Zimmerman Case Update: Rachel Jeantel is Not on Trial

Rachel Jeantel is not the one on trial--but social media suggests otherwise.

By Aura Bogado Jun 27, 2013

19-year-old Rachel Jeantel is in day two of testimony in the George Zimmerman trial. While Zimmerman is the one who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Jeantel has been the target of hateful comments–by both traditional and social media.

Jeantel’s testimony has been fraught with visibly difficult moments, including an explanation about the deep guilt that she’s felt since coming to terms with the fact that she was the last person to speak with Trayvon by phone before George Zimmerman killed him. In the courtroom, prosecution and defense attorneys, as well as the judge presiding over the case, have made multiple statements that they don’t understand her when she speaks.

To be clear, Jeantel simply speaks like someone with a southern drawl–but the courtroom’s white administrators keep making references to her black vernacular as she tries to explain one of the most tragic experiences in her life: the loss of Trayvon Martin, whom she first met while in second grade. Zimmerman defense attorney Don West has been especially, and perhaps unethically, harsh on Jeantel–repeatedly leaving the podium, approaching Jeantel, and berating her with scheduling and procedural questions that are legally outside of his purview. He’s been reprimanded on several occasions by the judge, often for incessantly asking the same question over and over again, despite Jeantel already providing a clear answer, and also for speaking over her. 

Pundits are having a field day remarking on Jeantel’s "unpolished" testimony. And again, for clarity, Jeantel is a witness only because she was the last person to speak with Trayvon by phone; her testimony describes the way Trayvon was stalked by Zimmerman, and ultimately taken down to the "wet grass." She is not a legal expert, and at 19, she is barely an adult. Social media, meanwhile, has exploded with racist and sexist reactions–especially on Facebook and Twitter. Jeantel’s size has also become a point of controversy.

We trust that our readers are savvy enough to find those xenophobic posts if they haven’t already been exposed to them. For now, we’re keeping our page hate-link-free. In response to these hateful posts, social media users have started a #LoveForRachel hashtag, expressing their support.