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. pee

    By Zimmerman called police,to me,it automatically means he could not continue any physical contact like argue, and etc. with martin.So why did Zimmerman still persued martin and eventually shot him,whereby he knew his qualifications was not up to the level of the police whereby he can interview and arrest.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • carl

      What? Is that supposed to be English?

      April 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      From the very beginning things were not done right. From the start we have seen SO MANY TIMES pics of a cute 8 to 10 yr. old kid, just walking with skittles and a beverage ..... of course people are going to be outraged! Turns out that this was no cute little kid and it has gotten so out of hand that celebs are tweeting addresses and voicing their opinions on something they know nothing about, STOP trying to get on the band wagon and let the authorities do their investigation! All I hear on TV is that Zimmerman is a racist .... WHEN DID HE MAKE ANY KIND OF REFERENCE TO THE "PERSONS" RACE ? All I see in TV is that AfroAmericans are being racist against anybody ! They are racist against Zimmerman ! Hey? Is anyone going to hold a protest against the white guys that beat and ran over the guy for being black? It can't get any more racist than that ???? Are we waiting for Oprah to say something? Why hasn't Spike Lee tweeted these white guyses home addresses ? If there is any hatred for an african american put into action is this .... whole bunch of guys involved and 2 were put on trial ...doesn't anybody care ?? Where's J. Jackson ??

      April 2, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    Duke Lacrosse all over again, the black community and their left wing supporters will not be trusted again, ever.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♔Mmmmm♕

      ...an imf struass-kahn supporter!

      April 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • dphockey13

      Your an ignorant joke. There is no comparison to Duke Lacrosse here. This time, the victim cannot tell his side of the story because he got killed by a wannabe mall cop.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Are you on drugs? there is no comparison! Damn!

      April 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • YogerTheOgre

      Spoken like a true narcissist in his own little narrow minded world.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dribble

    Zimmerman is guilty, all evertything that comes out will prove it.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • CTStorm

      Everything else ? I imagine you said it that way because so far....NOTHING that has come out has proven that Zimmerman is guilty of anything other than self defense.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HLC

    I still don’t understand how a man who was not afraid to assault a police officer a few years ago, a man who volunteered for the job of neighborhood watch captain, a man who pursues a stranger both in a car and on foot, and a man who walks around with a loaded weapon becomes so afraid of an unarmed teenager? How does someone whose past appears to be one of fearlessness, become so scared as to use deadly force against a 17 year-old unarmed teenager?
    If Mr. Zimmerman abandoned his pursuit, why did he turn his back on someone who he believed was so dangerous, long enough to get attacked? None of this makes any sense.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dphockey13

    Zimmerman is at least guilty of manslaughter. Stand your ground does not apply when you pursue and confront. If anything, Trayvon was standing his ground when threatend by the mall cop.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♔Mmmmm♕

      uh-uh first degree....

      April 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Abstractaxon

    Zimmerman is a liar!! Or is the excuse these experts are wrong?? F'n liar!!

    April 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      YES!... daddy won't be able to save him THIS TIME...WE ARE WATCHING

      April 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Julie

    The longer this takes the more people become restless. I wonder why the investigation is taking so long, why the chief had to step down? I am not at all comfortable with the thought that all was done properly, to begin with. If it was my kid I would have done the same. Without the media attention (good or bad) we would not be here. I am a white mother who feels something STINKS with this case!

    April 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparkiez

      I agree 100%. Sounds like that city is bankrupt and cant afford any kind of competent people to do an investigation? GZ was judge jury and executuioner! Why didnt the cops take any evidence or facts or anything? They wait until they get GZ back at the station to look him over? Where are the murder scene photos, impressions in the grass, scuff marks on the sidewalk, If GZ got his head cracked on the sidewalk then their would be blood on the concrete. Also Trayvons cell phone conversation and information is from when to when? What did the store employee say about Trayvon that sold him the Skittles etc? What did the cop that looked GZ over at the station have to say about Georges face, back nose etc?

      April 2, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. puzzled dude

    With the criptic grammer I'm seeing, it's apparent that 50% of the people posting here are either f.ru.c..k@ing stupid, or they didn't gratuate from elementary school!

    April 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jokersmoker

      So you mean grammar?

      April 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • baby nikki

      I'm assuming your right in that category too...graduate is not spelled gratuate

      April 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      Ummm they're liberals. What do you expect?

      April 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      And yet you cannot spell grammar????

      April 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Freddie Nerk

    Only a vigilante force will save America from these gun toting right wing nut jobs. Its time those who believe in liberty and real freedom took the matter in their own hands.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Troy Noren

    it does not take this long for an investigation even by a special prosecutor. there isnt that much evidence to sift through.
    whats taking so long is figuring out the strategy for telling the race hustlers and blacks who follow them that it was a justified homicide and that there will be no charges.

    a team of experts is working on a strategy to stop the riots at the start of the riots. they know this will happen from other cases where law enforcement was caught off guard. its standard for blacks to loot and kill.

    they know there will be riots and they are putting together a strategy to stop the riots right at the start. and thats what is taking so long.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      So if Zimmerman is never charged, or if charged defends himself successfully, will the black community be happy that the legal system ran its course, or will they behave like animals and riot? Let us see who is civilized here. If they riot it will be clear. If Zimmerman had been black we would not even see this in the papers.....it would just be a regular event.... please let the special prosecutor do her job – she is an expert and if she finds a crime she will arrest, if not she will move on.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • baby nikki

      You got this all figured out I see...a thorough investigation takes time...but you obviously can not comprehend that...

      April 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Unless you are a licensed attorney, a judge, or prosecutor, then you really are just guessing.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Troy Noren

    trying to post something on here is impossible. dupicate comment when i havent even made one........w t f

    April 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PhilG.

    This is the stupidest information to come out of this tragedy yet.

    The audio guy CAN'T PROVE ANYTHING.


    April 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Abstractaxon

    Zimmerman killed a kid, should be in jail. His statement to police was not fact. That's what many are upset about. If I kill someone, even if I claim self defense; I would be in custody. Hell I would say I was yelling too if I knew I followed someone got in a scuffle, got beat up and found it was a 17 year old kid I was beat up by... And I had to shoot because I was inferior in the scuffle... HE SHOT A 17YEAR OLD....THAT SHOULD NOT BE DEAD RIGHT NOW.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      Actually, if you kill someone, claim self defense and the police believe that is actually the case, you're going home. No charges, no bail, nothing. The police need probable cause to arrest and hold someone. The mere fact that someone is dead is not cause.

      April 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rod C. Venger

    In fact, this analysis is akin to proving a negative. What they need is a positive match TO someone...not a supposed exclusion OF someone. In my mind, this guy staked his reputation and then ruined it. His own fault for even going public with it, which says something in and of itself. The proper venue for his opinion was in a prosecutors office, or a grand jury room...not CNN. No...no reputation at all.

    April 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Rod, of course, but that is common sense and the law. These fools think that if someone is dead there will be an arrest. The police must find there is a crime to make any arrest. Self defense/stand your ground can mean no crime exists and thus no arrest is necessary. If Zimmerman's story is correct then there is no crime and there should be no arrest. Self defense/stand your ground against those who may harm you.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • unk nown person

      it's kind of funny that the expert is uncomfortable using scientific words

      April 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • PhilG.

      Absolutely correct.

      And CNN should have been adult enough to state that "The audio engineer has said he can't determine anything for certain with his anaylisis so we are not going to embellish his worthless story by broadcasting it on CNN."

      April 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Troy Noren

    you can tell that so called expert is a drunk just by looking at his face.

    the only way to get that puffy red drunken fish face is from drinking. his capillarys are dialated from years of hard drinking.

    compare his face to normal person who does not drink. this is a guy who has to have alchohol in his system at all times. you dont get a face like that unless you are an alchoholic

    April 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparkiez

      Nice observation..100% correct. Typical I believe for lots of city officials. Hit the downtown bars at closing time for happy hour. Glad I dont live in that city.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ceez

      Not 1, BUT 2 EXPERTS agree that they don't think it's Zimmerman.... am I the only one who thought from the start how strange it was that Zimmerman would be screaming for help if he was that close to firing his weapon and that it makes more sense that Trayvon would've screamed for help once he saw Zimmerman pull out his gun???

      April 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
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