George Zimmerman trial: Strangest show in TV

Staff writer

The strangest show in television continues at 9 a.m. Thursday. Rachel Jeantel, star witness for the state in the George Zimmerman trial, returns to the stand.

Local legal analysts repeated a theme Wednesday: Jeantel's credibility was shot in a mostly disastrous performance.

The 19-year-old was talking to friend Trayvon Martin shortly before he was fatally shot by Zimmerman in Sanford. On the witness stand Wednesday, Jeantel gave conflicting answers, acknowledged lies and acted combative with defense attorney Don West. 

She supplied bizarre, original drama to the high-profile trial. In years of watching legal dramas, have you seen anything quite like Jeantel's testimony? Jeantel ensured that this trial will be studied for decades to come.

Jeantel's performance divided the analysts Wednesday night on Anderson Cooper's CNN program devoted to the Zimmerman trial. The talk was fascinating.

Sunny Hostin described Jeantel as "a credible witness" who was raw and uncoached. Jeffrey Toobin said Jeantel was "compelling, even if you couldn't understand half of what she said."

Mark Geragos was astonished by those reactions. "The idea that this was a compelling witness, the idea that this witness is going to play well with this jury, save this tape, Anderson," Geragos urged. "Please, save this tape."

To his fellow analysts, Geragos said: "Come on, guys, listen, you have got to be kidding me. Who are you guys kidding?"

Danny Cevallos, a criminal defense attorney, echoed Geragos' take. "This is the prosecution's star witness. It's not their second best. It's not their third best," Cevallos said. "This is their star witness. And they have the burden, not only beyond a reasonable doubt."

Thursday morning on NBC's "Today," legal analyst Lisa Bloom said that the defense had made headway with Jeantel's credibility. "They have caught her in at least four discrepancies -- some people would say lies," Bloom said. "She said on her testimony that, yes, that was Trayvon Martin screaming on that recording. But at her deposition she said she didn't know if it was him. That's an important change."

On ABC's "Good Morning America," legal analyst Dan Abrams saw significant inconsistencies and outright lies in Jeantel's testimony. "Jurors, if they don't believe some of what a witness says, are allowed to disregard everything a witness says," Abrams said. "We'll have to see how she holds up."

Yes, it could be memorable TV. Wednesday afternoon certainly was. And, yes, Mark Geragos is right: You will want to save the tape.

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