In testimony that seemed to seriously refute George Zimmerman’s claims that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense, a friend of the 17-year-old Martin told the six-woman jury today that she spoke to Martin just seconds before his murder and he complained to her that a “creepy ass cracker” kept watching him and following him.
Rachel Jeantel, 19, a friend of Martin’s since elementary school, had been talking to him on and off during his trip to the convenience store on the night of Feb. 26, 2012. Because she was the last person—besides Zimmerman—to speak to the teen before he died, prosecutors considered her their “star” witness in the second-degree murder case against Zimmerman.
After Trayvon told her that a “creepy-ass cracker” was following him, Jeantel said she suggested that Trayvon run back to his father’s girlfriend’s house. But she told the transfixed jurors that Trayvon refused. As he tried to lose Zimmerman near the community mailboxes at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, she said he sounded alarmed.
“’Oh, sh*t,'” she said Trayvon told her. “‘The n***a behind me.'”
Jeantel said she heard Trayvon ask the man, “Why are you following me for?”
“Then I heard a hard-breathing man say, ‘What are you doing around here?’” she told the jury.
Jeantel said she then heard a bump she assumed was Trayvon’s cell phone headset hitting the ground. Then she heard the sounds of crumpling grass and Trayvon’s voice yell, “Get off! Get off!”
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked Jeantel if she had heard the 911 calls where the voice of someone crying out for help could be heard in the background. Jeantel said the panicked voice “sounds like Trayvon’s.”
Asked if she had attended Trayvon’s wake, Jeantel, wiping away tears from her eyes, said she didn’t because “I didn’t want to see the body.”
Jeantel was tracked down by Ben Crump, the Martin family attorney, using Trayvon’s cell phone records. Jeantel wrote a one-page letter to Trayvon’s parents – Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin – less than a month after Trayvon was killed, recounting the events of that night when he told her a man was following him. “Then I heard him fall, then the phone hung up,” she wrote. “It was just a fight. Then I found out this tragic story.”
The jury today also heard a hysterical 911 call from a neighbor who reported hearing screams and a bang outside her window.
“Oh, my God, I don’t know what he did to this person. … The person is dead laying on the ground,” Jayne Surdyka said to a 911 dispatcher. “The young boy. I have never seen anyone killed.”
Surdyka wept on the stand as her voice played in court. Jurors took notes during the 911 call, according to the Miami Herald, and several took deep breaths after it ended. Surdyka told the jury she had her television muted because she was waiting for a program to start and then she heard a “loud, dominant” voice about 25 feet outside her window. She said the voice was angry and agitated.
Surdyka, a former teacher and recreational therapist, said she then heard “a little higher-toned, softer voice” talking back to the dominant voice.
When she turned off her nightlight to get a better view of the outside, she saw two bodies “wrestling or shuffling” on the ground. She called 911 and connected just seconds after the single gunshot that killed Trayvon.
“Someone is screaming for help, and I heard, like, a bang,” she said to the dispatcher.
The jury also heard audio recordings—over the objections of the defense—of five previous calls Zimmerman made to police during which he reported seeing people he described as suspicious and black.
In one call he said, “They typically run away quickly,” referring to two men he said matched the description of suspects in a recent neighborhood burglary.