George Zimmerman Trial: The News Media Tries to Put Rachel Jeantel On Trial Instead

This is George Zimmerman’s case, so why feel does it feel like the media is prosecuting Rachel Jeantel? Some may call her disrespectful and combative, unreliable even. But the truth is, above all she is a 19-year-old victim. Let’s not become so caught up in her appearance and demeanor that we forget Jeantel is a young grieving friend.

During the first day of Don West’s cross-examination, Jeantel was for sure on edge. She rolled her eyes and grumbled under her breath when West said something that annoyed her. When she felt she was being ignored, she asked, "You listening?"

Fox News analyzed the day’s most tense moments, commenting, “She was aggressive. It was clear she was not wanting to be there. And she was hostile. But only toward the defense. Now that tells the jury something. Obviously she’s sympathetic to the prosecution, and not to the defense. And her body language was somewhat disrespectful.”


Were we supposed to consider that cluster of words professional analysis?

Not enough television coverage is calling the situation for what it was. Jeantel was the last person to hear Trayvon Martin’s voice before he died. She’s a 19-year-old girl who is going to have to live with the guilt and sorrow and pain of that moment for the rest of her life.

The defense has already shown that she has tried to escape that responsibility. The most obvious example of this may have been when Jeantel missed Martin’s funeral. She told his mother, she had to go to hospital. When the defense blasted through that lie, Jeantel came clean. And then admitted she just did not want to see Martin’s body.

It is obvious why the media is not falling in love with Rachel Jeantel. She’s not the most typical star witness. She’s not white or skinny. And definitely not articulate. (Note: English is not her first language. Jeantel is of Haitian and Dominican descent.) Jeantel has no media training. Her testimony was raw and emotional. She cried, but also became angry when the defense bombarded her with the same questions again and again in an attempt to free Zimmerman by poking holes in her story.

Yet instead of supporting and consoling Jeantel as she was forced to relive her friend’s death, the media had useless debates over her attitude. They distracted the public and themselves from a truth that Nancy Grace so kindly pointed out in her show. This is a murder trial, not an episode of Law and Order. Life doesn’t have a script.

“Nobody ever said a murder trial was a tea party,” Grace said, “where everyone had perfect manners and spoke perfectly. That’s not what this is about. This is about the death of a high school junior and whether or not a 29-year-old is guilty or innocent. That’s what this is about.”

So let’s get on with the trial. It's Zimmerman's, if anyone forgot. 

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Uchechi Kalu

Uchechi is PolicyMic's Politics Intern and a senior@ Princeton University. Tweet her @chechkalu

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