Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


You are here: Home / News / Rashawn Ray Interviewed in Relation to the Trayvon Martin Case

Rashawn Ray Interviewed in Relation to the Trayvon Martin Case

Long history of distrust of police and the legal system among black communities may have contributed to Rachel Jeantel's attitude on the witness stand at the Zimmerman trial

Faculty Associate Rashawn Ray, associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, spoke to the Huffington Post recently about the demeanor of Rachel Jeantel on the witness stand at the trial of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was accused of killing unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Jeantel was a friend of the victim and a key witness in Zimmerman’s trial, but her negative attitude during questioning may have hurt the prosecution’s case. Dr. Ray’s interview with the Washington Post helped readers put Jeantel’s actions into context.

"The relationship between blacks and law enforcement is a tumultuous one. It is plagued by continuous incidents of unjust treatment and discrimination," Dr. Ray told the Huffington Post. "We know that in predominantly black neighborhoods, frequently not only do we have negative interactions with police officers when they do come, but we know that when we really need them they respond slower.” That history of distrust of police authority probably influenced Jeantel’s behavior on the stand. She may not have expected that authority figures would value anything that she had to say.

Ultimately, Jeantel’s influence on the outcome of the case depends on how Jeantel’s testimony was received by the mostly white, female jury. Dr. Ray believes that Jeantel’s inability to code-switch, or change communication styles based on the situation, may actually have contributed to an increased sense of authenticity the longer she remained on the stand. "I think what came through was how candid she was, and regardless of how people disliked her, I think what actually happened was that her candidness turned to a form of trust in terms of believability even if they didn’t like her and they didn’t like the way she presented herself," Ray told the Post.

Read the complete Huffington Post article