The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
George Zimmerman, defendant in the killing of Trayvon Martin, arrives in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., with his attorney Mark O

Zimmerman family reacts to judge’s exclusion of expert audio testimony

Robert Zimmerman, Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman, released an exclusive statement to The Daily Caller Saturday on Judge Debra Nelson’s decision today to exclude testimony from two state expert witnesses, stating that he and the Zimmerman family “respect the court’s ruling and are relieved the confusion that would have ensued by presenting the State’s witnesses will be avoided altogether.”

Judge Nelson issued a written ruling Saturday morning excluding the testimony of Tom Owen and Dr. Alan Reich, which pertained to the identity of a voice heard screaming in the background of the 911 phone call — the same phone call that captured the sound of the gunshot that killed 17-year-old  Trayvon Martin.

The identity of the person screaming is crucial in determining whether Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Martin in self-defense is true.

Judge Nelson wrote that Owen and Reich “have an interest in the outcome of this issue because it is their methodologies being tested.”

Ultimately, Judge Nelson sided with Zimmerman’s defense: “[The] Court accepts…that reliable comparisons of normal speech to the screams in the 911 call is not possible.”

Zimmerman, Jr. said in a statement that he was not surprised by the state attorney’s pursuit of the witnesses, “considering the ‘conviction by any means’ approach the State appears to be taking.”

A series of experts testified for both sides in the pre-trial hearing, which concluded Thursday after the completion of jury selection.

James Wayman, a biometrics researcher from San Jose State University, was the final expert brought in by the defense.

“I know when to punt,” Wayman told state attorney Richard Mantei in cross-examination on Monday, indicating that the 911 tape wasn’t worth serious scientific analysis. He testified that some of the methods the state’s experts used were “confusing on a number of accounts.”

Wayman was one of four experts brought by the defense to rebut the state’s experts’ claims.  Dr. Peter French, George Doddington and Hirotake Nikosane all testified that there was no known technology to match screaming voices to natural, normal speech.

In his analysis, Owen excluded Zimmerman as the screamer. Owen told the court on June 7 that his exclusion of Zimmerman was “highly probable” rather than a positive determination, and admitted that he earns a commission on sales of the software used in his analysis.

Dr. Reich, a speech scientist formerly from the University of Washington, testified that he had been able to isolate words heard in the background alongside the scream, and determined that the voice was George Zimmerman’s.  Reich attributed those utterances, along with what he said were “religious-sounding phrases,” to Zimmerman.

Mantei sought to establish that the underlying methods used by Owen and Reich were commonly accepted in the field of speech and voice recognition.

However, Judge Nelson ruled that Owen’s and Reich’s methods did not meet any of the elements required by Florida’s Frye standard for the admissibility of evidence and expert testimony.

“The scientific methodologies and techniques using by Mr. Owen and Dr. Reich are not reliable, as they are not sufficiently established and not generally accepted in the scientific community,” Nelson wrote.

Nelson did, however, rule that people familiar with the voices of Zimmerman or Martin could testify as to the identity of the screams heard on the call.

Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, reportedly told police after hearing the 911 call that his son was not the one screaming.  He has since said that he believes that his son was the one screaming in the background of the call.

Zimmerman, Jr. said he has no doubts that the voice heard screaming on the recording came from his brother, adding that ”many members of our family are simply unable to listen to that recording, because it is so disturbing.”

Zimmerman, Jr. also said that he was glad that a full jury was empaneled by Seminole County citizens.

“I think the result will be viewed as legitimate by the community when members of the community are the decision makers,” he said.

Opening statements begin on Monday.

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