Rachel Jeantel: Trayvon Martin was ‘not a thug’

Rachel Jeantel speaking out after the trial. (CNN)
Rachel Jeantel speaking out after the trial. (CNN)

One of the most talked about witnesses for the prosecution in the George Zimmerman trial spoke out Monday night for the first time following the not guilty verdict, calling the ruling “BS.”

“I had a feeling it was going to be not guilty,” Rachel Jeantel said during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Monday. While “disappointed, upset, angry” about the trial’s outcome, she defended her friend’s legacy: “Trayvon is not a thug.”

She described her 17-year-old friend as a “calm, chill, loving person” who loved his family, “definitely his mother.”

The pair used to speak for hours at a time on the phone, and Jeantel was talking to Martin on the phone moments before he died.

During her two-day testimony on the witness stand, tense and sometimes uncomfortable exchanges between her and defense attorney Don West sparked equally heated conversations online. “It’s not that I didn’t want to be there,” she said, defending her performance. “I was dealing with a lot of stress.”

Trial watchers dissected the 19-year-old over her performance, questioning her intelligence and presentation. The comments highlighted issues of race and class.

Jeantel told Morgan that a dental condition–an underbite–makes it challenging for her to speak clearly and be understood. “I had this situation since kindergarten,” she said. “Words I can say, they can’t come out right.”  When asked if she’s been bullied over it, she responded, “Look at me. No.”

During Monday’s interview, she also noted she never once cussed West out on the witness stand. “My parents taught me better. That’s an adult–you don’t have the right to disrespect an adult.” She added with a smile, “Okay, I did give attitude but you know that’s me.”

Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation. 

Rachel Jeantel: Trayvon Martin was 'not a thug'