Trial was pivotal experience for Trayvon Martin's friend - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Trial was pivotal experience for Trayvon Martin's friend

Posted: Updated:
In the year since the Zimmerman verdict, Rachel Jeantel has focused on self-improvement. (Source: CNN) In the year since the Zimmerman verdict, Rachel Jeantel has focused on self-improvement. (Source: CNN)
  • Most ReadMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Lamar Co. man sentenced in federal court on drug charges

    Lamar Co. man sentenced in federal court on drug charges

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:31 PM EDT2014-07-31 16:31:27 GMT
    A Lamar County man has been sentenced to nearly 8 years in federal prison on drug charges. Tommy Lucas, 48, was sentenced to 95 months by U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett Thursday morning. LuacsMore >>
    A Lamar County man has been sentenced to nearly 8 years in federal prison on drug charges. Tommy Lucas, 48, was sentenced to 95 months by U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett Thursday morningMore >>
  • City of Hattiesburg employee fails to register as sex offender

    City of Hattiesburg employee fails to register as sex offender

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:04 PM EDT2014-07-31 16:04:34 GMT
    A City of Hattiesburg employee is behind bars for failing to register as a sex offender. Public Works employee Martaze Denzel Hammond, 35, was arrested Wednesday by the Forrest County Sheriff's DepartmentMore >>
    A City of Hattiesburg employee is behind bars for failing to register as a sex offender. Public Works employee Martaze Denzel Hammond, 35, was arrested Wednesday by the Forrest County Sheriff's Department after exceeding a 90 day period in which to register as a sex offender.More >>
  • Four arrested after attempted correctional facility drug crime

    Four arrested after attempted correctional facility drug crime

    Thursday, July 31 2014 4:21 PM EDT2014-07-31 20:21:06 GMT
    Four suspects were arrested Thursday during an attempt to commit a crime at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. According to prison officials, officers responded to a fence alarm around 5 a.m.,More >>
    Four suspects were arrested Thursday during an attempt to commit a crime at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. According to prison officials, officers responded to a fence alarm around 5 a.m., July 31, 2014, at the SMCI campus located in Leakesville, MS where officers found two packages. K9 personnel picked up a trail of the suspects which lead towards Wildcat Corner, located at the corner of High School Road and Hwy. 57 near Leakesville.More >>

MIAMI (CNN) – Sunday marked a year since George Zimmerman learned his fate in the Trayvon Martin case.

Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in the death of the teen.

Rachael Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon when his fatal encounter with Zimmerman began.

A year ago, she made no secret of her feelings during a combative cross examination by the defense in Zimmerman's murder trial.

Today, she is working hard to put the past behind her and to deal with lingering regret.

When asked if she blamed herself when Zimmerman went free, Jeantel admitted, “a little bit.”

She thought the jurors didn't take her seriously.

“They judge how they talk, how they look, how they dress,” she said.

That was the beginning of an astonishing turnaround in Jeantel's life. But first she needed a lot of help.

“She was suffering from post-traumatic stress,” said Rod Vereen, a Miami atttorney who organized a support group he calls The Village, providing Jeantel with counseling to deal with the grief of losing her longtime friend and intense tutoring to overcome problems in school.

No one knew it at the time, but when 19-year-old Jeantel took the stand, she was barely able to read and write beyond the level of a third-grader.

She often pushed back when tutoring took four to six hours a day. But her tutors didn't give up, and neither did Jeantel.

In May, she donned a cap and gown and collected her high school diploma.

She credited what has taken place since what happened in the courtroom to Martin, all the good things. The fact that she's graduated, she said, "Well, I kept my word to Trayvon that I would do this.”

She's also keeping a promise to herself by having the last word for people who criticized the way she talked and acted on the witness stand, people who implied she wasn’t smart.

“Yeah, you can't say that,” she said. “You can't judge a book by a cover.”

She's had to do a lot of growing up and learning how to take responsibility for her actions. She said she believes Zimmerman should do the same.

“He know he did wrong, and he got to man up to it,” Jeantel said. “To me, you're not a man. George Zimmerman's not a man. That's still a little boy with a grown body.

She still has a lot of work of her own ahead of her: more growing, more tutoring and plans to go to college.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.