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Thu Jun 27, 2013, 09:37 PM


Rachel Jeantel on Trial [View all]

As much as anything else in the saga of race, fear, and firearms that is the death of Trayvon Martin and the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, a nineteen-year-old rising high-school senior sometimes described as Martin’s girlfriend, served as a kind of Rorschach test. When you look at the prosecution’s star witness, a young woman, dark-skinned and overweight, her eyes signaling exasperation, what do you see?

Social-media commentary on Jeantel began nearly as soon as she began to testify. Crass assessments of her weight, looks, and intelligence from some white observers competed with a cocktail of vicarious shame, embarrassment, and disdain from some black ones. If the trial has become a referendum on racial attitudes, Jeantel’s testimony served as a reminder that none of us have the moral high ground. Of the abundant ironies that this case has generated, perhaps the most telling are the commonalities that emerged while she was in the courtroom: it brings out the worst in all of us.

She was alternately soft-spoken and sharp, grief-stricken and defiant, convincing and contradictory. (It was not always clear whether West was cross-examining her or vice versa.) It was possible to look at Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin when the conflict with Zimmerman began, as an earnest young person confused and traumatized by the near-witnessing of a friend’s death—or as a reluctant, irritable witness whose admitted untruths shatter any hope that her version of events could be believed. Or both.


There are some things about Jeantel that are not hard to believe: that she remains profoundly affected by her friend’s violent death; that she, as much as anyone in the courtroom, was aware of the presumptions that accompany imperfect grammar, race, and obesity; that her initial reluctance and antagonism toward the entire undertaking were products of this awareness. Whether this jury will grade on a curve because a person’s grief roils just beneath the surface, because motive for lying might seem understandable, is—like so much about this case—unknown.


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Reply Rachel Jeantel on Trial [View all]
cali Jun 2013 OP
graham4anything Jun 2013 #1
cali Jun 2013 #2
uponit7771 Jun 2013 #3
byronius Jun 2013 #9
alittlelark Jun 2013 #11
Autumn Jun 2013 #4
Pathwalker Jun 2013 #5
HipChick Jun 2013 #6
SoCalDem Jun 2013 #7
TDale313 Jun 2013 #8
avebury Jun 2013 #10