Analysts: Questions Surround 911 Call Analysis in Trayvon Martin Case

By Cnn, Mallory Simon | St. Joseph News-Press, April 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Analysts: Questions Surround 911 Call Analysis in Trayvon Martin Case


Cnn, Mallory Simon, St. Joseph News-Press


(CNN) -- Two experts who analyzed a 911 call made during the confrontation that ended in Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's death said they believe the screams heard in the background are not those of shooter George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, 28, has claimed self-defense in killing Martin on February 26 in his gated community in Sanford, Florida, contending the teen punched him and slammed his head into a sidewalk before the shooting. But family and supporters of the 17-year-old victim asserted that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, who is black, and ignored a police dispatcher's advice not to follow the teen.

Several neighbors phoned 911 around the time of the shooting, with the sound of someone yelling "help" evident on one such call before a gunshot rang out.

Expert analyses of those recordings to determine if the screaming voice is that of Zimmerman or Martin could end up being critical to the case, especially given that Zimmerman had told police he was crying out for help just before the shooting. But legal analysts say that there is no guarantee that such analyses would be ruled admissible in court if charges are filed and the case goes to trial.

The two men who detailed their findings Monday are established in the forensic audio field: Tom Owen is the chairman emeritus of the American Board of Recorded Evidence, while Ed Primeau is a longtime audio engineer who is listed as an expert in recorded evidence by the American College of Forensic Examiners International.

Before talking to CNN, both analyzed the recordings for the Orlando Sentinel using different tools and techniques. They came to the same conclusion: The man heard screaming is not Zimmerman.

"There's a huge chance that this is not Zimmerman's voice," said Primeau. "As a matter of fact, after 28 years of doing this, I would put my reputation on the line and say this is not George Zimmerman screaming."

Owens used cutting-edge software that is widely used in Europe and has become recently accepted in the United States, according to the recording evidence board's current chairman, Gregg Stutchman.

The software -- which uses sophisticated algorithms to match voices, based in part on things like the size and shape of a person's vocal chords or oral cavity -- found that the screaming voice in the last 911 call did not match Zimmerman's voice when he called police, a few minutes earlier, to report a "suspicious" person in the neighborhood. But is the analysis definitive enough for use in court?

David Faigman, a professor of law at the University of California- Hastings and an expert on the admissibility of scientific evidence, said courts and the overall scientific community have mixed opinions about the reliability of such "voiceprint" analysis. …

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Analysts: Questions Surround 911 Call Analysis in Trayvon Martin Case
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