One of the biggest battles in the Zimmerman case so far has been over the question of who yelled for help during the incident. Over the weekend, the presiding judge decided that prosecutors would not be allowed to bring two witnesses to the stand to claim the voice was not that of George Zimmerman.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson announced her ruling Saturday. ABC News described the decision as “a key boost to Zimmerman’s defense.” The two experts the prosecution was hoping to bring in were Alan Reich and Tom Owen. A text version of Reich’s report is here. Owen offered his opinion on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show here.
It’s worth noting that Owen was one of two experts asked to identify the voices on the 911 call by the Orlando Sentinel. The other expert, Ed Primeau, also claimed the screams were not George Zimmerman. However Primeau, as you can see in this MSNBC interview, also backed the claim that Zimmerman had said “f**king coons” at one point in his 911 call. That claim was examined and disregarded by experts and by prosecutors. In other words, one of the Orlando Sentinel’s two experts has already been shown to be wrong.
More importantly, several audio experts argued that what Owen and Reich were attempting to do was not possible. In a hearing over the issue earlier this month, the defense presented Dr. John Peter French who undercut Reich’s report and Owen’s analysis when he told the court “I’ve never come across a case in the 30 years of my career where anybody has attempted to compare screaming with normal voices.”
The defense also offered George Doddington who had worked on speech recognition for Texas Instruments testify that speech is not like fingerprints and relies on suitable samples. Orlando’s WKMG 6 posted this video of the expert’s testimony:
But perhaps the most significant witness was FBI analyst Hirotaka Nakasone. Nakasone was asked if it was possible to match a person’s speaking voice to a scream and replied “I doubt that very much.” Nakasone had previously submitted a report saying that there was insufficient evidence to identify who was yelling on the recording.
Both Zimmerman’s father and Trayvon’s father now claim the person yelling for help on the recording is their son. It is worth noting that when he was first played a clip by police Martin’s father said it was not his son. This was noted at the time in a police report. It was only later, after hearing a different version of the recording, that Martin’s father reversed himself and claimed the yelling was the voice of Trayvon.
Perhaps the most important fact in determining what the jury thinks of the pleas for help will be the testimony of a witness who claims to have seen Zimmerman on his back with Martin on top of him throwing “MMA-style” punches. According to another witness, the man on his back was the one yelling for help.