SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman's defense attorney insisted during several testy exchanges with an important prosecution witness Thursday that Trayvon Martin injected race into a confrontation with the neighborhood watch volunteer and insinuated the young woman was not believable because of inconsistencies in her story.

However, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel stood firm in her testimony about the night Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old after a fight that Jeantel said she overheard while on the phone with Martin. Jeantel has said Martin told her he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker" – implying Martin was being followed by a white man because of his race.

Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. Race has permeated nationwide discussions of the case since the February 2012 shooting, which prompted nationwide protests and claims from critics that police took too long to arrest Zimmerman.

The neighborhood watch volunteer has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he acted in self-defense.

Defense attorney Don West also zeroed in on slight differences among three different accounts of what happened before Martin's killing, in an apparent effort to discredit her. Jeantel has described what she heard over the phone in a deposition; a letter to Martin's mother; and an interview with the Martin family attorney. Among the differences highlighted by West:

_ In some accounts, she said race was an issue but not in others.

_ Jeantel testified Wednesday that her friend's last words were "Get off! Get off!" before Martin's phone went silent. But on Thursday, under cross-examination, she conceded that she hadn't mentioned that in her account of what happened to Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton. She had left out some details to spare Fulton's feelings, and also because neither Fulton nor the Martin family attorney asked her directly about them, Jeantel said.

_ After Martin asks why he is being followed, Zimmerman responds, "What are you doing around here?" in one account by Jeantel. In another account, according to West, she says Zimmerman said, "What are you talking about?"

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Zimmerman followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight. Zimmerman has said he opened fire only after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and their supporters have claimed.

Jeantel testified Thursday that she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man.

But West responded, "It was racial because Trayvon put race in this?"

She answered no.

After the court session was over for the day, when explaining how Martin's parents didn't want race injected into the trial, Martin family attorney Daryl Parks said, "Some young people loosely use language they probably shouldn't use."

"It's just slang they use," he said.

The exchanges between Jeantel and West got testier as the day progressed.

At one point, West suggested that though Martin told her he was by his father's fiancee's house while Zimmerman was following him, that she doesn't know that for sure.

"Why he need to lie about that, sir?" Jeantel asked West.

"Maybe if he decided to assault George Zimmerman, he didn't want you to know about it," West replied.

"That's real retarded, sir," she said. "That's real retarded to do that, sir."

When asked by West if she had previously told investigators that she heard what sounded like somebody being hit at the end of her call with Martin, Jeantel said, "Trayvon got hit."

"You don't know that? Do you? You don't know that Trayvon got hit," West answered angrily. "You don't know that Trayvon didn't at that moment take his fists and drive them into George Zimmerman's face."

Later in the morning, West accused Jeantel of not calling police after Martin's phone went dead because she thought it was a fight he had provoked.

"That's why you weren't worried. That's why you didn't do anything because Trayvon Martin started the fight, and you knew that," West said.

"No sir!" Jeantel said. "I don't know what you're talking about."

At one point, West handed her a letter she had written with the help of a friend to Martin's mother explaining what happened. She looked at it but then said she couldn't read cursive handwriting. Jeantel later explained she is of Haitian descent and grew up speaking Creole and Spanish.

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

West took note of her calmer demeanor in the morning. She answered many of West's early questions by repeating "yes, sir," almost in a whisper.

"You feeling OK today? You seem different than yesterday," West said.

"I got some sleep," she answered.

After Jeantel left the witness stand, a mobile phone manager testified about Martin's cell phone records and a former neighbor of Zimmerman testified she heard yelps for help outside her townhome on the night Martin was shot. Jenna Lauer said she couldn't tell who was screaming.

"They were being hurt," Lauer said, describing the person screaming.

Before court recessed for the day, defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked another former neighbor to recreate for jurors how she reacted when she heard what turned out to be a gunshot and ran out of her town-house to see what was going on. The request had Selma Mora in the unusual position of standing up from the witness stand and pretending to be in her kitchen in front of the judge's bench.

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KHightower

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Loading Slideshow...
  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 19, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin, 17, and Tracy, his father, travel from Miami Gardens to Sanford, Fla., to visit the elder Martin's fiancee in her townhome at The Retreat at Twin Lakes. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.globalgrind.com" target="_blank">globalgrind.com</a></em>

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin is walking to the home of his father's fiancee after purchasing items from a 7-Eleven store in Sanford. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, spots Martin at approximately 7 p.m. and calls police. "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy," Zimmerman tells police.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Roughly seven minutes after Zimmerman's call to police, authorities receive a 911 call from an individual reporting a fight. During the call, the dispatcher hears a gunshot in the background and sends police units to the location. Responding officers discover that Martin has been shot in the chest. The teen is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. Police find no identification on Martin and label him a John Doe.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Questioned by police, Zimmerman informs them that Martin attacked him and he fired his gun in self-defense. Authorities confiscate Zimmerman's 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and take him to the Sanford Police Department for further questioning.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 27, 2012</strong> -- Following a lengthy interview, George Zimmerman is released from the police station at approximately 1 a.m. Hours later, Tracy Martin contacts police to report his son missing. Investigators soon connect the dots and inform the elder Martin of his son's death. After receiving treatment from a family doctor, Zimmerman meets with investigators and reenacts the events of the shooting at the crime scene.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 8, 2012</strong> -- Tracy Martin holds a press conference, during which he criticizes the investigation into his son's slaying. "We feel justice hasn't been served," Martin tells reporters.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 9, 2012</strong> -- Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump tells the Miami Herald he is filing a lawsuit for the release of public records in the case.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 10, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party, contending there has been a "miscarriage of justice," rally outside the Sanford Police Department.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 12, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference, at which he claims that investigators were unable to arrest Zimmerman because he was protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows residents to shoot someone if they reasonably believe they are being threatened. "There is no evidence to dispute Zimmerman's assertion that he shot Martin out of self-defense," Lee says. In response, Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, post a petition on the Change.org website calling for State Attorney Angela Corey to prosecute Zimmerman. The petition quickly garners support from multiple celebrities and receives nearly 900,000 signatures the first week.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 13, 2012</strong> -- In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP expresses doubt in the Sanford Police Department's ability to appropriately handle the investigation, asking the Department of Justice to review the case. "The NAACP has no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation," the letter says. Sanford police announce the completion of their investigation and turn the case over to the State Attorney's Office for Brevard and Seminole Counties. "Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process," State Attorney Norm Wolfinger's office says in a statement.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 14, 2012</strong> -- Mary Cutcher, a woman listed in police reports as a witness who heard Martin's shooting, <a href="http://www.wftv.com/news/news/witness-sanford-police-blew-us-teen-slaying/nLSqk/" target="_blank">tells WFTV.com that police took only a short statement from her</a> following the shooting. "[The police] blew us off, and I called back again and I said, 'I know this was not self-defense. There was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling,'" says Cutcher.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 15, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police issue a statement calling Mary Cutcher's TV interviews "inconsistent" with her sworn testimony. Meanwhile, Zimmerman's father, Robert, tells the Orlando Sentinel that his son has been unfairly portrayed as a racist.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 16, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police release eight 911 recordings in the case. One of the recordings includes a voice in the background screaming, "Help, help!" The screams are followed by the sound of a gunshot.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 19, 2012</strong> -- The Justice Department and the FBI announce they have opened an investigation into the shooting.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 20, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announces that a Seminole County, Fla., grand jury will review the circumstances of Martin's death.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 21, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford City Commission votes "no confidence" in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and calls for his resignation.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 22, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference and announces he is temporarily stepping down as police chief because his presence is a "distraction." State Attorney Norm Wolfinger recuses himself from the case and Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces that another state attorney, Jacksonville-based Angela Corey, will be replacing Wolfinger as special prosecutor in the investigation. Meanwhile, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other civil rights leaders and politicians hold a justice rally at Sanford's Fort Mellon Park. They demand an arrest in Martin's shooting. An estimated 10,000 people attend the event.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 23, 2012</strong> -- President Barack Obama tells reporters that the nation needs to do some "soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens." He adds, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 24, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party offer a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of Zimmerman.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 25, 2012</strong> -- Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in Eatonville and encourages revisions to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. "If it's a moment, we go home. If it's a movement, we go to war," says Jackson.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 26, 2012</strong> -- Police release new details of the investigation, saying Zimmerman told them Martin punched him and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times. Acting Police Chief Darren Scott takes over as chief of the Sanford Police Department. Thousands of people gather in Sanford to mark one month since Martin was killed.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., tells CNN that medical records will prove his brother was attacked and his nose was broken.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 3, 2012</strong> -- Florida State Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) announces the formation of a task force to review the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 8, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman launches the website "The Real George Zimmerman" to raise money for his defense.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 9, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Angela Corey announces her decision not to use a grand jury in the Martin investigation. The move eliminates the possibility of a first-degree murder charge.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 10, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's attorneys, Hal Uhrig (right) and Craig Sonner, announce that they will no longer be representing him.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 11, 2012</strong> - State Attorney Angela Corey announces the charging of George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman turns himself in to police and is booked into the Seminole County Jail. Mark O'Mara announces his role as Zimmerman's new attorney.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 23, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, enters a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf. Zimmerman is released from jail on a $150,000 bond. Per the conditions of his release, Zimmerman is required to wear a GPS monitoring device.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 24, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman shuts down his website. According to his attorney, the site raised $200,000.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>April 27, 2012</strong> -- Mark O'Mara launches the website GZLegalCase.com as the official site for Zimmerman's legal case.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>May 8, 2012</strong> -- At Zimmerman's arraignment, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. accepts his not-guilty plea.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>May 17, 2012</strong> -- Prosecutors release police reports, witness statements, surveillance videos and other evidence in the case.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 1, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester revokes Zimmerman's bond, stating that his ruling is based on concerns that Zimmerman and his wife did not fully disclose their finances at the bond hearing.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 3, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is returned to jail.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 12, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, is arrested on one count of perjury.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 20, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford city manager fires Bill Lee from the police force.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 21, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's legal team releases discovery evidence on their client's website.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>June 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's second bond hearing is held. The judge does not immediately issue a ruling.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>July 5, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester grants Zimmerman a higher bond of $1 million.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>July 6, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is again released from jail.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>July 19, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman relaunches his personal website.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>July 27, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife pleads not guilty to perjury.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Aug. 29, 2012</strong> -- An appeals court grants a request by George Zimmerman's defense team to dismiss Judge Lester from the case.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Aug. 30, 2012</strong> -- Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson is assigned the case.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Oct. 19, 2012</strong> -- Judge Nelson grants a defense motion requesting access to Trayvon Martin's school records and social media posts. The state is also granted access to Zimmerman's medical records.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Nov. 14, 2012</strong> -- Gov. Scott's "Stand Your Ground" task force concludes its final meeting and recommends no sweeping changes to the law.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Nov. 20, 2012</strong> -- Former Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez announces that he is representing Sanford police Detective Chris Serino, the lead investigator in the shooting.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Dec. 3, 2012</strong> -- A new photo is released showing George Zimmerman with a bloody, broken nose on the night of the shooting.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 5, 2013</strong> -- On this day, Trayvon Martin would have turned 18.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>Feb. 26, 2013</strong> -- Martin's parents hold a rally in his memory to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.

  • Key Dates In The Trayvon Martin Case

    <strong>March 26, 2013</strong> -- Zimmerman's defense team releases its witness list of 134 people, including Sanford police officers and 56 unnamed witnesses.


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The family attorneys have finished speaking.

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"Please respect their privacy," Crump said of the Martin family.

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"Jurors were given packets of letters from the media containing interview requests. They expressed no interest at this time," Kennedy said.

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"Anonymity order is still in effect... Any attempt to identify jurors is a violation of the current order," said Michelle Kennedy, Public Information Officer for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

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"For Trayvon to rest in peace we must all be peaceful," Benjamin Crump said.

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"We are very, very saddened," Darryl Parks said.

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"Jury has no desire to speak to media," said Michelle Kennedy, Public Information Officer for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

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The defense has finished talking.

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"[Martin's family] suffered a tragedy ... Nothing can bring back Trayvon Martin ... But I'm not going to shy away from the fact that the evidence showed George Zimmerman did nothing wrong," O'Mara said.

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(Washington, DC)— Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence today called the verdict, “part of a tragic event that could have easily been prevented.”

Gross said, “There is sharp disagreement over the verdict, but there can be no disagreement over the reason why Trayvon Martin is dead. George Zimmerman had a gun that night, and the state of Florida allowed him to carry it virtually anywhere despite a violent history. Virtually anybody roaming our neighborhoods with hidden handguns is the gun lobby's vision, but it is not the vision of the rest of the American public, truly committed to safer communities. We will work as long, and as hard as it takes to prevent more tragedies like Trayvon Martin's. We recognize, at the end of the day, this is an enormous tragedy and a young man lost his life. Our sympathies continue to go out to Trayvon’s family.”

The Brady Campaign has been one of the leaders in fighting against “Stand Your Ground” or so called, “shoot first” laws like the one in Florida. As evidenced by the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, these laws have deadly consequences. They promote a dangerous mentality and misperception about weapons, by overemphasizing their value in self-defense relative to the other dangers that they pose.

In the end, George Zimmerman's mentality, and what emboldened him to approach Trayvon, may be debatable. What is not debatable, though, is the fact that Trayvon Martin is dead because Zimmerman had a gun. Zimmerman was given a concealed carry permit by the state of Florida despite an arrest record and a history of violence, as a direct result of the influence of the gun lobby, and if it weren’t for that, this tragedy never would have happened.

The Brady Center, the legal arm of the Brady Campaign, has been at the forefront in fighting concealed weapons laws. They recently filed an amicus brief along with the parents of Trayvon Martin, asking the entire United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review and reverse a 2-1 decision that held Illinois law restricting the public carrying of firearms unconstitutional.

“Allowing deadly semi-automatic weapons on the streets does not make a community safer. By arguing for a broad constitutional right to carry hidden handguns, the gun lobby wants to deprive law enforcement of the tools it needs to keep guns off the streets. The American people should be allowed to decide whether they want people like George Zimmerman carrying loaded guns in public places where their children walk home,” said Brady Center Legal Action Project Director Jonathan Lowy. “Most courts have properly recognized that reasonable public safety laws do not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Courts should listen to the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who lost their sons to people whose states entitled them to carry guns in public.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Trayvon Martin; Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, parents of Jordan Davis; Major Cities Chiefs Association; and International Brotherhood of Police Officers by attorneys with the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the firm Hogan Lovells US LLP. More information on this can be found at http://www.bradycampaign.org/?q=brady-center-victims’-families-law-enforcement-urge-federal-appeals-court-to-review-and-reverse.

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O'Mara said the case should have never became a "focus for a civil rights event."

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"He needs to get on with his life," O'Mara said of Zimmerman.

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O'Mara said we'll have to wait and see "how many civil law suits are filed as a result of this fiasco."

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O'Mara said he hopes, "everyone will respect the jury's verdict, as they should."

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West just defended his knock-knock joke. He said, "I still think the joke was funny ... I'm sorry that I didn't tell it better."

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West said he felt the prosecution of ZImmerman was "disgraceful."

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"We are ecstatic with the results," O'Mara said.

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O'Mara's letter to Eslinger expressed his "sincere thanks and appreciation" for their handling of the Zimmerman trial.

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The State has finished their presser. O'Mara and West are now up.

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"I believe the focus needs to be on how the system worked," Corey said.

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"I am disappointed ... This is only my second murder case I have lost," De La Rionda said.

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"You had a 17-year-old kid who gets accosted ... followed by an individual who wants to be a cop," De La Rionda said.

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"Trayvon had every right to be on the premises ... as [did] George Zimmerman," Corey said.

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Huffington Post senior crime reporter David Lohr is live blogging today. You can follow David on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Lohr or on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/david.a.lohr.

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Corey said the prosecution team has not yet spoken with Martin's family about the verdict.

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"We charge what we believe we can prove ... so that's why we charged second-degree murder ... We did everything we possibly could," Corey said.

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"I am disappointed, but we accept it," De La Rionda said.

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The jury took 16 hours to reach their verdict.

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