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Prosecution witness bristles on stand in Zimmerman's trial

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By Reuters
Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

SANFORD, Fla. — A 19-year-old who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before the black teenager was shot by a neighborhood watchman rejected attempts by the defense lawyer to depict her longtime friend as the aggressor in the struggle that ended in his death.

Rachel Jeantel took the stand in a Florida courtroom for a second day on Thursday as George Zimmerman's attorneys tried to demonstrate that her story changed over the course of the last year.

The testimony began on Thursday with a more subdued tone that it did a day earlier, when Jeantel frequently bristled at Don West's cross-examination and she at one point told him to move on to the next question: “You can go. You can go.”

Her demeanor on the stand provoked strong reaction. Some television commentators have called her a “rude” and “unreliable” witness. Other court watchers considered her a teenage girl out of her element, doing her best in an unfamilar environment.

West said that she embellished her account of the conversation with Martin because news coverage portrayed the shooting as “a racial thing.” Jeantel repeatedly denied altering her story and said she never watched the news.

Jeantel said that shortly before Martin was fatally shot, he complained about a “creepy” man who seemed to be hunting him down as he walked back to the house where he was staying with his father.

Jeantel suggested Martin would have ended the phone call first if he was preparing to attack someone.

West asked whether the noises Jeantel heard on the phone call could have been Martin smashing Zimmerman in the face.

She refused to agree with West that Martin hid and approached Zimmerman. “Trayvon told me the man was behind him and kept being close by him,” Jeantel said.

A former resident of the gated community where Martin was killed testified that she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin during their struggle.

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