State's 'Star Witness' Testifies in Zimmerman Murder Trial

Cross-examination continues in George Zimmerman's murder trial, after neighbors testified Wednesday.

(Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images)

Witness and friend of Trayvon Martin Rachel Jeantel continues her testimony during George Zimmerman's murder trial.

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Jurors continued to hear testimony on Thursday from Trayvon Martin's friend, who on Wednesday said she was on the phone with the teenager just moments before he was fatally shot by 29-year-old George Zimmerman.

Rachel Jeantel, 19, who has been described as the state's star witness in Zimmerman's murder trial, said she was speaking to Martin as he was followed through the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex in Sanford, Fla., last February.

She said when she heard 17-year-old Martin ask Zimmerman why he was following him, she heard a "hard-breathing man" respond, followed by noises and the teenager saying "get off, get off," before the phone call cut off, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Zimmerman could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, to which he has pleaded not guilty. The former neighborhood watch volunteer said he was acting in self defense when he shot and killed the teenager on Feb. 26, 2012.

[READ: Jurors Continue to Hear Testimonies in George Zimmerman Trial]

Before Jeantel took the stand on Wednesday, jurors heard from two residents of the complex, according to the Los Angeles Times. The testimonies were important because the confrontation that took place has no independent eyewitnesses.

Jane Surdyka told the jury that she heard two yells for help that night, which she claims belonged to a boy, before she heard three "popping" sounds, according to the Los Angeles Times. But defense attorney Don West questioned the accuracy of her account, saying that she had made "assumptions" that the voice she heard belonged to a boy.

 

He also questioned the sounds she said she heard, the Los Angeles Times reports. Surdyka said several times that she heard three shots, but the physical evidence showed that Zimmerman only fired once.

Jeannee Manalo, another neighbor, said she was in her living room when she heard howling sounds outside. She said when she looked outside, she saw two men on the ground, though she initially said she could not identify who was on top, according to NBC News. After seeing news reports, however, Manalo said she believed it was Zimmerman on top because of the size of his body.

West also suggested in his cross-examination of Jeantel on Thursday that she had raised a racial issue in some accounts, but not others, according to The Associated Press. Jeantel said in her testimony that she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man.

[ALSO: George Zimmerman Trial Starts With Expletives]

During her testimony, Jeantel acknowledged that in her initial recorded interview with an attorney for the Martin family, she had a different account of the man's reply. In her initial interview, she said the man responded, "what are you talking about," while she said in court he responded, "what are you doing around here?" She also said she left out of her account to the attorney how Martin described Zimmerman as a "creepy-a-- cracker," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Jeantel was also forced to admit on Thursday that she did not write a letter sent to Martin's mother describing what she allegedly heard on the phone call with Martin, though she had originally claimed she wrote the letter, ABC News reported. When she was asked to read the letter out loud in court, she said she could read "some but not all" of the letter.

"I don't read cursive," she said.

She was unable to read any of the letter except for her name, according to ABC News. The testimony was an attempt by the defense to raise questions about the accuracy of Jeantel's testimony during its cross-examination on Thursday.

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