SANFORD, Fla. - After two days of testimony totaling about seven hours, a teenager who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin minutes before his death was excused, but the subpoena still applies and she may be called back for more testimony.
Rachel Jeantel testified Thursday of a letter she wrote to Martin’s mother and that she thought the encounter between Martin and George Zimmerman was racially charged.
On Thursday, the defense went over the letter, which was written by a friend on Jeantel's behalf. Jeantel gave the letter to Sabrina Fulton, Martin's mother, signing it, "Diamond Eugene," a nickname of Jeantel's.
Martin's parents said they only knew Jeantel as “Dee Dee" and that they didn’t know her real name.
“I told my mother from the beginning, if an officer wanted to talk to me, know the exact story, everything about what happened that night, they would reach me at my number,” said Jeantel.
Jeantel's testimony was more subdued on Thursday than it was Wednesday, and West took note of her calmer demeanor.
She answered many of defense attorney Don West’s questions by repeating, "Yes, sir," almost in a whisper.
"You feeling OK today? You seem different than yesterday. Did you talk with someone last night about your demeanor in court?” asked West.
“No, I went to sleep,” Jeantel replied.
However, both sides quickly began exchanging verbal jabs and frustrating each other.
Things came to a head more than once, including when West asked Jeantel about something she testified to.
“You said it could have been, for all you know, Trayvon Martin smashing George Zimmerman in the face, is what you actually heard,” said West.
“What?” asked Jeantel.
“Yeah, just earlier today,” said West.
“By who?” asked Jeantel.
“By you,” said West.
“You ain't get that from me,” replied Jeantel.
Jeantel said she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man.
"He was being followed," Jeantel said.
Her answer came in response to questioning from West about why she had given differing accounts about what she had heard over the phone when the 17-year-old Martin first encountered Zimmerman the night he was shot in February 2012.
West suggested in his cross-examination that 19-year-old Jeantel had raised the racial issue in some accounts but not others.
In some accounts, West implied, Jeantel said Zimmerman responded one way when he first encountered Martin, but in other accounts she said he responded another way.
Jeantel gave her version of events in a deposition, in a letter to Martin's mother and in a recorded interview with an attorney for the Martin family.
Jeantel is one of the prosecution's most important witnesses because she bolsters the contention that Zimmerman was the aggressor.
On March 19, Jeantel had a phone interview with Benjamin Crump, Martin's family's attorney, and said she didn't tell him about the part that she shared with prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda.
The audio was played in court.
Bernie de la Rionda: "Could you tell who was saying that?"
Jeantel: "I (inaudible) know Trayvon."
The defense argued they couldn’t understand what she was saying, but Jeantel said it was Martin's voice. She said she didn't tell anyone because no one asked her before that day.
Jeantel testified Wednesday that her friend's last words were "Get off! Get off!" before the 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. 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.
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."
Once Jeantel was excused, attorneys questioned Jenna Lauer, the first person to call 911. It was the same call in which cries for help and the gunshot could be heard in the background.
Lauer said she and her husband were watching TV when she heard the incident between Martin and Zimmerman happening outside of her townhome.
"Immediately after the voices and me muting the TV, I just heard them, whoever was out there, start scuffling around,” said Lauer.
Lauer told the state she could not tell what the men were saying or why the fight may have started.
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.
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 identifies himself as Hispanic and has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and their supporters have claimed.
Follow Kathi Belich on Twitter at @KBelichWFTV for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial.