If Justice Scalia’s words are not enough to convince you that a plague of racial injustice is imminent, then I would implore you to look at the George Zimmerman murder trial and defense attorney Don West’s dismissiveness and utter disdain for Rachel Jeantel, a key prosecution witness. In doing so, you will see the worrisome regression on racial attitudes that I speak of not only under the law, but in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.
My complaint is not so much with West’s cross-examination of Jeantel. As a lawyer, I am well aware that this is a murder trial and that the jury will decide whether Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Although Zimmerman is an individual I would never agree to represent, I understand that West is obligated to defend his client zealously.
It is the absolute disdain and disrespect with which West, and the public, seemed to treat Jeantel that I find indicative of an alarming problem when it comes to race in America.
Jeantel is 19 years old. The ebony colored, full-figured teenager met Trayvon Martin in second grade. She was the last person to speak with Martin before George Zimmerman shot and killed him.
At times, West eyed the high school senior as if she were a creature he saw on an old episode of “The X-Files” or ”Star Trek.” His mannerisms and facial expressions in questioning and “sort of” listening to her responses gave an appearance of mockery and condescension. He reeked of elitism when he asked her, “Are you claiming in any way that you don’t understand English?”