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. Jeff

    This is a step back in race relations no matter what truth comes out, because Rev. Jackson and Sharpton have stirred the racial pot once again. They are both media hungry, self righteous bigots, that show up when it serves their own self interests. They have whipped up that community in such a state of hate that IF Zimmerman's version of what happened is true, it would not matter. He will still be guilty in the eyes of the followers of the Rev's.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • paulm5545

      Amen

      April 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Howdy 2 u

      But look why do you blame these two? Why dont you blame the Florida State attorneys who should have arrested and charged this guy from the start? Then we have to ask well why didnt they? Were they racist? was there bias involved? What were the state attorney's motive for letting Zimmerman walk?

      April 2, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sophie

      If this had been a whole kid shot by a black men he would have been arrested. Civil rights activist have a right to protest (peacefully). We need to shine the light into these injustices, even if it leads to uncomfortable conversations about race.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Get off it Jeff, it was racial because Zimmerman hurled a racial slur at the deceased which meant he hated him because he was black then he pursued him even after he was ordered to stand down showing additional hatred. Additionally the kid was unarmed as I heard... so how in the "H" do you justify gunnjing down an unarmed person! h, don't forget your racist hero's Limbaugh and other who've been stirring the pot.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CTStorm

    Here's a question. Other than the gunshot wound to the chest....did Trayvon have any other injuries ? Paramedics and the police have reported that George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and lacerations to the back of the head. So if Trayvon was otherwise uninjured, and Zimmerman had injuries, then why on Earth would Trayvon be shouting for "help" while beating the tar out of Zimmerman ?

    April 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • ceez

      IIf Trayvon was beating him so bad, why did the funeral director mention there were no bruises/cuts or any signs on his hands that he'd beaten/punched anyone?

      April 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • eastsidedude

      This is just how things get turned around depending on where you read. Was he shot in the back or chest? There will be an entry wound and an exit wound. Which is which? The question will always be "How do you shoot someone IN THE BACK in self defense?" Seems like is someone is running away so he can be shot in the back you are not in much danger. If that is the case, and Zimmerman was truly attacked, then Zimmerman shot because he had just got his ass whipped by a teenager and couldn't face the chulo's at the bar after getting a beatdown. If it was Martin screaming, it seems like we would hear more than some wild animal screams, like "Someone call the cops. He has a gun." or "A guy with a gun is chasing me." The sound of the screams seems to be coming from one while pain is being inflicted. Was the screaming supposed to be before or after the gunshot? I have read it both ways.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Scott

    IF there is a defense needed for Zimmerman, There will be plenty of "experts" who will claim it was him yelling during the 911 call. This angle is a non- starter. Can we get back to the war on woman now?

    April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mac Iam

    I am looking forward to Law Enforcement reviewing the audio on the 911 call, not some "expert" hired by the media. I see no issue with having the FBI review all the audio/visual evidence, and having the FDLE review the handling of the crime scene by the Sanford PD. These are the experts who are going to count when it comes down to how the Special Prosecutor decides to procede. Until then we are all going to be bombed by the media with speculation and Al, Dick, Ben, Jesse, Spike, The New Black Panthers, The New Black Liberation MIlitia will all continue to spew their racist hate filled messages. The sooner Law Enfocement completes their work the better. No matter what the outcome.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TvNyC

    Listen, you guys are all wrong. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon. He will only serve 10 years because of lack of evidence. This poor kid was a victim of a killer waiting to kill. He had it all planned. He didnt care. He could have left him alone and confronted him while on the phone with the cops. He didnt even follow the orders from the 911 call. this could definitely happen to a white guy too. Or Hispanic,etc. The problem is a killer will kill no matter what. I do think this was a racially profiled killing, but that doesn't mean only black people are racially profiled. We just need to stand up for all good, black, white, hispanic, asian. We are all equal. We all possess special traits. We need to take a deep breath and clean our thinking and love and care for eachother. We dont have to trust them but show eachother that we can trust them because we are all human. Get this guy George do 10 years and 10 years probation and have this family get some relief. Maybe we can think of Trayvon and smile to the sky and hope his soul is with God and we will meet God and Trayvon one day. George should turn himself in or the case will go to trial for murder. If he turns himself in he will do less. He made a mistake. Racist people need to think and accept the fact that we are all sons and daughters of God. We just happen to live in different geographics. God bless us all. We will all live eternal life after death as long as you accept God in your heart.
    FYI I'm a white male.
    We are all God

    April 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      If there's no evidence, why should he spend 1 minute in jail? And why would he turn him self in if he hasn't been charged with anything? Good Grief...

      April 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Freddie Nerk

    After a string of high profile murders where the killer walked, I think prosecutors will be very careful with this one. They would rather not charge Zimmerman than go through a failed trial. This can only be resolved by the public. If you feel enraged, then do something about it yourself. I can see Watts happening again when this killer is let go.

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

    The media in our country are worse than the people in D.C. Come on if they had more on Casey Anthony and thanks to the media she did not go to jail how does anyone in their right mind think Zimmerman gets even a court date..

    April 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ceez

    Has anyone actually examined the so called broken nose enough to tell if it actually came from someone punching him??

    April 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ana

    Florida laws willnot serve justice to innocent, if yo ubeleive in god, just wait for him to punish those responsible.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ceez

    ...bottom line, had Zimmerman simply listened to the 911 operator who told him NOT to follow him, Trayvon would be alive and Zimmerman's nose would be fine...

    April 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • CTStorm

      According to all of the CREDIBLE witnesses and reports so far, it was MARTIN who viciously attacked Zimmerman without provocation. Unless of course.....you consider a member of a neighborhood watch......actually WATCHING his neighborhood as provocation ?

      April 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe Brebeanu

    They have "experts" for every occasion, defence attorneys all ready to serve as prosecutors against GZ,
    crazy guard from "Beyond Trayvon" show. Who is a next clown? Do they think we are idiots?

    April 2, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Not only do they think it, they're banking on it

      April 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. eastsidedude

    This can't be all that hard. If it was Zimmerman, you'd hear "aye carumba". If it was Martin, you'd hear words like mofo, aks, gangsta, doe, conah, brotha......

    April 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Freddie Nerk

    Citizens need to rise and take over justice. Public officials are running away from this case. Zimmerman is getting a free ride out of town. There is only one victim here – Martin.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rrr

    Gimmerman feels like cop. He will think he is a cop. He should not carry gun all the time. He didn't follow 911 call orders. When Martin came back to ask why you are following. May be he punched his nose. Thats all Martin did i think. Gimmerman got angry then he started beating Trayvon. Trayvon was yeilling loudly then Gimmerman got scared he took his gun , he killed martin. We should think Gimmerman is very very wrong. Gimmerman killed 17-years old boy. He should arrest.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • eastsidedude

      Zimmerman was not given "orders" to stop following Martin. The cops said "You don't need to do that." They did not say "Stop following him." They simply said "You don't need to do that." This guy was on block watch, I am a member of block watch where I live. Any car on the street that doesn't belong here is questioned. And when I question them, I am armed and will not hesitate to use my weapon to save my own life. How many of you live in neighborhoods where the young punk hoodies, about Martin's age and dressed like he was dressed, walk around mugging people walking their dog, or calling for pizza and robbing the drivers, or walking in front of cars to slow them down so their "bruthas" can pull the driver out and rob him? That's where I live. And no SOB in a hoodie is going to get the better of me.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shon

    Ok here's the problem I'm having. Travon was on his way to his fathers future wife house so he had every right to be there. Second if this was a black man who shot and killed a white 17 year old boy I wonder if the stupid as stand your ground law would still be in effect. I wonder if all the people who are defending the murder would be on the black man side. I'm going to answer that for all of you.HELL NO!. I came to a realization that this country is more racist than ever before.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
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