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. ♔Mmmmm♕

    ...wolfinger is cya...chief police is cya...police department is cya...zimmerman's brother cya...zimmerman's dad shawdow cya...zimmerman mia and cya...homeowners' and its residents' cya. all these people are protecting their interests with speculations and denials!
    cya = covering their a55e5 mode!

    April 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SAVIOR at WGFN (who gives a fork news)

    It's the law that is wrong like I said it gives people the right to kill just because somebody is a better fighter ....change the law.if Zimmerman acted according to the law then leave him be.if not then lock him up.but change the law this ain't the wild west

    April 2, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gimme-A-Break

      So, it's OK to kill someone if someone is a better fighter?

      April 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • SAVIOR at WGFN (who gives a fork news)

      Well Zimmerman got his but whipped so he said . Didn't he? So he shot him.didn't he? Maybe you missed the point.Zimmerman had a gun.Martin had skittles . It turned into a fist fight Zimmerman lost so he shot him.according to the law he was within his right to do so.the point is the law is flawed and needs to be changed.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. c'mon America

    Crime in california and particularly in L.A. have steadily decreased over the past several years . This is generally true throughout the nation . Of course some states have risen above the national average . Arizona for one . Reread again . The orlando sentinel hired them .

    April 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gracie

    Has anyone given any thought to the fact that if Zimmmerman got out of his car and started following a boy who
    did not know him.... Than wouldn't that account for the fact that Trayvon (if he did attack) was only STANDING HIS

    April 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • cherry

      agree...and he broke his nose because he was defending himself was also a self defense..and zimmerman always changing his stories...remember a fish will be catch from its mouth...they should do a polygraphic test on him...but they wont do that they are all having cover ups...

      April 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      Excellent point Gracie!! Thumbs up. Bottom line, dude followed him and trayvon had absolutely NO WEAPONS ON HIM...

      April 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonboy

      NOOO! that would make too much sense. We only follow people with guns in our pockets when we feel threatned by them. Zimmerman- "I felt threatened!" Cops- "Is that why you followed the "threat" down the street, waiting for him to do something that scared

      April 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. krisskross

    Explain to me: when trayvon was on top of zimmermans upper body straddling him with his legs on zimmermans arms how did he reach from behind trayvons back, bring the gun all the way forward and shot him in the chest. The gun was holstered on his side.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Drasil

    Does anyone actually care if Zimmerman is truly guilty or not? The mob has already found him guilty (thanks to media) and has the rope ready. Hang the guilty bastid...eh? Death by popular vote.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jose

    I'm a hispanic man and in my opinion, this dude needs to be charged and be tried. There are more negatives and holes in zimmerman's story then there are holes in my entire house's walls. Justice man. Zimmerman was WAY over his DAMN head. looks like dude was dying to be a hero. Just like an OVER ZEALOUS cop. What's crazy is also that this dude could have easily become a cop, being the way that he is. Justice mang.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • cherry

      you are right..this is not about racial slur this is about killing mercilessly..and this is also clearly cover ups by the police...they should all go to jail..

      April 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      The problem with your theory that Zimmerman should be charged because his story is flawed flies in the face of innocent until PROVEN guilty: it's not Zimmerman's burden to prove his innocence. The whole situation has too many contradictions to viably charge him at this point.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. xweaponsofmassdistractionx

    This Trayvon Martin case is everywhere, yet I had to go to the London Daily Mail to read about this. Is this really the world we live in? Wake up people. You’re being fed lies on a daily basis. This is all just propaganda to create more racial tension in this country. Don’t get sucked in by these weapons of mass distraction. What about Bob and Nancy Straight?

    April 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. xweaponsofmassdistractionx

    An 85-year-old woman was s3xually assaulted and battered to death by a home invader who also shot her 90-year-old husband in the face with a BB gun. Nancy and Bob Strait, who had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in December, were discovered by their daughter at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Both the pensioners were rushed to hospital where Mrs. Strait, who was nearly blind, died from her injuries. Mr. Strait, who served in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II, suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs and severe bleeding. He is in a serious condition in hospital. Police have arrested 20-year-old Tyrone Dale David Woodfork in connection with the case. The Straits' distraught family today paid tribute to the pair, who grew up in poverty in rural Oklahoma during the Great Depression. They met each other on a blind date on Thanksgiving 1946, married a month later and went on to have six children, 18 grandchildren and about 50 great and great-great grandchildren. They had recently welcomed a great-great-great grandchild. Their daughters Lanora and Andra told Tulsa World that the couple were loving and generous people who would do anything for anyone. 'Dad never talked, and Mama never quit talking,' Lanora said. 'Whatever she did, it came from the heart,' Andra added. The pair could be found sitting on their porch singing and playing the guitar during warmer summer evenings. Mr. Strait, who had worked for the oil derrick supply company Lee C. Moore before retirement, enjoyed woodwork while his wife loved making quilts and baking. They had both been struggling with health problems before the attack. Mr. Strait had been diagnosed with a terminal kidney illness but had outlived the doctor's prognosis. 'He was living because Mother was alive,' Andra told Tulsa World. The couple had had food poisoning the week before the attack. 'There is no one else who has been through what he's been through who is still alive,' Lanora said of her father. 'We pray he doesn't remember.' Tulsa police believe burglars broke into the Straits' home either late Tuesday or early Wednesday last week. They were not found until the Wednesday evening. The home invaders made off with their Dodge Neon, a television and $200. Woodfork was later found hiding in a nearby house after a witness spotted the stolen vehicle being driven down the road. He is being held at Tulsa Jail without bail accused of first-degree murder, burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of armed robbery. 'This investigation is far from over,' Officer Jason Willingham of the Tulsa police department told Tulsa World. 'We've still got a lot of questions that we still need answered.' Mrs. Strait's funeral will be on Friday. The family has set up a fund the Nancy Strait and Bob Strait Support Trust to help pay for the service and her husband's medical care.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • cherry

      so you have long story about this,what is the connection with the cold murder of trayvon by zimmerman...

      April 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • xweaponsofmassdistractionx

      My point is that it's not being reported. Also, the mainstream media is trying to turn this into a race issue. In that case what about these 2 elderly white people who were attacked by a black man.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puhleez

      My god that was so desperate and pathetic. To bring up a totally unrelated case like that. Whatcha trying to say there buddy? That it's ok for Zimmerman to kill Trayvon because blacks kill whites too? Pathetic.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • xweaponsofmassdistractionx

      What’s pathetic is how you completely missed the point of my post. I'm saying it's all BS to keep us divided! People die every day and I honestly don’t give a sh!t about either case.

      April 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dreamer96

    They used voice analysts on the 911 radio calls by the pilots...they use voice analyst to look for Bin Laden..and Al-Qaeda leaders..They used it to caught mob leaders, .it would be accepted in Federal Court, if it was not accepted in the Florida State court..

    April 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      The voice "expert" admitted that there is a 48% chance that it IS Zimmerman's voice on the recording: that's far too high to dispell "reasonable doubt"...the prosecution shouldn't offer the defense that much help....

      April 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Slim_Sammy

    They are all liars. Lock up the Martins and the Zimmermans. Lock up all the media hounds too.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • xweaponsofmassdistractionx

      and boycot this story for what it is.....BS! America doesn't need these kinds of distractions right now.

      April 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Drasil

    Honestly, if this case came to court, and I were on the jury with the evidence I have seen in the media so far, I would find for not guilty due to reasonable doublt.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. EJ

    Really people, would someone getting beaten to death with a gun on there side being hollering for help...no, they would be shooting. That is not Zimmerman hollering for help. Another thing about this case which makes no sense is Zimmermans claim the kid doubled back to attack him....what for?.....would someone on the phone showung fearing that they were being followed getaway and then go back to confront the person they were trying to get away from. Basically, Zimmerman is using the dead man cant talk defense....he is a murderer.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. k dog

    Why is it you need to goto fox news website to find out about this story. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/28/florida-teen-guilty-murdering-2-british-tourists/ These people got lost and were killed because they were white. And check around to see why NBC edited the 911 calls they put on the air. Contrast them to the actual call. Mr. Zimmerman was answering questions, (that were conveniently edited out), not casting aspersions. Whether or not he is guilty, remains to be seen. Remember, innocent until proven guilty. It's a beautiful thing. The bigger crime here is outlets like CNN, MSNBC and all these people fighting for equal rights, don't really want equality. There's no money to be made in an equal society. Keeping everyone mad at each other, that's where the money is.

    April 2, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      I just love how racists bring up stories of black on white crimes at an attempt to lessen the importance of the t m case. All I see are two murderers, one is in jail and one is on the loose. You have to be quite disingenuous to not notice why more attention is being paid to the tm case.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sparkiez

    Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend with earbuds is why he was seemed to be staring etc and acting strange to GZ. How many times have you seen someone walking around in circles talking etc acting weird onlly to see they are talking on a cellphone? GZ got in a roll-around wrestlefest with Martin & why he had grass on his back. Martin wouldnt stop screaming so GZ shot him. He knew the cops were coming and wanted to be the hero saving the community from someone he thought was a thug.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
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