Thursday, April 19, 2018

Experts won't share theories on screams

SANFORD — The judge in the murder trial of George Zimmerman said Saturday that prosecution audio experts who point to Trayvon Martin as screaming on a 911 call moments before he was killed won't be allowed to testify at trial.

The screams are crucial pieces of evidence because they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation before Zimmerman fatally shot the unarmed teenager. Martin's family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman's father has said it was his son.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled that the methods used by the experts aren't reliable. But her ruling doesn't prevent the 911 calls from being played at trial.

She reached the decision after hearing arguments that stretched over several days this month on whether to allow testimony from two prosecution experts. One expert ruled out Zimmerman as the screamer and another said it was Martin. Defense experts argued there was not enough audio to determine who the screams are coming from. Zimmerman's attorneys also argued that the state experts' analysis is flawed.

Opening statements are set for Monday in the second-degree murder trial for the former neighborhood watch volunteer who says he fired on the black teenager in self-defense last year. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty.

The elimination of the audio experts will likely shorten the trial by a week. Before the ruling, attorneys had predicted the trial could last two to four weeks after opening statements.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors didn't immediately return an email Saturday.

Audio experts from both sides testified at different times during the hearing, which stretched over three weeks. Voice experts were hired by lawyers and news organizations to analyze the calls, which were made during the confrontation between the two. The experts arrived at mixed conclusions.

In deciding whether to admit the voice-recognition technology used by prosecution audio experts Tom Owen and Alan Reich, Nelson had to determine whether it is too novel or whether it has been accepted by the scientific community at-large.

"There is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable," the judge said in her ruling.

Owen was hired by the Orlando Sentinel last year to compare a voice sample of Zimmerman with screams for help captured on 911 calls made by neighbors. He said Zimmerman's voice doesn't match the screams. He only compared Zimmerman's voice to the 911 calls because he didn't have a voice sample for Martin at the time.

"The screams don't match at all," Owen testified during the hearing. "That's what tells me the screams aren't George Zimmerman."

Reich testified in a report for prosecutors that the screams on the 911 tapes were from Martin, and the defense does not want him to testify at trial.

Reich's analysis also picked up words that other experts couldn't find. They include the words, "This shall be" from Zimmerman and "I'm begging you" from Martin.

Reich's testimony would "confuse issues, mislead the jury," the judge said.

In contrast, a British audio expert testified for the defense that it would be extremely difficult to analyze voices by comparing screaming to a normal voice.

"I've never come across a case in my 13 years where anybody's tried to compare screaming to a normal voice," said audio expert Peter French.

A second audio expert for the defense, George Doddington, also criticized prosecution experts who said Friday that screams and pleas on a 911 recording likely belonged to Martin.

"It's all ridiculous," Doddington said.

Comments
Investment firms winning Florida pension business fund Rick Scott’s political committee

Investment firms winning Florida pension business fund Rick Scott’s political committee

From a new report by the highly regarded campaign finance watchdog group Maplight:…Scott, a Republican, began chairing the New Republican PAC in May 2017 and announced his former campaign manager would serve as its executive director. Soon afte...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

PINELLAS PARK — A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 a.m. Austin Montgomery, 23, was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

TAMPA — Developers on Thursday detailed plans for what they touted as the tallest building on Florida’s west coast, with condominiums priced in six and seven figures and a shimmering glass design they say would stand out in the skylines of New York, ...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Federal regulators are poised to impose a $1 billion penalty on Wells Fargo for a number of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need, according to people briefed on the regulatory action. The ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Hernando County commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

Hernando County commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, 71, was arrested Thursday by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on multiple prostitution-related charges.Nicholson was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on one count of opera...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are asking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home and confronted the owners with a knife.According to Largo police, the man entered about 3:40 a.m. a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road holding a large black knife...
Updated: 1 hour ago
GOP gubernatorial debate set for June 28 in Orlando

GOP gubernatorial debate set for June 28 in Orlando

The 2018 Republican candidates for governor of Florida will meet in a primary debate on June 28 in Orlando.The debate, which will begin at 6:30 p.m., is sponsored by Fox New Channel and the Republican Party of Florida, according to a statement from t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

TAMPA — A Leon County judge sentenced the son of former Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin on Monday to 60 days in jail for a role in the November hazing death of a 20-year-old Florida State University student. Christopher Hamlin, 20, was one o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken ankle he sustained in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in jeopardy.General manager Jason Licht said Beckw...
Updated: 1 hour ago