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Zimmerman trial marked by contentious testimony between defense, key witness


In a sometimes contentious cross-examination filled with testy exchanges in the George Zimmerman trial, defense attorney Don West peppered the prosecution’s star witness, Rachel Jeantel, with questions Thursday about the consistency of her statements related to the night Trayvon Martin died.

At one point, West even asked Jeantel if she understood English.

“I don’t understand you, I do understand English,” Jeantel replied.

“When someone speaks to you in English, do you believe you have any difficulty understanding it because it wasn’t your first language?” asked West.

“I understand English really well,” said Jeantel.

The 19-year-old, who had been asked several times during her testimony to speak louder or more clearly, said Creole is her first language.

Phone records show that Jeantel was talking to Martin moments before he was shot to death by Zimmerman last year.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman told police he was pursuing the teenager because there had been a rash of crime in the area. A confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman said he was forced to kill Martin in self-defense.

On Thursday, her second day on the stand, Jeantel offered terse replies when asked by the defense about her claims that Martin told her the night he died that someone was following him and that a fight followed.

“Trayvon got hit,” said Jeantel.

“You don’t know that, do you?” West shot back.

“No, sir,” said Jeantel.

“You don’t know if Trayvon got hit, do you?” asked West.

“No, sir,” said Jeantel.

“You don’t know that Trayvon didn’t, at that moment, take his fist and drive it into George Zimmerman’s face, do you?”

“No, sir,” said Jeantel.

West also challenged Jeantel several times over whether Zimmerman approached Martin the night of the shooting, but she maintained her story.

“If he was going to confront the man he would have told me, ‘I am about to confront the man and see what he wants.’ He did not tell me that, sir. He just told me he tried to get home, sir. But the man was still following him, sir,” said Jeantel.

Jurors also heard the 911 call made by neighbor Jenna Lauer that captured the sounds of yelling and the gunshot that killed Martin.

Lauer testified that she muted her TV after hearing voices take part in what she describes as a “three-part exchange.” She couldn’t identify what exactly was being said.

After hearing the voices, Lauer said she heard another sound.

“I just heard whoever was out there scuffling around . . .  it sounded like sneakers on pavement and grass,” said Lauer. “Like someone was running on the pavement and on the grass—it sounded like that.”

The scuffling turned to yelps, which then turned into cries for “help,” according to Lauer.

“It sounded like they were in our living room—it was right there,” said Lauer. “It just sounded like they were desperate and whoever it was really needed help or wanted help.”

Another neighbor, Selma Mora, said she walked out her back door after hearing the gunshot, which she at first thought was a skateboard smacking the pavement.

“One of them was on the ground and the other one was on top in a position like a rider,” said Mora, who testified in Spanish with the help of a court translator.

“Like riding a horse?” asked prosecutor John Guy.

“Yes,” said Mora.

“With one leg on either side?” asked Guy.

“Yes,” said Mora.

Mora said she asked the pair, “What’s going on?” three times before the one on top told her to call police. She said he then got up and paced back and forth between the body and the trashcans with one hand on his waist and the other on his head.

“Well if I remember correctly, he was acting like, in a concerned manner. Well really in a way like, ‘What just happened?’ Confused,” said Mora.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked Mora to re-enact the moment she heard the gunshot. He even suggested she slip off her high heels, which she did.

Mora then re-enacted the scene for jurors, showing them how she was at the kitchen window, then slid out the partially open sliding glass doors and leaned around the column on her porch to look at the scene.

Mora was never able to identify the man on top or the man on bottom.

“Like I said from the beginning, it was so dark that what little light there was would not allow you to determine the details,” she said.

Testimony in Zimmerman’s trial will pick back up Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET.