case seriously, he said. But will Jeantel return to the stand before the cases conclusion? I believe shes done testifying but the defense has kept her under subpoena and oath thats to keep her from talking to the media. Nothing can be done to change that because the judge allowed it. As to the outcome of this trial, I dont see it as a molotov cocktail waiting to explode. The entire county has had the opportunity to view the trial from the start. Due to the length of the trial, emotions are not as high as they once were. Things seem really quiet in Sanford and other than members of Trayvons family and a few media, there havent been many Blacks inside or outside of the courtroom. In fact, not a lot of people seem to be talking about the case in Sanford. People have to understand that in the U.S., one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Attorneys employ strategies that are well-calculated and I think the public is seeing that play out in the trial. Ive been frustrated by some of things Ive seen but believe that in the end, well accept whatever verdict the jury renders. As for Jeantel, one has to remember that she was not a trained witness and that she risked a lot to come out of her shell and testify. She really did not want to get cast in the spotlight but she was willing to do whatever was necessary to help her friend, Trayvon. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com