I’ve finally been able to review the testimony of the remaining two scientists, which provided at least one significant insight into the prosecution’s probable tactics–and their obvious desperation.
There is no doubt that the prosecution intends to rely heavily on a portion of the narrative that essentially goes like this:
P: “Zimmerman was profiled and chased Trayvon Martin down and murdered him in cold blood, so he never yelled for help…”
D: “But Zimmerman’s clothing indicated he was on his back on the wet ground–just like he said–and he had a broken nose and marks on his head and face and bleeding lacerations on the back of his head. Those support his contention that Martin punched him in the nose and repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk…
P: “Shut up…”
D: “…and the prosecution’s investigator admitted under oath that the prosecution has no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s story…”
P: “…(shouting) and so it must have been Martin yelling for help, and now we know it had to be him because he hadn’t reached puberty yet and his voice hadn’t changed! So there, nyaaaah!”
Dr. John Peter French:
Dr. French appeared via videophone from his laboratory in the United Kingdom (video here). Like Dr. Nakasone (Update 31) Dr. French’s credentials and experience are impeccable. Not only is he in private practice in his field–and clearly an authority around the world–he is also an academic currently supervising masters and doctoral students. He has trained the Secret Service and the FBI. He was also, like Dr. Nakasone, able to speak to complex scientific issues with simplicity and clarity. He is a very good and likeable witness.
At first, one might think his standards somewhat at odds with those of Dr. Nakasone, but they are actually in harmony and representative of good science. He noted that there are three standards he and his fellow scientists apply:
(1) Is the sound quality adequate? This refers to such issues as background noise, the bandwidth of the signal, etc..
(2) Is the sample sufficiently long?
(3) Are there distinctive or unusual vocal qualities?
He noted that he does not apply an absolute minimum duration or number of works, because the category of unusual vocal features may allow good results despite a short sample or poor sound quality. He explained that his firm (which works for the prosecution about 80% of the time) rejects from 15% to 20% of all submissions because of poor quality or insufficient duration.
Regarding screaming or shouting, French was absolutely clear and decisive. He said shouting or screaming are very different than speech:
Shouting is not merely speaking made louder.
It’s pretty much axiomatic within the community that you can’t compare screaming with speech.
Donald West asked for research on this issue and French spoke of a doctoral student he supervised whose dissertation was exactly on that subject. He explained that her research proved that screams can’t be compared with speech because screaming changes pitch, vowel resonance, and changes other variables in ways that cannot be accounted for in later analysis. He further explained that with screams and shouts, vowels and consonants change, and they cannot be compared with normal speech.
West inquired specifically about the Zimmerman case. French explained that the 911 recording “isn’t even remotely” proper for speaker comparison purposes. He said that if it had been submitted to his lab, it would have been immediately rejected. He explained that it failed to meet any standards:
There can’t be any meaningful findings.
Regarding Dr. Reich’s testimony and report, specifically that derived from voiceprint analysis, he said:
I don’t know any serious scientist anywhere that would condone it…it’s not even reliable with normal speech.
Speaking generally to Dr. Reich’s testimony and analysis, he said:
There are a number of things about it I find disturbing.
He spoke to an area that was not outlined in the video of Dr. Reich, which, considering the almost unintelligible nature of his audible testimony, is not surprising. Apparently Dr. Reich tried to analyze Martin’s vowel resonance and suggest that the higher pitched voice in the screams had to be his because the pitch would suggest a greater length of the speech production mechanism. Reich even came up with a formula of human growth that would suggest it had to be Martin. French said that there is no methodology to determine a speaker’s age from screams. He said that screaming was “not age-related at all.”
French also listed some of the words and phrases Reich claims to hear in the brief recording, such as:
“There shall be,”
“Let me up,”
“get off me,”
French said that he could not hear any of these as speech. He believes that what Reich heard as speech is nothing more than random noise, screams, breathing or other artifacts of the recording. He said:
I can’t accept any of these as speech.
He explained that his firm exercises caution in their work because it’s possible to “hear” what’s not actually there.
French said that when Reich claims to have heard both Zimmerman and Martin in the 911 call, he cannot hear what Reich heard. He explained that when Reich said he was able to hear these things via amplifying them, that amplifying a signal merely makes it louder, it does not improve it. “Those are not speech,” he explained.
Under cross examination by Mr. Mantei, French explained that none of the processes used by Owen and Reich would produce a meaningful or reliable conclusion. He particularly singled out the biometric approach–the basis of Owen’s conclusions–as being particularly unreliable.
It was then that Mantei gave a preview of prosecution tactics. He quizzed French about voice quality as affected by puberty, or the lack thereof. French agreed that the voice does change, particularly in young men, and that the change normally took place from 12-16 years of age. Martin was 17 when he died.
Mantei’s questions made it clear that the prosecution is considering arguing that Trayvon Martin had not experienced puberty, therefore his voice was still unusually high, therefore it must have been him screaming for help!
This indicates that the prosecution realizes that the audio analysis evidence is running against them, and in spectacular manner. However, such an argument is fraught with danger for the prosecution. Who would testify to this? If there is a doctor ready to so testify, and there is no indication of this from the prosecution, this would be yet another egregious discovery violation. Of course, Judge Nelson has done nothing to stop such violations, nor has the prosecution suffered any sanctions, so why not? The prosecution could put Martin’s mother or father on the stand to testify to this, but that would open the door to all kinds of testimony the prosecution absolutely doesn’t want any jury to hear. They could put some of Martin’s friends on the stand, but the same problem would apply. That the prosecution is even considering sinking to such a bizarre and weak argument reveals, yet again, the upside down nature of this case.
Dr. George Doddington:
Dr. Doddington is an electrical engineer with an interesting background. He worked primarily in private industry, but for many years he also worked with DARPA and the NSA with a top-secret security clearance. His expertise, as he kept repeating, is in the measurement of methodology, or in making sure that methods and experiments work properly and deliver good results.
Doddington is a terrible witness (video here). He is eccentric and impulsive, frequently refused to answer O’Mara’s questions–he is a defense witness–rambled on interminably about his own agenda and research, loved to tell war stories and constantly wanted to go off-topic. He was not, like Dr. Nakasone and Dr. French, able to explain (or was simply unwilling to explain) scientific concepts in easily-understood language, and was actually quite arrogant and unlikeable. While O’Mara was able to get a few useful tidbits from him, it took nearly two hours on the stand to produce very little of use.
I can only imagine that O’Mara and West were caught like this because the prosecution’s malfeasance has left them with insufficient time to prepare every witness. Doddington should never have taken this long; he might have been better ignored entirely.
Referring to the very short samples Owen used, Doddington said:
Doing speech recognition on one second of good speech to any degree of reliability is absurd.
He explained that screaming has a very adverse effect on the ability to properly compare it:
It destroys it.
He noted that he’d defer to Dr. French on that issue. French also agreed that screaming cannot be meaningfully compared to normal speech.
O’Mara asked his opinion of Owen’s looping a very short segment of speech together to get a minimum sample length. Doddington replied:
Doing that is ridiculous. You’re not adding anything. On what basis could you say that would improve the performance?
The prosecution had no cross-examination. I suspect they thought Doddington did enough damage without their input, and they may be right to at least a small degree. Using Doddington would be a mistake. French and Nakasone are, factually and scientifically, more than sufficient and far better witnesses.
In this area of evidence, the case is again upside down. Normally, it is the reputable scientists that testify on behalf of the prosecution. They have the facts, which fit the prosecution’s case. There are no bizarre methods and theories based on puberty presented. It is normally the defense that comes up with unusual, implausible theories, and half-baked “experts” whose methods are not scientifically sound, and whose conclusions are unreliable.
Consider Dr. Reich who is clearly hearing things on the 911 tape, things he will not be able to reproduce for the jury–or anyone else–to hear. He is a rambling, nearly incoherent witness, and his minimum standard for analysis was also incoherent:
More than a vowel’ and ‘more than a consonant’ but ‘not quite a vowel and a consonant,” which he summed up by saying he had no minimum length of sample and no minimum number of words.
Consider Mr. Owen, whose credentials and experience don’t come close to those of Dr. French and Dr. Nakasone. His claim that pitch makes no difference in comparison was obliterated by Dr. French and Dr. Nakasone, and even by Dr. Doddington. He eventually admitted that he can cite no research supporting his method of comparing screams with normal speech and admitted that he had no idea if it had ever been done by anyone else.
Not only does Owen have a direct financial interest in producing results favorable to his clients with the software on which he receives a substantial commission, he admitted that he willingly violates his own stated minimum analysis standards “to make a determination.” He’ll deliver the goods for his client regardless of whether science stands in the way (see Update 31).
On the other hand the defense has Dr. French and Dr. Nakasone. Not only are they excellent, likeable witnesses, they are careful and sober scientists whose dedication to fact and truth is obvious and admirable. Even though they cannot say that the voice screaming on the 911 recording is George Zimmerman, their testimony does not contradict his account and their honesty helps the defense immeasurably. Their testimony absolutely destroys the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.
Judge Nelson absolutely should not allow Owen or Reich to testify. Their methods are unreliable and not accepted within their subset of the scientific community. Owen is not, in fact, a scientist, though he plays one in court. They are plainly not qualified to testify as experts, and the “evidence” they would offer is incompetent, unreliable and prejudicial. Allowing them to testify would add yet another excellent argument to the list of reversible errors O’Mara and West are surely compiling. I expect her to allow their testimony and to try to restrict defense cross-examination.
A common defense trick is the “anything’s possible” ploy. They use this to try to claim there is reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case. “You can’t discount the possibility that it was Trayvon Martin screaming for his life,” they’ll argue, “anything is possible.” In making that argument, they will be dishonorable and deceptive.
Those that have been paying attention will note that the defense has not used this argument and shows no indication of using it. The defense is sticking to the facts, and to the case of the Sanford Police. The truth is that in the real world, anything is not possible. Monkeys are not going to fly from my rear end–ever. George Zimmerman did not punch himself in the nose and repeatedly beat his own head on the pavement. He did not paint himself with stage blood int he seconds before the first officer arrived. The truth embodies the conclusions of the Sanford Police and the local prosecutor, Norm Wolfinger, because those conclusions are based entirely on the evidence, evidence that has not been controverted by anything the prosecution has produced.
Normally, evidence leads to a charge. In this case we have a charge in search of evidence. And for the prosecution, we also have conclusions in search of science.
Perhaps flying monkeys can find it.
UPDATE: About 30 minutes after I posted the original article:
It now appears–and I doubt this will surprise anyone–that the jury pool has been manipulated to place more blacks and women in the jury pool than a truly random selection process could possibly provide. A blatantly pro-narrative activist also lied during voir dire in an attempt to get on the jury, and nearly made it.
It would also be worth your time to visit Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. He has a parallel article on this mess here, and is doing a daily review of events in the courtroom, including a summary of the testimony or prospective jurors, here.
If both of these factors are true, they indicate an attempt–a systemic attempt–at jury packing. Here’s the related Florida Statute:
918.12 Tampering with jurors.—Any person who influences the judgment or decision of any grand or petit juror on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending, or which may by law be brought, before him or her as such juror, with intent to obstruct the administration of justice, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
A third degree felony carries a sentence of five years. They would also indicate perjury, also a third degree felony:
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding in regard to any material matter, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) Whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony, commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) Knowledge of the materiality of the statement is not an element of the crime of perjury under subsection (1) or subsection (2), and the defendant’s mistaken belief that the statement was not material is not a defense.
The man who was almost empaneled, Jerry Counelis, must be carefully and competently investigated and if he did commit perjury–if the elements of the offense fit, must be prosecuted.
At this point, West and O’Mara should be screaming–not only to Nelson–but to the appeals court, for a mistrial and an investigation into the court packing and perjury. How can any reasonable person possibly believe that there is the most minute chance for a fair trial in Florida for this case? Indeed, a fair trial may not be possible anywhere, and it is surely not the fault of Zimmerman or his attorneys.
I suspect–I sincerely hope–there may, with these developments, be behind the scenes scrambling to try to restore some semblance of integrity to the Florida criminal justice system. If not, every citizen in Florida should understand that what is happening to George Zimmerman absolutely could–and likely will–happen to them.
Could this case become any more corrupt and bizarre? Don’t answer that–tomorrow is another day…
PS: Notice at TCT, the narrative lives. The Martin family released a statement today specifically mentioning the now-iconic tea and Skittles. Martin did not buy tea, but a watermelon flavored drink, an integral part of a drug concoction he favored and wrote about on social media (see Update 9 for details). I expect that Judge Nelson will not allow the defense to mention Martin’s drug use.