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Sunday, June 30, 2013

George Zimmerman Trial: John Good vs Rachel Jeantel

Whether this trial is about race or not, it certainly rests on the testimony of two prosecution witnesses John Good and Rachel Jeantel. The differences between them, their cultural styles and language, will significantly impact the outcome of the trial.

The fact that John Good is white and Rachel Jeantel black is not the issue except  if the all white jury carefully selected during voir dire to be free from the influence of pre-trial publicity and public debate, are shown to be racists.

Rachel Jeantel was hostile and difficult to understand.  John Good was clear in his presentation and illustrated his testimony with a three part graphic showing different views of where he saw the two fighting figures and the body of Trayvon Martin.

And these two witnesses said very different things. Rachel Jeantel said Trayvon Martin was saying "get off, get off' and John Good said Trayvon Martin was the aggressor using a "pound and ground" MMA style technique against George Zimmerman.

Several "eye witnesses" to the fatal fight include Selene Bahadoor, Mary Cutcher, and Selma Mora. They heard the struggle and shooting and testified that George Zimmerman was the aggressor. Another neighbor, Jonathan Manalo, documented Zimmerman's head injuries with his cell phone camera.

What witnesses the jury will believe will be based on how reliable, credible, well spoken and consistent they are in their testimony.  However, research has concluded that eye witness testimony is not reliable because it is shaped by our "stereotypes, beliefs, and expectations."  So the outcome of the trial is anything but clear and the background and beliefs of the jury are key.

The prosecution has the burden to "disprove self defense" beyond a reasonable doubt. With conflicting testimony about what people saw in the dark and from a distance, I think the testimony that will get the most weight will be that of John Good.