(SANFORD, Fla.) — The last person to speak by phone to Trayvon Martin said the teen told her a “creepy-ass cracker” was “watching me,” Rachel Jeantel testified on Wednesday in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman, who’s accused of murdering Martin.
Jeantel, who is one of the most crucial witnesses for the prosecution, said Martin was walking back to his father’s fiancée’s home when he noticed Zimmerman following him. In testimony that was raw, emotional and, at times, incomprehensible, she said the teen was walking home during half-time of the NBA All-Star Game Feb. 26, 2012, when he became unnerved by Zimmerman.
Jeantel, 19, said she told Martin to run but that he responded that he was almost home.
“I say, ‘Trayvon,’ and then he said, ‘Why are you following me for?'” Jeantel testified Wednesday. “And then I heard a hard-breathing man come say, ‘What you doing around here … and then I was calling, ‘Trayvon, Trayvon.’ And then I started to hear a little bit of Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off.'”
After Martin’s death, Jeantel said she found out about the incident from a friend’s text message and decided not to go to his wake because she didn’t want to see his body.
At times during her testimony she dabbed away tears, as did the father of Trayvon Martin.
Jeantel’s testimony followed testimony from the first witness in the second-degree murder trial of Zimmerman to say she thought she knew who was screaming for help in the fatal altercation.
Jane Surdyka was in her home on the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed and said she could hear a “loud, dominant” voice 20 to 30 feet from where she was. She said she opened her window and could “see two people on top of the ground and one on top of the other.”
She said she could hear a “boy’s voice” crying for help.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda then played Surdyka’s emotional 911 call as Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, and Surdyka dabbed tears from their eyes.
During cross-examination Surdyka described the altercation and cries for help as a life-or-death struggle.
“It was as if nothing else a plea for mercy?” defense attorney Don West asked.
“A plea for someone to save them,” Surdyka replied.
Zimmerman, who says he was defending himself, contends he was screaming that night and shot and killed the unarmed teenager after Martin repeatedly banged his head on a concrete sidewalk. Prosecutors say Martin was screaming.
A second neighbor, Jeannee Manalo, testified that she also heard screams but did not know who was crying for help. But she was the first witness to testify that she saw a man swinging his arms.
“The one on top was moving,” Manalo described for the court as she made a punch-like gesture.
But Manalo said she did not know who was punching whom.
The testimony followed a key ruling in the trial by Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to allow jurors to hear several non-emergency calls the former neighborhood watch captain made to police well before the encounter with Martin.
Zimmerman is heard asking during the calls for police to come to his subdivision and check on suspicious strangers. The prosecution argued they should be submitted into evidence because they show his mind-set in the days and months leading up to the shooting.
“The defendant made the calls, he created these tapes, he created these situations. He shouldn’t complain,” prosecutor Richard Mantei said.
Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney said the calls were irrelevant and would confuse jurors, but Nelson overruled his objection Wednesday.
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