Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon Martin Were Put on Trial

George Zimmerman’s lawyer Don West tried to stigmatize black youth culture as a defense strategy.

“I’m not even supposed to be here.”

The statement made by Lebron James in his post-championship interview was so simplistic that its power was lost on those who weren’t listening for it.

Its meaning is also the core of the Trayvon Martin case: The very presence of a young black man is sometimes a revolutionary act. Depending on the space (boardrooms, neighborhoods), their very being disrupts traditional power structures. As such, black male bodies are so heavily regulated that some have come to believe that their very coming of age is remarkable.

They are not supposed to be here.

So, too, thought George Zimmerman. Because of him, Trayvon Martin will never grow old. This case is about whether or not the state of Florida supports Zimmerman’s point of view.

For days, Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, still a young person herself, sat across from her friend’s murderer. And as she spoke, defense attorney Don West attacked the simplicity of her words to invalidate her message and her personhood. In the space between the defense table and witness stand, there were unbridgeable generational and cultural gaps.

In the era of unlimited texting plans, West was skeptical about the idea that non-romantic people could send over 100 text messages in a day. In his best corporate speak, he stiffly regurgitated Jeantel and Martin’s dialect to heighten their otherness, as though disregard for conventional English somehow equated to careless impropriety on Martin’s part.

West hammered Jeantel nonsensically about why she chose not to attend her friend’s funeral, attempting to establish behavioral norms to reveal that, again, she operated outside of them. (Jeantel’s response, as noted by the Nation’s blog: ” ‘You. Got. To. Un. Der. Stand,’ she told West, breaking up each syllable to emphasize her frustration. ‘I’m the last person — you don’t know how I felt. You think I really want to go see the body after I just talked to him?’”)

And in attempt to discredit her aptitude, West got Jeantel to admit to a jury of women generations older that she could not read cursive.

Throughout this case, the defense has worked to muddle the lines between victim and perpetrator, making Zimmerman a defender of law, and perhaps more interestingly, of “order.” In a case about standing one’s ground, Jeantel, who became a proxy for her dead friend, stood hers, never faltering from her message: Her friend existed in a place he was supposed to be. And he was killed for it.

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  • dandover

    Ms. Jeantel is 19 years old. Usually, we consider any 19 year-old to be an adult. Yet you emphasize her youth (“still a young person”). The media always liked to portray Mr. Martin as a “little boy” as well, what with his innocently carrying nothing but a bag of skittles, a can of ice tea, and … a cigarette lighter. What? You’ve never heard that he was carrying a cigarette lighter? While there’s nothing wrong with carrying a lighter, I wonder why it is the media always make it a point to mention the skittles, but they never mention the lighter. Could it be that they, too, are trying to make Mr. Martin seem younger and more innocent than he really is?

    But that is all mere distraction. Diversion from what really matters. Let’s, for argument’s sake, accept the prosecution’s theory. Let’s say that George Zimmerman racially profiled Mr. Martin; he thought he looked suspicious merely because of the color of his skin. Even if this were true, in Mr. Zimmerman’s murder trial, it doesn’t matter at all. Even racists have the right to defend themselves if their safety is threatened. The bottom line is that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Zimmerman did not use his gun in self-defense. So far in the trial, they haven’t come anywhere close to doing so. They haven’t even shown that it is more likely than not (i.e. preponderance of the evidence), let alone beyond a reasonable doubt. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors intended to confuse and to get people looking at irrelevant conjecture, instead of looking at the facts, evidence, and the law.

    Her friend physically assaulted another person. And he was killed for it. There. Fixed it for ya.

    • Maya K. Francis

      I’ve heard about the contents of his pockets and it does nothing to sway me from the points I made above. If you’re using the legal age of 18 to signify adulthood, then yes, Rachel Jeantel is an adult. Which makes Trayvon Martin, at 17, a child**. The facts remain that Trayvon Martin was walking home from the store, so I don’t think that there’s a narrative of innocence that needs to be written here. He wasn’t doing anything wrong.

      Mr. Zimmerman, on the other hand, made a series of choices, including the choice to get out of his car to follow Trayvon Martin. He initiated pursuit of a child and questioned him because Mr. Zimmerman felt because of his own presumptions he was somehow out of place. That drove his pursuit and his attack. Logically, if any one of us were pursued and attacked without cause, we would fight for our lives to get away. Mr. Zimmerman is re-characterizing that to make himself the victim. He has changed his story since his initial questioning.

      You’re right, racists do have the right to defend themselves. But I shudder to think about what other rights they will inherit should Mr. Zimmerman be found not guilty.

      **I should also mention that it’s worth noting how race colors our perceptions of adulthood, responsibility and punishment, not only in this case, but even in the way our children are educated. Black men, most specifically, are intellectually disregarded as being childlike, while held to the letter of the law at the time of judgement.

    • Afraid for the furture

      “Her friend physically assaulted another person. And he was killed for it. There. Fixed it for ya.”

      WOW. If being assaulted warrants the retaliation of death, then I am afraid what precedent this trial will set for “vigilante justice” and its justification of it.

      To be honest, the way people are adopting this “deathly force is OK” mentality makes me afraid for the future. To be honest. This mentality is a foundation for the resurgence of public lynchings.

      Furthermore, your judgement on the case is your opinion. I respect that. But we’re talking about the “smoke and mirrors” that you were referring to in your response. The fact that the defense discredits her testimony because of her intelligence (or lack there of) rather than the facts and truth that came from it, is quite disgusting. So the prosecution is just as guilty of this horrendous tactic as the media.

    • pliskin67

      Nice try. But self defense has to be reasonable. Assuming Martin was the first aggressor a person can only use deadly force if it is reasonable to counter the deadly force he is faced with. The question is, would a reasonable person have believed his life was in danger? Martin brandished no weapons. And no weapons were found on his body. But we do know that Zimmerman had a gun. We also know that it was Zimmerman that started the altercation. He should have just left Martin alone. He had no authority to stop Martin or to ask him questions because he is not a police officer. Thus, the issues in this case which you refer to as mere “smoke and mirrors,” are the actual crux of the case. Zimmerman believed his life was in danger most likely because Martin was a black male in an area that people are not usually accustomed to seeing them (as the writer of this article suggests). This may have instilled fear in Zimmerman for his life, but if it is reasonable to believe that all black men regardless of whether they are brandishing a weapon or carrying a weapon present a danger to life, if they end up being first aggressors in a self defense case, then this certainly seems like different treatment under the law based upon race. But, if all men are equal, as I am sure you would agree, it does not matter if a person is black white or Asian with regard to whether deadly force was reasonable in a self defense case where the defendant saw no weapon, had a deadly weapon himself, and had no other reason to believe that the person had a deadly weapon other than the fact that the person was black. And if you think for one minute that race does not pervade the issues in this case, do not be a fool. Racism is not gone. It is still here. People are still racist and hold racist beliefs but simply do not disclose them. The fact that people do not disclose them is not dispositive that racism does not exist. Look at Paula Deen, she is the kind of racist that is open about her racism and does not care if others know (unless millions of dollars in endorsements and TV royalties are at stake). But folks like Deen represent a minority of racists in this country. Racism is race neutral, meaning, even black people can be racist. The race of a person does not eliminate the possibility that they are racist. Until we as a nation can come together and have a reasonable debate (that means, people have to stop denying that race is an issue, and others must allow people to speak their mind on the issue without being overly sensitive and defensive) and somehow get over the issue of race in this country, as a nation, situations like the Trayvon Martin incident will continue to occur in our society. Once they reach the court room, these kinds of cases end up hurting everyone because there is a high probability that the issue of race will end up severely miscarrying justice (citation, OJ Simpson trial). Either a victim will be kept from justice because of unfair treatment based on their race, or a defendant will get off when he probably shouldn’t because issues of race weighed heavily on key issues in the case. Either way, the failure to recognize and adequately deal with the issue of race is the cause of injustice.

    • Dresden PlayswithDeath Diaz

      But how can we be sure that Trayvon wasnt acting in self defense as well?? Sure he hit Zimmerman, we saw the photos. But Zimmerman FOLLOWED him, with the intent to get to the bottom of whatever suspicion he had. Based on the previous documented actions, I can believe its reasonable that he attacked Trayvon first, Trayvon overpowered him, and them Zimmerman shot Trayvon. Why would Trayvon attack him without cause????

  • Tallaman

    “This case is about whether or not the state of Florida supports Zimmerman’s point of view.”

    And that’s what’s wrong with the way liberal journalists are portraying the whole case. This case is about who attacked whom. the other factors don’t even matter. If Zimmerman attacked Martin, Zimmerman should be in prison. If Martin attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman acted in self defense. That’s it. Stop trying to make this about race, or black males, or attacks on Rachel; just let the facts come out and make judgements based on those facts.

    And stop with the “because of him,. Trayvon will never grow old” routine. If Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, Trayvon will never grow old because of Trayvon’s own actions.

    • KansasIsBetter

      At what point do you “attack” a stranger (w/ unknown intentions) who is following you around at night time? Seems like it wouldve been self defense on Trayvon’s part from the moment Zimmerman decided to become a hero. Everyone understands what is being tried in the courtroom; however, the ease with which you dismiss race in this issue leads me to believe you have missed the entire point of everything that happened since Trayvon was killed.

      • Tallaman

        Seems like you answer your own question. At what point DO you attack a stranger? The stranger did nothing to Trayvon except follow him. Zimmerman made mistakes – he should have stayed in his car until the police arrived, but neither man had the right to attack the other and that’s the crux of the case, no matter the color of either one.

        • KansasIsBetter

          Seems like you just contradicted your own point on race. “He shouldve stayed in his car until the police arrived” What did Trayvon do to even warrant a call to the police? Walk HOME from 7Eleven while talking on his cell phone w/ his hood on? Despite all of the claims of a post-racial America I think even you would have a hard time believing the same call wouldve been made for a white youth. Maybe you should go re-read the 2nd paragraph of the article where Maya states “depending on the space (neighborhood) a black man’s very being can disrupt traditional power structures.” Think on it, it may lend you some perspective as to why race does matter here (and not for what is being argued in the courtroom either).

          • Tallaman

            He’s the neighborhood watch guy, he’s supposed to call police. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He sees a guy wearing a hood apparently trying to hide his identity? If he calls police he is guilty of profiling, if he doesn’t he’s a vigilante. You think about it. You have him convicted before the evidence is even presented. If my neighborhood experiences a bunch of robberies and ANYBODY wearing a hood walks through at night, I am suspicious and would like to know more. What’s wrong with being concerned about the safety of your own property? Obviously Trayvon’s Dad lives there so there are black people living in the neighborhood and it should not be a surprise to see a black kid. I have an open mind and am willing to accept whatever the jury says after they see the evidence. I see too many people with minds made up already with only part of the information and can only hope people keep an open mind. Maybe you should consider the same.

          • Dick_Wolf

            You really are missing the point of this story. The writer is simply saying that the crux of the whole story is that in Florida, where the Stand Your Ground Law exists, a person can kill another person and claim self-defense without any need to prove that claim. Zimmerman has lied to police by changing his story completely at least three times on tape and in written statements and that doesn’t matter. It was raining so wearing a hood is perfectly logical and that doesn’t matter. At the end of the day a kid was walking home and someone who was not a law enforcement officer decided to engage him and question what he was doing in a place he had every right to be.
            Who is George Zimmerman to question him? Don’t say because he is a member of neighborhood watch because the number one rule of neighborhood watch groups is to NEVER get involved and contact police. If you were walking home and a car kept following you until you asked the driver why he was following you and got no response I’m sure you would just take it in stride. Then when the driver of the car got out of the car to follow you down a pathway between houses I am sure you would not turn and question that person. You would just keep walking because that is perfectly normal and non-threatening behavior. You were 17, what would you do if someone kept following you? Ignore it and hope it’s not someone trying to hurt you?
            Besides, whether Martin attacked him or not is immaterial at this point because the jury resides in a state where they allowed a Stand your Ground law to be passed. All Zimmerman’s attorney has to do is prove that it was plausible that he felt the need to defend himself.

          • dominik12

            Tallaman … I’m SO happy you’ve brought up the fact that Zimmerman was the “Neighborhood Watch” guy! You EVER been a part of Neighborhood Watch? I think not by your reaction. SPECIFICALLY the most salient FACT is that those who patrol in Neighborhood Watch are FORBIDDEN to carry a weapon of ANY KIND! That goes from guns to sticks and rocks. Zimmerman SHOULD have known better. He was the rule breaker in this case. Not only for carrying a weapon but for exiting his vehicle and confronting a “suspicious” individual. You are to ONLY call the police or the Neighborhood Watch Captain. NOTHING more. So again … who is the perpetrator to this crime?

          • Tallaman

            Too bad you can’t see past race because the FACTS support the defendant. Z followed T, OK, mistake. But T ATTACKED Z – absolutely wrong, end of story. The jury will shed the light on the case for you.

          • He profiled this kid simply because one African American ran afoul of the law, and in true stereotypical form, decided that the young black man was guilty. That is not how it should go.

  • Latish Reed

    Ms. Francis truly gives voice to this situation in a clear and concise manner. After watching last week, I realized that the cards are definitely stacked in Zimmerman’s favor based on the “legal” definition of self-defense. Unfortunately, I believe if a Black man had follwed a White child after being told not to and ended up killing him, some kind of way, that legal definition would have not been in the Black man’s favor. Adding on the layers and layers of what you outline, there is little chance that justice will be served here. When it comes to sanctions, there is no Justice, only JUST US!

    • Flip Obamney

      LOL, umm nope. Just delusional racism. There is zero chance Zimmeran is convicted and it has nothing to do with anything “Ms. Francis” said in this article.

      There is no evidence to convict him for murder 2.

      I guarantee most of you don’t even know what the prosecution has to prove in this case. It’s not just murder. It goes beyond that and there is absolutely no chance they can or will prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Don’t look for me to spoon feed you the other half of what the prosecution has to prove. Lapping up the crap the leftist media churned up is what made you ignorant in the first place.

      Time to do your own due diligence and stop looking at things subjectively to fit your stupid agenda.

  • Wraithwolf

    Reasonable doubt is everywhere in this case. If the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, it’s a miscarriage of justice. The evidence is in favor of George. Seems like George Zimmerman was afraid he was about to be killed by an brutal attacker and made a decision that saved his life, reluctantly. I know that George, as a Catholic, will regret this decision for the rest of his life, but he shouldn’t. I hope that no one else has to be victimized as George has.

  • Flip Obamney

    “never faltering from her message”

    You clearly didn’t watch her entire cross examination. She lied multiple times.

  • Monica Princefam

    Is it a crime to wear a hood in the rain?? Is it a crime to walk to 7-11, talk on a cell phone or buy tea and skittles?? A lighter wow I have one in my purse right now. Zimmerman the armed Neighborhood Watch wannabe cop, college dropout and a racist against Blacks and Mexicans started the altercation by following, stalking and murdering a child walking home from the store. If he had stayed in his car, Trayvon would be alive. 911 operator, the police and the Neighborhood Watch rules all say observe and report not confront. Zimmerman is a coward.