G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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A reading of CNN’s transcription of George Zimmerman’s bond hearing answers a question I’ve previously posed. In the probable cause affidavit charging George Zimmerman with second-degree murder, how much weight was thrown behind the analysis of the 911 screams conducted by the two voice forensics experts contracted by the Orlando Sentinel? The same experts which I showed in my piece at the Daily Caller conducted an analysis that academic voice experts agree is fraught with error.
Dale Gilbreath, one of the state’s lead investigators in the case, was called to the stand by Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara, and the question was at least partially answered. Their exchange:
O’MARA: Witnesses heard people arguing, sounded like a struggle. During this time, witnesses heard numerous calls for help. Some of this was recorded. Trayvon’s mom reviewed the 911 calls and identified the cry for help and Trayvon Martin’s voice. Did you do any forensic analysis on that voice tape?
GILBREATH: Did I?
O’MARA: Did you or are you aware of anything?
GILBREATH: The “Orlando Sentinel” had someone do it and the FBI has had someone do it.
O’MARA: Is that part of your investigation?
O’MARA: Has that given any insight as to the voice?
O’MARA: Did Trayvon Martin’s mom identify that voice as soon as she heard it or were there concerns as to the identity of that voice?
GILBREATH: I did not speak with her.
(END LIVE FEED)
Naturally, CNN would cut to commercial during this very important line of questioning. This investigator actually did rely on the one-sided reporting of the Orlando Sentinel. This is amazing to me. That analysis consisted of comparing an unknown scream to George Zimmerman’s known voice. Within the field of voice attribution and voice forensics, comparing screams to voices is by no means precise. Few if any studies have touched this aspect of voice stress testing. Another expert, Ed Primeau, based his analysis on the fact that he believed that the voice heard screaming was not that of a full-grown adult man but, instead, the voice of a teenager in the midst of puberty. This assumes that the 17 year-old, six-foot plus Trayvon Martin – seemingly sexually active and engaging in all sorts of adult-like behaviors – still had the crackly voice of a pubescent teen.
If the prosecution is partly relying on a newspaper’s reporting of what two contracted voice experts told them, then their case is thin indeed.