The Conversation

Rachel Jeantel Says Martin Threw the First Punch

In an interview with Marc Lamont Hill, Rachel Jeantel says she believes Trayvon Martin threw the first punch in the altercation that ultimately led to his death. She also believes Trayvon was in fact beating Zimmerman but suggests he would have stopped short of killing him.

Hill's 25-minute interview with Jeantel offered a more detailed account of what she believes happened than has been revealed previously. "Trayvon was not doing nothing" Jeantel tells Hill.

At this point, Hill attempts to draw her out more fully "So, just so I understand you right, you're saying--you're depiction of what happened is that George Zimmerman is pursuing Trayvon?" Jeantel replies "Yes." Hill continues his line of questioning, "At some point a fight breaks out, who swings--who hits who first in your mind?" Jeantel replies "In my mind, I believe Trayvon. It was Trayvon..."

At this point Jeantel begins talking about Martin's headset. She asks the rhetorical question "Why would Trayvon leave me on the phone if he was going to start something?" She implies that because Trayvon did not say anything to her about an impending fight he must not have known it was coming.

Hill refocuses with another question "If Trayvon swung first, what do you think Zimmerman did to make him swing first?" Jeantel replies "I believe Zimmerman was a wannabe cop trying to say 'Oh, I got you.'" Hill then brings up a theory which has been discussed by some in the media since the verdict "Do you think he pulled his gun out?" Jeantel replies "No, I believe he tryin' to grab him. 'Okay, I got you, you coming with me.'"

So it appears Jeantel's view is that Zimmerman put his hands on Martin and then Martin responded by throwing a punch. However in testimony at trial Jeantel never claimed to have heard anyone saying "Okay, I got you." She testified that Martin initiated the confrontation by asking Zimmerman "What you following me for?" Zimmerman responded "What are you doing around here?" At this point she says she heard a bump and faintly heard Martin say "get off."

It is telling that Jeantel can only describe her version of events by inventing a new bit of dialogue for George Zimmerman, i.e. "Okay, I got you." Clearly it would have fit better if Zimmerman had said "Okay, I got you" and then assaulted Martin, but he didn't say that. So you have to assume Zimmerman asked "What you doing around here?" and then put his hands on Martin without waiting for an answer. The words and actions don't seem to escalate in a normal manner. Jeantel's mind fills in that gap with something that would fit, "Okay, I got you."

Zimmerman's account was that Martin approached him and asked "You got a problem, motherf--ker?" Zimmerman says he backed up, reached for his phone and replied "I don't have a problem." At this point he claims Martin said "You got a problem now" and punched him in the nose. Is it true? Obviously only Zimmerman knows for certain, but his account does escalate with a certain logic. The words and actions of his account don't have any obvious gaps that need to be filled in to explain how one thing led to another.

The other interesting part of Jeantel's interview is her claim, also made on Piers Morgan Tuesday night, that Zimmerman should have taken his beating. Hill pointed out "George Zimmerman's defenders would say well, if he didn't pull out a gun, if Trayvon was whoopin' his ass he could have killed George Zimmerman." Jeantel replies "No. Trust me. That's not killing. You have a big bruise, you don't see inside your skin. You might have a little stitches." Jeantel adds "He [Trayvon] would have fight him and run."

Even if Jeantel is right about Martin's intentions, there is no way George Zimmerman, who was the one taking a beating and therefore very probably the one calling for help, to have known that.


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