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June 28th, 2013
08:57 PM ET

Rachel Jeantel's classmate on the criticism levied at the prosecution's supposed star witness: "I was shocked"

With Friday representing the conclusion of what has been an extraordinary opening week in the George Zimmerman trial, this evening at 9 Piers Morgan welcomes Deborah Fakanlu to offer her personal insight on the woman who unwillingly took over the national spotlight over the course of two days of testimony.

A friend of the late Trayvon Martin, Rachel Jeantel spent much of Wednesday and Thursday on the stand, serving as the prosecution's supposed star witness. However, her demeanor and attitude often yielded more questions than answers, leaving many to wonder if she hadn't actually helped the defense more than the state.

Joining "Piers Morgan Live" for an exclusive interview, Deborah Fakanlu – a former classmate of Jeantel – shares her reaction to the criticism being aimed at the 19-year-old:

"I was shocked. They was saying that she was rude, that she was disrespectful, and I didn't feel like she was disrespectful," says the woman who often received Facebook messages from Jeantel. "I just felt like they were asking her a lot of questions and she didn't know how to react to all of them."

As Jeantel's specific style of speaking, including slang terminology and questionable colloquialisms, has been called into question, the host asked his guest for her perspective.

Fakanlu said simply, "that's how we talk."

Watch the clip for more of Morgan's interview with Deborah Fakanlu, the classmate of Rachel Jeantel, then tune in at 9 for a program dedicated exclusively to the latest developments in one of the most polarizing court cases in recent memory.
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Filed under: The Big Story
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Marvin Dantley

    Dear Mr. Morgan,
    To me it is simple. Everyone wants to forget the facts. George Zimmerman was the aggresser and he used superior force. Yes, he followed Trayvon Martin, initiated the comflick, was getting his behind kicked by a young fit teenager, and used superior force instead of taking his behind wipping. A gun as opposed to Trayvon;s fist. When is that fair, not even in self defense.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dw

      To me it is simple too! There would be no trial if trayvon was not black! 2nd. Pierce Morgan STOP trying to make this case about race! In your show you keep saying its a white jury, it's a all white jury! Pierce its ALLways about race, but don't play the race card. The witness was terrible yesterday that's why she wasn't taken seriously not because of her color of skin. Here are the facts the Zimmerman did not mean to kill trayvon, he will be found not guilty mark my words!

      June 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Latise

        I don't think "he didn't mean to kill someone kid" is acceptable. A accident or misjudgment is one thing if it was admitted but to make this kids parent defend there sons death or have him treated like he had done something wrong when he didn't For that he deserves jail.

        July 3, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • arale norimaki

      “According to a records search on George, he was previously arrested for domestic violence, resisting an officer without violence and most shockingly, resisting an officer with violence — a felony charge that surely could have landed him in prison.

      A physician assistant who treated George Zimmerman's injuries the day after he said he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense testified Friday that she had treated Zimmerman before, and that he told her he'd had been involved with mixed martial arts several times a week.

      Lindzee Folgate said she previously treated Zimmerman in August and September 2011.

      He went looking for trouble. He wanted to play Charles Bronson, and somebody died because of it. Even if Trayvon was just walking home, and then some wannabe vigilante starts following him. This whole situation wouldn’t have gone down if Zimmerman had kept his as in his truck and let the police handle the problem

      George Zimmerman' 50lb+ advantage on an unarmed 17yr old and still got beat the funk up to the point he had to pull out his gun because he was out playing cowboy that night and HAD to get in the kid’s business for the crime of not looking like he belonged there.

      June 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lee Anderson

      So according to you, Zimmerman should have taken his "behind wipping" even though for all Zimmerman knew, Martin was killing him. Is that what you would have done?

      July 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • lory

      Really,,,cause i believe that force is used on you you must respond with greater force...I would have shot him too,,,,but I probably would have not measured myself like Zimmernan. Trayvon was a thug, if Zimmerman hadn't killed him somebody was going to – and that is direct from Pastor Manning in Harlem

      August 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Janice Trusky

    FYI.....Schools don't teach cursive writing anymore. I'm a college instructor and many of my students do not know cursive. It's sad and I don't agree with it but it's not Rachel's fault and it doesn't reflect her intelligence.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marvin Dantley

      In addition,
      People seem to brush aside that she is of Hatian desent and English is not her native language. French and Creole are different.

      June 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Yana

        I was under impression, that she was born and raised in Miami.

        July 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yana

      Are you kidding? So all these "students" can't read cursive and it's widely known? Where are we?I can't believe what I am reading. Shame!!!

      July 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Robyn

        Im in NJ and that is correct. When I write on the board, students have complained that they cannot read cursive.

        July 16, 2013 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
      • Judith

        I am a high school teacher too and when I write in cursive, the kids can't read it! Penmanship is no longer taught in schools, and hasn’t been for a long time! There’ s simply no money for that in the budget! As a matter of fact and more importantly, many kids struggle with writing legibly, never mind cursive, and spelling simple words correctly.
        BTW, all these complaints about English not being her first language, and how the jurors could not understand a word she said, which tainted her credibility? NOTE: Most inner city kids speak like Rachel Jeantel. Her manner of speaking has nothing to do with her Haitian Creole or French background. And that's why she kept telling the prosecutor that she understood and spoke English well. This is simply how many of our children speak in urban America! Rachel’s problem is compounded by her speech impediment, but it’s not so bad that she cannot be understood if one is paying attention.
        Many upper class, suburban, privileged white people may not understand Rachel, but the reason is not because English is her third language. It’s because in the course of their daily lives, they never interact with kids like Rachel, their paths just simply never cross. It just goes to show again, the class and structural differences in this country. It is this structural disconnect that made the jury switch off when Rachel was speaking. And just with a cursory scan, they judged her based on her color, size, ideas of beauty, diction and English language fluency, and immediately decided that she fell short and could therefore not be a credible witness. She did not fit the “image” of someone who could be “relatable”.
        If Rachel Jeantel was not relatable, Travon Martin was not relatable. “These people” were not valuable as humans because they didn’t “fit” the picture. The young man, “a thug” raised in a violent culture, must have been the aggressor.

        July 19, 2013 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Of course it reflects her intelligence, but not nearly to the degree that everything else about her does. I'd gladly give very lucrative odds on an over/under bet on her IQ...I'll put the score, very generously, at 80.

      August 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Angela Barrie

    Mr Morgan,

    Can you please tell me what the point of interviewing that classmate of Rachel Jeantel was? I really wish you wouldn't waste our time on interviewing people who have nothing to say or contribute to a discussion, be a little more discreet in whom you get on the show.

    Thank you

    June 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dw

      What a waste of time, I really use to like your show. She didnt even know Rachel ??. Come on why was she on your show?

      June 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Denny Macin

    What an interview. This girl doesn't even know the witness and embarrassed herself and your show...waste of the viewer's time. She just wanted to be on TV and talk about her baby.

    Why is CNN so obsessed with this case? Full coverage now?

    June 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Steve

    I'm really wondering why this clip cuts out large parts of the interview where she just embarrasses herself. "I'm from England so I'm not racist"...Really? I spit my coffee across the room in a fit of laughter. If you want to really head off comments that your coverage is being biased (which I tend to consider baseless) you would do well to not cut things like this off, and putting up an interview where someone seems relatively composed compared to what was evident on the actual program.

    Also her dropping the N-bomb was pretty hilarious.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. mikadocat

    You say facts then rattle off a line of baloney nobody outside of the haters blogs believes and that is based on NOTHING.

    No evidence supports following in the sense of attempting to get close to Trayvon. Zimmerman ran to the T where its possible to see if someone runs out the rear entrance. This is where the dispatch says we don't need you to do that (follow) and Zimmerman says OK. Trayvon leaves this area, then some time after Zimmerman ends the call to police Trayvon returns, which we know as this is the crime scene.

    How is it Zimmerman does all this pursuing when it is Trayvon that comes back to the T?

    What is the motive for Zimmerman to initiate conflict with his nose?

    Using a gun is fair when the person sitting on you and beating you while you scream for a minute for help doesn't stop beating you, and notices you have a gun.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. T, Smith

    I am absolutely appalled that this case is such a race case. Its not whether he is black/white, it is that the prosecution needs to prove if it was or was not self defense.... That interview was just shown with Rachels classmate was disgusting! I am from Florida, I am a white woman that lives in a black white area, and for her to say that everyone white person here call blacks the "n" word, absolutely disgust me! I do not allow that word in my home nor do I allow any other type of racist words in my house and for her to say everyone in Florida talks this way is WRONG!!!! Maybe in her part of the world people do,but people I associate with do not. You as the media should not allow this type of interview to be shown, you are just feeding fuel to the fire, and it scares me to think what will happen if he does not get convicted, remember Rodney King? It is sad what this is coming to......

    June 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • f.g

      Well T, Smith I don't know what part of the world you are living in but it is a true fact. You may not allow that type of language in your household but it takes place in the black culture households everyday. It's all on the radio in the music our children listens to. So for you to be that blind what planet are you living on. No one in this country should be surprise. And for all these talk show hosts to get on TV and act as if they are surprise by this behaivor is just a lie. This girl is from Miami and they went to a almost all black high school Noland High where crime is high in all those low poor area's in Miami trust me I no the areas very well I'm in Broward County next door to Dade County so I no the not so good schools in Miami and the area's that they are in I would not even be caught in those area's because they are not safe to even walk in during the day. So for anybody to talk down about Rachel it's wrong and for as her statement she only told the truth about what her and Trayvon was talking about minutes before his life was taken by this phsyco derange animal who stock this child chase him and jump him and killed him. Yes we no this because his 911 tape he saids he is following him and they told him to stop but now we no he continue to follow him. So before you make a statement no the facts first okay.

      July 2, 2013 at 7:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • jpfire

        And before you type, please spell check because the word "no" is used improper. "No" is an adverb, which describes a negative used to express denial or dissent!! What you want to use is the word "Know", which is a verb. "Know" a verb that describes to understand as fact or truth"!! So please, I hope that you actually are using these words properly in life or as you would call the "skreets" – an urban way of saying "streets"

        July 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dan and Charla


    Just listened to your guest's defense of Rachel Jeantel and her behavior on the stand.

    Reverse discrimination is as offensive !

    If that had been a white man of 19, he would be considered an adult at that age – not a child as she was portrayed. And his behavior would have been excoriated.

    It seems that giving Rachel a pass because she is black is beneath you.

    June 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. A. Heisen

    I missed the show but have to ask... Did Morgan ask her if it is common for them to display racism against white people??
    Its funny how the only PROVEN act of racism was by Trayvon but the media brushes it under the rug.

    June 28, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. redflower

    Racism A. Heisen, is the systematic advantage and privilege that one race gets over others. Traynon Martin had no systematic advantage in this case, he is dead admittedly by the hands of Zimmerman. Prejudice, is another matter in that all ethnicities have them. But therein, lies the difference between what is racism and prejudice.

    June 29, 2013 at 5:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Burns

      That's...NOT the definition of racism. It doesn't matter how many times you "progressives" repeat, it simply isn't. Have you ever heard of a dictionary? I highly recommend them. Reading is fundamental.

      June 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Warren Wolfe

    Dear Mr. Morgan,

    I've been paying attention to your show since it filled Larry King's old time slot. I was wondering if you could do me a favor... It would take only a moment, and cost nothing. Could you ban me from your show, please? It would mean SO much to me. Thank you for your kind consideration, and be well.

    June 29, 2013 at 10:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ed Smythe

    The prosecution has no case. This is a show trial put on display to appease a restless black populace. Charging Mr. Zimmerman is the biggest display of racism I have ever witnessed.

    June 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • arale norimaki

      Who calls the police just prior to comitting 2nd degree murder?

      Someone who is known by the police and whose father is a retired judge would be confident that there would no consequence. And if it wasn't for the outrage by the public, he wouldn't have been arrested.

      A lot of guys just want to appear to be cops. Gun, badge, pretend they're on TV that george zimmerman

      George Zimmerman D’s in Introduction to Criminal Justice and Juvenile Delinquency, and a C in a course called Evil Minds -Violent Predators. He failed algebra and astronomy and had been placed on academic probation in 2011.To the extent that he had some knowledge of self defense, he would have been able to put together a story that made some sense,”

      June 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Laura Emma Woodard

    The friend revealed that they are special education students. Instead of having attorneys andjury observers comment on the witness ' behavior in court you should have wisely interviewed high school special education instructors who could have explained her behavior as a defense mechanism toward the defense attorney who she had previously encountered in the preinterviews before the trial started. I believe her antagonism toward the defense attorney was demonstrated because she knew that he was going to attempt to humiliate her publicly by demonstrating to all and sundry her learning disability which special education students go to extreme lengths to hide from friends and family let alone millions of strangers. It was like watching a deliberately cruel and sadistic
    person hand silverware to a double upper extremity amputee without prosthetics arms and tell them to feed themselves when he asked her to read the letter. Also because of not being able to read well or at all the special education students memory is usually superior to that of a regular student because they rely on memory to get by in life.

    June 29, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. nuclear mike

    This testimony of Jeantel & her roomates' commentary provide a glimpse of what American black culture really is...sad.

    June 30, 2013 at 4:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nelson

      You need to do more reading and research on the black culture, why it is this way in certain communities, the economic and sociological factors that make it the way it is, what black kids are dealing with, etc. Maybe you would not be so judgemental if you knew more. I wonder, too, what can be done to raise education expectations from more of the families and increase the desire to excel in the way some other cultures do (e.g. Chinese families) but it is a long arduous process.

      July 10, 2013 at 2:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Abraham Yeshuratnam

    Reaction to Rachel Jeantel on the stand has been in terms of aesthetics, of disregarding a witness on the basis of how she talks, how good she is in supporting Trayvon. These are subtle things that may be of interest to the media. But the cardinal question which has not been disputed by anybody is: How did Trayvon sit on the top of Zimmerman when the latter was lying on the ground? Is there any criminal record against Zimmerman before this solitary incident?

    July 1, 2013 at 12:10 am | Report abuse | Reply

      “According to a records search on George, he was previously arrested for domestic violence, resisting an officer without violence and most shockingly, resisting an officer with violence — a felony charge that surely could have landed him in prison.

      Did george used his father the retired judge to drop the charges?

      July 1, 2013 at 10:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Poop Me Not

    I would love to be in the class where these two beauties came from!

    July 1, 2013 at 1:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Johan

      Not me. Show me your friends and I tell you who you are. So, if Trayvon had friend like Rachel, who was he?Are we still in USA? I wonder.

      July 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  17. chet

    What a joke that girl was as a witness 19 years old cant read or write. thats exactly what we are getting for our education dollars now there s no excuse for it she was an unintelligent uneducated member of the african american community probably a good example of the entire community Cnn is doing everything it can to sway this trial and make it appear asw the person is already guilty breaks down pretty racially on piers program except he is trying to make the person guilty

    July 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Latise

    Piers ask the right questions. Yes, it was ill will to look at this kid as a punk. No other newscaster brought that up!

    July 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Latise

    I understand cultural differences but I don't think being rude is one of them. I felt like she didn't do her friend justice. And I'd like to think had it been me I would've came off much more respectful. But then again I am over 40.

    July 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura Emma Woodard

      I beg to differ. You do not understand cultural differences if you suppose her "rudeness" was because of her culture. She already had an adversarial relationship with that defense attorney before the public trial started. He had interviewed her and got her dander up before the last round on television. She already knew he was going to attempt to humiliate her before the WORLD regarding her disabilities regarding reading and writing. The questions were addressed in the preinterview. Now her friends and family and the world know of her disability which most children in special education go to great lengths to hide because they do not want to seem as if they are deficient in comparison to the rest of the kids in regular classes. If you call her rude, I would rather see that type of behavior than the typical American cultural response to mocking which means getting some high caliber guns and bombs and shhoting up schools and innocent people because

      July 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • shark.sandwich

        If you don't want to be mocked for being stupid, the answer seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

        July 5, 2013 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
      • Robyn

        Laura, you are absolutely correct! Most don't know the world of education or special education unless you are in it professionally, or a special need student. So ignorant comments are attached to culture when it's a disability which could be attached to someone who is white or hispanic as well.

        July 16, 2013 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  20. Laura Emma Woodard

    Stupid? A person who knows that an action or thought is wrong and deliberately carries out said wrong action or thought can be labeled stupid. Just like a person who has been informed about someone's educational condition and continues to have expectations of said person to be on same level of the average person of the same age could be called asinine or dense in comparison to someone of the same age who knows of the different reasons a person. is in special education. FYI academically enriched students aka smart children are also included in special education.

    July 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  21. nelsonleonard

    I can believe that if anyone was being followed and felt threatered by that person, they would easily use politically incorrect language in that moment of fear. He was also talking to a girlfriend so he will use macho language so as to not sound afraid. This case would be talked about very differently if Trayvon had been a white kid called "Kevin" and If George's name was Juan Guitterez.

    July 10, 2013 at 1:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  22. notanybody

    I think TM supporters are crazy. They keep disregarding the evidence. The witnesses are only a small part of this case. It was the overwhelming convincing evidence set GZ free. GZ's wet back, his wounds, and TM's gun wound tells the truth. Stop being blind!

    August 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sarah Lynnid

    I just think the tm supporters are ignorant, they were fed lies by Mr Crump and Sharpton. They were manipulated to believe this was a race case, manipulated to believe so many lies. It has been proven they lied and lied and lied and lied, yet so many still want to believe it, as not to call any more attn to the lies. It is very sad. So many real race cases out there that need their attn. But this is the one that sticks. These people need to realize what they really want, what is the goal? less deaths, less vilolence, less racism. If those are the goal, which I think is what they want, there are so many cases to make national that could really help solve those problems. when they focus on cases like this and have their leaders consistently lie to them, they are not helping meet that goal. they are helping to create a greater divide. a that or ence

    August 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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