April 2nd, 2012
05:27 PM ET

Analysts: Questions surround 911 call analysis in Trayvon Martin case

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 shooting Martin on February 26. He said the 17-year-old accosted him after he called police to report Martin as a suspicious person walking around his neighborhood.

But the analysis poses some questions, legal analysts say, including whether it would be ruled admissible in court if charges are filed and the case goes to trial.

Audio experts Tom Owen and Ed Primeau analyzed the recordings for the Orlando Sentinel, and both said they believed it was not Zimmerman screaming.

"There's a huge chance that this is not Zimmerman's voice," said Primeau, a longtime audio engineer who is listed as an expert in recorded evidence by the American College of Forensic Examiners International. "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."

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.

And CNN and HLN legal analysts Beth Karas and Sunny Hostin raised questions about what the public should consider regarding the conclusions reached.

Hostin says there are several questions and variables that must be considered, including the fact that the tests did not analyze similar speech. That is, the analysis was based on screams heard from a distance in a 911 call, compared with a direct phone conversation Zimmerman had with a 911 operator.

"Ideally, you want (Zimmerman or Martin's) voice saying the same exact thing, screaming 'help,' in order to analyze it," she said.

Would these tests even be admissible in court and considered evidence?

"It really depends on the individual judge," Hostin said. "In Florida, they are going to conduct a Frye test, the legal test, which asks if the science is generally accepted in the community."

Karas questioned whether the test stood up to the voice comparison standards of the American Board of Recorded Evidence, of which Owen is chairman emeritus.

 The standards indicate that when analyzing speech, there should be a minimum of at least 10 words to be compared with each other in order to say you can have a "possible elimination" conclusion. But in this case, the cries for help don't have nearly that number of words.

Owen said the published American Board of Recorded Evidence standards only partially apply to the kind of test he conducted.

"These standards apply to the older aural-spectrographic analysis and software," Owen said. "This only partially applies to the biometric software."

Both Karas and Hostin urged caution when it came to coming to a sure conclusion on the findings made by Primeau and Owen.

"I do think we need to take a step back, as with most of the facts in this case, and look at it the way the court would," Hostin said. "And that is by asking if the circumstances of how, and if, the test was done, OK, and wait to determine whether it's reliable."

– CNN's Greg Botelho and Mike Pearson contributed to this report.

soundoff (560 Responses)
  1. Kassie

    Im just looking for the case to go to trial and facts presented and a decision made about the fate of Zimmerman. Thanks to justice and people who believe in justice in this country or we might not have heard of this killing. On some level, we should all be proud that we are in a country where we don't have public hangings and group murders of the first colonies years ago. The thought of that kind of mob mentality and burning down whole towns in this country is deep in its foundation, and I shudder at the thought of it ever returning. Please hurry up April 10th... I want this over for good!

    April 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. michelle

    I know how it feels to be profiled as people did that to us in Marietta GA. December 30, 2011 late morning me and my daughter were at the Goodwill on Roswell rd. in Marietta GA. shopping for clothes. Five minutes after we entered the store a white cop with black hair came in and stood right behind me in every isle and even at the cash register. He was so close up on me that I thought he was going to grab me. He stayed until we paid for our clothes and then he left. We were in the store for an hour. We are black of course, and we looked so homeless and like we did not have a dime to our names.

    We were and are very nice and educated people who love and are involved in the arts and education. We were and still are having a hard time trying to find a safe area to settle in before she goes to college that we can afford. This is my daughter: a 3.18 GPA person who graduated from high school one year earlier than everyone else out of one of the BEST high schools in Washington DC, she made history for that, a person who has never been in trouble with the law, she does not date , as never been suspended from school, studies Chinese and other languages, she is a great artist, good with computers, a great historian, excellent in all of her studies, she loves to read and she never curses. This is who Marietta GA profiled. All of this just because we are black and looked so poor!!!

    April 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • cardcarrier

      I know what you mean. where I live, I cant even go to my car without being called a number of racial slurs by groups of men who have no jobs, and only aspire to get drunk and high all day long. When Im on the drive to work, I always have to be alert, since there is a lot of carjackings here. A few months ago, I was hit on the back of the head with an empty beer bottle, in the middle of the day. Four men jumped me, and they took my wallet, and stomped on my chest a few times. If it wasnt for a car stopping, they might have beat me to death.

      The real kicker. Im white, and they were black. It goes both ways. Black people are not the only ones who get treated like that. I cant even drive into downtown without taking a 12 mile detour around certain parts of the city, because I will most likely get robbed or shot. Do you think anyone would feel the same remorse for me as they do for you?

      April 4, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • cardcarrier

      Also, I am a proud concealed weapons permit holder. I wasnt carrying that day because I was right in front of my house. If I had my pistol on me, I would have used whatever force I had to to stop the threat.

      April 4, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • John Garrison

      Unbelievable. Did you contact the Department of Justice? I guess we can infer from your story that all white people in the U.S. are racist. How will you ever be able to carry on with your life knowing that a white security guard in Marietta, GA thought you may have shoplifted? At the very least, Reverend Al and Jessie should call for a national boycott of all Goodwill stores. What a horrible experience.

      April 4, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kassie

    So sad,you didn't look poor. Cobb County is well known for profiling and racist police officers. They have a slogan for Cobb County police officers. What made you move to Cobb County???? 97% Caucasian... You and your daughter stand out like a sore thumb!

    April 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kassie

    Take a trip to Kennesaw's main street and see a real live KKK local town store still standing alive and well right around the corner from the police department. They have very colorful window advertisements of OLD America and how it still exist in many places.

    April 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • elle

      That is so offensive that they even even have KKK show. I am white and I know where I am not moving. They would certainly not appreciate a woman who speaks her mind and is so tired of the racism in this United States!

      April 3, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. latries giddings

    i think people fail to realize that no matter the colour we still would have had a very owful case in which one of our youth would have been murdered, this in it self is bad, but the fcact that the local authorites were grossly negligent only adds to the tragedy

    April 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jesfrey

    Have you seen or spoken to Mr. Zimmerman since this inccident? "No mam" LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. xweaponsofmassdistractionx

    I've got an idea! Why don't we get all the whites, blacks, browns, etc. together and have a race war until only one race remains. We might as well just get it over with already. This story is a farce! It's complete BS! Stop fighting over it! You sheeple are so %$#@ing stupid! The government will just use this to take our guns, or worse initiate martial law in this country. Read up on the NDAA and Agenda 21 if you don't understand what I'm saying. Educate yourselves and unite before it's too late.

    April 3, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dr D. A. Smith

    In all of the discussion over this disturbing and sad case, it is very disheartening that to my knowledge no one has addressed these issue:

    1. Mr Zimmerman use instructed not to pursue – this made him the aggressor
    2. Mr Martin therefore had the right to stand his ground NOT Zimmerman
    3. There is a law in this country to follow a peace officer's instructions once Zimmerman violated that law, any resulting actions he took would have been illegal

    With that being said, why is Zimmerman Free?

    April 4, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • cardcarrier

      911 operators are not police, and hold no authority over civilians.

      Zimmerman lost sight of Martin, at which time he could have went home if he was so scared of the guy following him. Yet, he returned to Zimmerman, uttering any self defense claim that Martin could claim.

      See how that works?

      April 4, 2012 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      1. A dispatcher suggested that Mr Zimmerman not follow Trayvon Martin. A dispatcher is NOT a policeman and has NO authority. In this case, the dispatcher was actually thinking of Zimmeriman's safety since he WAS the neighborhood watch person and had a reaston to be at the GATED community. However, when Zimmerman was told he shouldn't follow TM, he had lost sight of him anyway so he stopped and started back to his SUV.

      2. When Trayvon Martin noticed he was being watched, he ran initially, but when he realized he was no longer being followed, he circled around to confront Zimmerman. When he discovered Zimmerman wasn't a cop, he attacked him, knocking him to the ground and started pounding his head on the sidewalk which resulted in Zimmerman sustaining a broken nose and a gash on the back of his head (confirmed by medical reports).

      3. To avoid being beaten to death, Zimmerman acted in self defence and shot Trayvon Martin.

      With that being said, why is Zimmerman Free? – When someone is trying to beat you to death, and has already broken your nose and continues to beat you, you may decide, at some point, that person intends to kill you. At that point you may take WHATEVER means necessary to stop the attack. This is the law and that is why the neighborhood watch person is still alive and has not been charged with a crime. Trayvon committed a crime, broke the law and received his due justice on Feb. 26.

      April 4, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      You don't need to do that is not a demand that he not. Major difference here according to some of the reposts Zimmerman had started back to his vehicle and the young man attached him. I happen to believe that report. Time will tell as they weed through all the evidence. You believe what you want to right?

      April 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      He is free because he did not break the law. He was protecting himself from an attack.

      April 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • frespech

      DASmith, he is free because nothing you spoke of had any bases in fact. End of story. Next Question?

      April 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      The dispatcher said "we don't need you to do that" regarding Zimmerman following Martin. Zimmerman said "Okay", and there is no evidence that he continued to follow.

      April 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dott

    Now they are shooting people at random in Sanford. Ahh the Jungle Mentality is alive and well. After all these centuries they still think that they are in Africa where they kill other tribe members. Sickening.

    April 4, 2012 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Al

      This is a very racist statement. People like you promote the problems among the races in this country. No matter what evidence is presented, you have already made up your mind. Why bother to even dial 911 if you have no intentions of taking their advice? He should've just chased the kid down in the beginning and shot him. I would have more respect for Zimmerman if he had done that. But to hide behind a lousy self-defense claim is just cowardly. You have no blood from your badly injured head or broken nose anywhere on you upon arriving at the SPD. No medical records to substantiate your story have been made available to the public. Where are the pictures that I'm sure SPD took to clear themselves of why they believed your self-defense claim in the first place? How do you explain the Verizon Wireless phone records from the girlfriend who Trayvon was on the phone with that prove the called ended two minutes before the gunshot was heard. There was no time for a so called scuffle.

      April 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shirley

    This is such a tragedy for many lives. A young boy will never grow up to be a man because his life was taken from him. The shooter's life will never be the same. This is why that kind of situation needs to be left to the police, who have training. Stand your ground law is ridiculous and causes normal people to turn to vigilantism. Put a gun in an average person's hand and you have a recipe for disaster...this was just so unnecessary and it breaks my heart to see what it has done to so many people!

    April 4, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      I happed to hope that law stands. When someone is attacked they have every right to defend themselves. If the young man was really on his way to visit someone as reported. He could have simply stated so and went on his way. But over reaction was in the young black man who thought that he was being pushed. Teach your children to respect authority – above all adults – when someone is in charge of a situation don't stand there in difiance. Leave as soon as possible. Did this happen I don't think so.

      April 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Candy

    I read an article not long ago and when the Civil War ended Lincon wrote a note recommending that all the freed slaves be urged to leave the U.S. He wanted to form a new colony in Belize. He wrote that Central America would be an ideal location because of the climate of their native land. He wanted it to be voluntary and not force anyone to leave. He stated that not to leave was selfish on the blacks part. His belief was that blacks and whites could not co-exist in the same nation. He did not know that over 100 years later he was correct. This is an example of blacks VS whites.

    April 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I have to agree with him on this subject. There is so much bitterness over things that happened so long ago that it will never be different. As in this case – if you are black you refuse to even consider that maybe Zimm.... told the truth and he did shoot in self defense. If you are white then you only believe that he was justified in the shooting.

      April 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Clydene

    In the above tape of the 911 call, when Mr. Zimmerman's voice goes up a bit on the "guy", it does sound a bit like the scream at a higher pitch. The scream that is the unbearable higher pitch, probably when his head hit the concrete. Concrete doesn't give like grass and soil......or even a fist...

    April 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. xweaponsofmassdistractionx

    I've got an idea! Why don't we get all the whites, blacks, browns, etc. together and have a race war until only one race remains. We might as well just get it over with already. This story is a farce! It's complete BS! Stop fighting over it! You sheeple are so %$#@ing stupid! The government will just use this to take our guns, or worse initiate martial law in this country. Read up on the NDAA and Agenda 21 if you don't understand what I'm saying. Educate yourselves and unite before it's too late. None of you will even care about this in a few weeks anyway. You'll forget all about it as soon as a shiny new story comes out. Just stop!

    April 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • uKnewit2

      sounds like a really dumm plan

      April 4, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • xweaponsofmassdistractionx

      We'll see how funny you are when you're sitting in a FIMA camp somewhere.

      April 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. uKnewit2

    There will never br any kind of peaceful coexisting of blacks and other races , untill the blacks of today realize that the people of the world today had nothing to do with or about those things that went on 2 to 3 hundred years ago .

    April 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. taf

    So I guess if black folks stop shooting themselves and started shooting scared white people all in the name of'standing your ground' white folks will then change the law.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spence

      This isn't about ethnic background. It's about stupidity. When you get two or more stupid people in the same place at the same time then stupid things happen.

      April 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • J Rich

      You all know that none of this has anything to do with race. Humans have never needed a reason to hate. If you were to go back into all of the people that it takes to make a person that is alive today. This is what you will find. There was some gay's,nut's,smart,blind,every kind of a person from all over the world from the start of time. We are all mixed. The problem is oppression. It cuts both ways. If everyone would tell it like it is about oppression we would all be on the same page. The ones who will not do this keep it going." It was a wonderland in Europe " The kings and queens were great to us for all of that time " America was just something to do for us " The reason that there is an America. Is that no one learns to like oppression. Tell the truth about your history and all this will end ;)

      April 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
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