In an interview with PoliticsNation airing Wednesday, Rachel Jeantel revealed her feelings about her testimony in the George Zimmerman trial. She shared her thoughts about the defense team–specifically Don West, who spent more than five hours questioning her during the trial.
“The defense never wanted me there,” she told Rev. Al Sharpton. “The best way to say it, they had a plan for me.”
Jeantel believes she ultimately “won” her tense cross-examination with Don West by keeping her cool, even when he asked if she didn’t understand English.
“When Don had asked me that question and I had been talking English with him for that long, and I felt disrespect, I felt like he disrespected me,” she said.
“[He was] trying to get me angry,” she said when asked if she believed West was trying to “rattle” her with the question. ”To show the jury, ‘Look at her. She’s angry. She a friend. If she angry, you should imagine how Trayvon is.’”
Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. He said he shot the 17 year old in self defense after the teen attacked him.
Jeantel also addressed an Instagram photo shared by West’s daughter that emerged the day he finished cross examining her, showing West and his daughters eating ice cream along with the text, “We beat stupidity celebration cones.”
The defense pointed out that metadata proved the photo was taken before she testified and had nothing to do with her testimony. West said he had not authorized posting the photo or approved the caption, and issued a statement that read, “sometimes we are deeply disappointed by the things our children do but, we love them anyway, and we move on.”
Jeantel said she’s moved on too.
At first I was angry. That’s an adult. You shouldn’t act that way to a teenager. He was coming after me. Right now I’m over it. He’s an adult, he has his life, I have my life, that don’t have nothing to do with, it don’t hurt me at all, but it was disrespectful–but I’m better than that. Don is Don. He’ll do what he wants, so I’ll do what I want. So he can post all he want. To me I won.
“How’d you win?” Sharpton asked.
“I’m a teenager,” she responded. “Don, how the jury think of an African-American teenager, they supposed to be cussing. I did not even curse Don.”
“I didn’t show him a lot of respect because he was acting childish, he was acting ridiculous, questions back and forth, back and forth,” she added. “But I kept my ground, I stand strong. I never cursed.”
After the not guilty verdict came through on Saturday evening, West addressed his experience cross examining Jeantel in response to a reporter’s question about the “challenge.”
“My goodness, she wanted to be left alone,” he said. West also said that Jeantel “really didn’t want to be there.”
“Was that a challenge? Of course, it was,” he added. ”But I think ultimately, when you distill it to its important parts that we did accomplish ultimately what we wanted.”
Jeantel said she felt as if the defense was “coming after” her even during the pre-trial questioning.
“I went to Jacksonville. They went back and forth with me and the defense was just asking me question, question, every month there’s a new ‘What you doing here?’” she said. “Trying to figure out who I am, trying to figure out the bad in me. ‘I want your twitter, Facebook, your family.’”
“This don’t have nothing to do with me,” she added. “It’s not about me. It’s not about my character. It’s not about Trayvon’s character. It’s about that night, what happened that night; who caused that situation to happen.”
When asked to share her memories of Martin, she described a “laid-back person” who would never come across as suspicious.
“If you looked at Trayvon you could know that’s a teen, and he was not a violent person,” he said. “He was so quiet you wouldn’t notice him. The only thing you would see is he’s just tall.”
When she heard the not guilty verdict on Saturday night, Jeantel said it made her feel like the jury didn’t take her testimony seriously.
Trayvon was minding his own business. Six jurors, I had told my story, told the facts, and you didn’t believe it? You judged my character, you judged the kind of person I am? And I was trying to be honest to you, I kept it honest with you. That’s how we talk, That’s how- I kept it honest with you. You wanted to know, what were we talking that night and you did not take nothing serious. You just listening to two attorneys, listening to a person who don’t want to stand on the stage where I was standing. So, you say not guilty. Are you serious?
Aware that she’s been the target of scrutiny after her testimony, she said she’s relying on the support of her family and her lawyer, working to ignore her critics.
“I have supporters, I never hear the disappointments,” she said. “I heard all the, ‘Oh you did this, you did this, the judgment.’ But I stay with my supporters. I have my attorney. I have my family to hold on, so I kept holding on til now.”
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.