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Zimmerman Case: Experts Call State’s Scream Claims “Absurd” “Ridiculous” and “Imaginary Stuff”

Zimmerman Case: Experts Call State’s Scream Claims “Absurd” “Ridiculous” and “Imaginary Stuff”

A Badly Mismatched Battle of the Experts

We covered yesterday’s testimony of the state witnesses at length here, so no point in going over that again.  Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the expert witness testimony of two more of the defense expert witnesses–Dr. J.P. (Peter) French and Dr. George Doddington.  Their testimony today, in combination with Dr. Hirotaka Nakasone’s expert witness testimony last Thursday, seems devastating to the testimony and credibility of the state’s expert witnesses, Mr. Tom Owens and Dr. Alan R. Reich.

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Even based merely on their relative training and experience the defense expert witnesses appear to vastly outclass those brought forward by the State.  For example:

State Expert #1, Tom Owens:  A one-man audio forensics operation whose highest academic degree is a BA in History, who has no formal academic training in speech recognition or speaker identification, whose standards for analysis are self-written and in any case subject to self-violation in order to ensure a “finding”, who uses as his primary speech analysis tool a computerized “biometric” system in which he has a substantial financial stake, and which in any case he has used for less than two years and tested about as an expert witness only once before.

State Expert #2, Dr. Alan Reich, PhD:  A long-retired college professor with an avocational interest in speech recognition and identification who manages to hear words and phrases in audio recordings that cannot be heard by world-leading experts in the field, much less by layman.

Compare and contrast with the defense expert witnesses:

Defense Expert #1, Dr. Hirotaka Nakasone, PhD:  A senior scientist with a 17-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, currently the Head of the Bureau’s Voice Recognition Program,  and the Head of the international working group establishing the first formal scientific standards for speech recognition and speaker identification.

Defense Expert #2, Dr. J.P. (Peter) French, PhD:  Dr. French earned his PhD in the analyses of recorded conversations, he is the Director of J.P. French Associates,  the United Kingdom’s longest established independent forensic laboratory specializing in the analysis of speech, audio, and language with 6 full-time scientific staff, and a Professor in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York.

Defense Expert #3, Dr. George Doddington, PhD:  Dr. Doddington conducted his doctoral thesis on speaker recognition, and since 1970 he has been leading the development and evaluation of speech recognition and speaker identification technologies and methodologies at a wide variety of top-level institutions, including Texas Instruments, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and currently at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).   Interestingly, he was deeply involved in the development of the voice recognition technology used in the F-16 fighter aircraft.

The mismatch in training and experience is obvious.

But training and experience don’t tell the whole story–the actual testimony of the defense expert witnesses is particularly damaging to the State’s expert witness testimony, as I describe in my usual detail below.   This post is long, but if you make it to the end you once again get my bonus CRAZY IDEA OF THE DAY:  The worse the state experts performed, the MORE likely the Judge permits their testimony.

Now let’s get to it.


Dr. J.P. (Peter) French, PhD: “It’s axiomatic in the community that you can’t compare screaming with speech.”


Dr. J.P. (Peter) French

After being established as an expert witness, Dr. French was asked about the procedures used in his offices when a sample is delivered for analysis.  He discussed a lengthy and detailed process involving careful record-keeping, preservation of original samples, and so forth, all signs consistent with a professionally-run organization with established operating procedures.

In assessing a sample for further forensic analysis he said they look at three general parameters.  (1) Will the sample be adequate in terms of quality, considering factors such as background noise, contamination, bandwidth signal; (2) The duration of the recording to see if it provides an adequate representation of speech sound to allow reliable comparison; and (3) looking at how distinctive or unusual the voice patterns appear to be on initial examination.

Interestingly, Dr. French said he would not use any minimal recording length or minimal number of words to decide whether an audio recording was adequate for analysis.  Hypothetically, he said, a very short recording of someone with, say, a heavy foreign accent could be used to exclude a suspect without such an accent.  It really depends on how distinctive or unusual the voice patterns were to be compared.

“It’s pretty much axiomatic in the community that you can’t compare screaming with speech.”

When asked whether a sample recording of someone shouting or screaming would create particular challenges to forensic audio analysis, Dr. French was adamant that they would.  In fact, he said it would be impossible to compare a normal speaking voice to a scream made in distress, or vice versa.

French:  “When people shout, we have to realize that shouting is not simply speaking made louder, people have got completely different vocal settings when we shout than when we speak.  It is very difficult, if someone is genuinely shouting rather than just speaking with a raised voice, to do a comparison.”

West:  “Is it generally accepted by you, your lab, and more broadly in the scientific community that shouting or screaming samples are not suitable for voice comparison.”

French:  “Yes.  I have never come across a case in the 30 years of my career where anybody has attempted to compare screaming, for instance, with normal voice. . . . It’s pretty much just axiomatic in the community that you can’t compare screaming with speech.

West:  “In your lab, if someone gave you an unknown voice where someone was shouting or screaming or shouting or crying out in some way, would you find that extremely difficult if not impossible to analyze?”

French:  “Yes.”

A person’s normal voice tells you nothing about their scream, and vice versa

West:  “Is there some research that you are aware of that has specifically been done on people who are shouting or crying out in obvious distress, as opposed to shouting for attention, the life-threatening situation or the death cry that has sometimes been described.”

French:  “Yes.  I have a PhD student who has just completed her PhD specifically on that topic.  She took distress cries from people who are in extreme distress, or who are in fact in extremis, about to die, or have been fatally wounded, or are in fear of their lives, from real forensic recordings that have been submitted to my lab over the years, and she analyzed the properties of those and compared them where it was possible if there was a sample of speech from the same person, at normal voice levels, she looked at the differences between the death cries and the normal speech of the person.

West:  “Was the research at all encouraging that this could be done or could even move towards being done.”

French:  “While she didn’t look specifically at whether you could compare the two for speaker identification purposes, but the results of that study, if one was to extrapolate from them, would be clearly towards the fact that you can’t, because the way that people react to those situations is very unpredictable.  You can’t say from someone’s normal voice what they are going to sound like under severe attack.  And similarly if you have a recording of someone under severe attack, you can’t move back from that to their normal speaking voice.

A short time later Dr. French explained in great detail exactly why such a comparison is impossible—if you’re not interested feel free to skip the money-quote at the end of the next block of text.  (It’s in bold.).

French:  “If I could loop back a little bit and tell you a bit about how we routinely carry out the analysis in the laboratory, the specific parameters that we analyze them on, I could then tell you which ones you can still examine if someone is  yelling and which ones you can’t.”

West:  “Yes, thank you.”

French:  The method that we carry out and which is very prevalent, in fact we I had a PhD student carry out a survey of voice comparison practices internationally, she surveyed 40 analysts form different countries, 75% use them the combined auditory-phonetic and the acoustic-phonetic methods.

“If I can explain what that means, the auditory-phonetic involves analytic listening.  In other words, you are listening to the speech sample and analyzing them by ear in terms of a variety of different parameters.  This is not like ordinary listening, like you’re doing to me at the moment and I’m doing to you where we’re listening to the content of the speech, what is being said, instead we listen for how it is being said.  Within the auditory-phonetic test we look at how the individual consonant sounds and the vowel sounds are pronounced and we’d be comparing that across the samples.  So, for instance, we might be looking at how the “t”  ‘s consonants are pronounced, the “l” ’s, the “m” ‘s, or whatever are pronounced.  IN order to do this we have a much sharper tool than the Roman alphabet that we all use to read and write with, it wouldn’t really do the job, so we use the international phonetic alphabet which is an extended system of symbols and notations that help you capture the fine grained nuances, the details, of pronunciation and we compare those across the samples.  We would also be listening to the prosody of speech,  in other words the speech rhythms, where the major stresses fall, we would be looking at the rate of speaking, the rate of articulation in syllables per second, we would be looking at the intonation of the speech, the rise hand fall, which is the rise and fall of the pitch of the voice across utterances, the melody of the speech.  We would be attending to the voice quality, the timbre, in other words what sort of voice is it, a creaky voice, breathy voice, a harsh voice, a nasal voice, a de-nasal voice, is there evidence of tension in the larynx when the person speaks [demonstrates], is the larynx being raised or lowered, we would also be looking at the tongue/body orientation, if it’s forward or back.  To carry all this out we would use a scheme, a University of Edinburgh-developed scheme, called the VPA, the Vocal Profile Analysis, which as 38 different settings.  So we would score these values [on all the parameters just described].  So collectively [these all] make up the auditory-phonetic tests, the analytic listening tests that we do.

“In addition to those there is a second group of tests known as acoustic tests or instrumental tests, nowadays these are computer-based tests using specialized software to measure things like the average voice pitch, which is measured as a fundamental frequency, the rate at which the vocal cords are vibrating, that’s estimated by the computer program and averages over a series of utterances and compared across the samples.  We also look at the acoustic resonances within vowel sounds, looking at the frequency with which they occur, the so-called phonemes, and we would be creating overlay graphs to overlay the values obtained from the question recording, the criminal recording, to the recording of the suspect, we would be looking at where the main energy loci were, in other words where the main focus was with consonant sounds like p, t, k , in addition to these sorts of things would be the acoustic tests, measuring physical parameters of the speech signal by the computer program.  In addition to that we would also be taking into account individual habits, such as lip smacking, that sort of thing, and patterns of disordered breathing between utterances, between looking at things such as hesitation markers, the um’s and uh’s of speech, those sort of sounds that people make when they hesitate, we’d be analyzing those by ear and by computer.  We’d be looking at how people simplify speech by missing out or deriding sounds when they are speaking and whether the patterns of elimination were the same in the two samples.  We’d also take into account broader linguistic factors, patterns of terms taken from conversation, whether people used filler sounds such as “ain’t it,” at the end of sentences, like “like”, or “sort of” or that sort of thing.  And really we’d be looking at a whole range of different parameters of the speech, and the speech signal, and also taking into account this broader linguistic information.”

Having describied that incredibly lengthy detailed list of factors taken into account in matching speaking samples, Dr. French delivered the death blow to the Prosecution’s claims about the screaming on the Witness #11 911 tape:

French:  “With screaming virtually none of that [the comparative elements] is available to compare with the normal voice.  You can derive it from the normal voice of the suspect, but it’s the alleged criminal sample of screaming, the sorts of features that we focus on are just not there for comparison.” (emphasis added)

Even if the screaming had lasted for half an hour you could not come up with a result

The blows to the prosecution’s expert witnesses didn’t stop there, even if they were delivered with laughter.  The defense began to focus on the specific screaming in this case, as found on the Witness #11 911 tape, exploring Dr. French’s earlier comment that he did not use any particular minimum duration of a recording

West:  “When you talked earlier about there being no speicif clength of speech that’s necessary, does there have to be enough speech that carries some of these markers that allows you to find these individual, specific identifiers.”

French:  “Yes.”

West:  “So while it may not take two or three minutes, there has to be enough speech of whatever length for you to perform this analysis.”

French: “Yes, and critically it has to be speech and not screaming.”

West:  “Well how much screaming would it take in order for you to do this?”

French:  “Well . . . [laughs out loud] . . . it depends on how extreme the screaming was.  Can I move on to the specifics of this case?  If the screaming in this case had been for several minutes—net screaming—maybe even half an hour, I don’t think you could come up with a result.  [Laughs out loud.]  It’s not something you can specify in terms of length, because if it went on and on and on in exactly the same way as the few seconds we have in the recording in this case it wouldn’t be in the least helpful, it wouldn’t allow us to move to a conclusion, no matter how much of it there was. “(emphasis added)

Biometric systems are not designed to match a normal voice to a scream

West:  “If you were to attempt to do a biometric analysis of a voice sample such as this, what would the methodology or approach be to this, this type of analogy.”

French:  “Firstly let me say you just wouldn’t do it.  [Laughs out loud.] Biometric systems just aren’t designed to do this.  They are designed to compare reasonably good quality samples of people speaking in modal voice, I mean normal voice, they are not designed to do this at all, and [laughs out loud] . . .

Owens’ duplication/raising pitch of sample would not be accepted within the scientific community

French then went on to talk specifically about the “Owen method” of audio sample preparation:

French:  “The methodology is something separate from [the technology], the methodology is a set of methods somebody follows in a particular instance, and once you say the technology employee in this case by Mr. Owens is accepted, the general sort of technology, I can’t speak about a particular system, leaving aside the issue of EasyVoice, but the methodology utilized would not be accepted within the wider scientific community because of lack of testing of the system, and also various other things that had happened.  For instance the duplication of the material.  Initially the sample was rejected on the basis of it being too short,  so what the analyst had done was actually to repeat it, to duplicate it, to loop it, by repeating it, in other words to fool the system into believing that the sample being put in was longer than it was.  I mean, that would not be an accepted methodology in the scientific community.  And the artificial raising of pitch in the reconstruction exemplar recording until it was like the pitch found in the actual screams from the 911 call, I mean that would be a totally novel methodology to my knowledge, as well, that wouldn’t be accepted within the scientific community.” (emphasis added)

Without knowing beforehand, you couldn’t tell from scream if even speaking English, nor even if male or female

The defense then turned Dr. French’s attention to the analysis and testimony of Dr. Reich:

West:  “We were speaking about Dr. Reich’s work, you seem to have some reservation or even some confusion about what it was he actually did.  Are you able to speak any more as a speech scientist and someone in both the academic and forensic scientific community about his analysis.”

French:  “Yes, there are a number of things that I find disturbing.  [Lengthy detailed explanation of his concerns, with more laughing out loud.] “

West:  “Are you saying that there is no accepted literature, no accepted method in the scientific community to identify a speaker’s age by the frequency that Dr. Reich has described, under these circumstances?”

French:  “There are no accepted methodologies to identify a speaker’s age from the constituent elements, from the phonemes of their screams.  No.”

West:  “Do you think that a 29-year-old in a life-threatening situation would vocally be able to make that sound.

French:  “I think a 50-year-old would.”

West:  “So that’s not age related at all, in your opinion.”

French:  “No.”

. . .

French:  “If you were simply presented with the screams in this case, with no background information, if it were simply edited out of the recording end-to-end and given to an analyst, I don’t think you could even be sure that the person was speaking in English.  I’m think you could even be sure that the person was male or female.” (emphasis added)

. . .

West:  “Dr. Reich is claiming to be able to understand speech attributed to both Trayvon Martin and Mr. Zimmerman in the 911 call, and also to Mr. Zimmerman in his non-emergency call to the police.  As I understand your evidence you don’t find any of that speech in those recordings.”

French:  “No, I don’t.  No . . . from the Zimmerman 911 call . . .  claimed “do you think I’m crazy here,” then later on the words, “these assholes,” “dear God” is attributed to the speaker, and then after those words, “get off of me.”  I can’t hear any of those words.

West:  “When you say you can’t hear it, did you try through you and your colleagues and your laboratory?”

French:  “Indeed, yeah.  The problem is you can amplify them, but they don’t become more clearly speech, they just become louder, that’s what amplification is.  It doesn’t help you decide what is speech and what is not speech, generally speaking.  And in my opinion those are not speech.”

A rather awkward discussion was initiated by the prosecution when they chose to focus in cross-examination on Dr. French’s opinion that speech analysis was not a valid means to determine a speaker’s age.

Mantei:    “Did I understand you to say that you really can’t draw any correlation between the age of a person and the overall pitch of their voice?”

French:  “When they are screaming.”

Mantei:  “OK.  In general terms, would you say that a younger person who had not either complete puberty or finished developing will have a higher pitched voice than they will after they finished.”

West felt obliged to address the puberty issue on re-direct.  He didn’t get far, however, for obvious reasons:

French:  “I’m just becoming a little concerned, Mr. West, that I might be straying outside of my area of expertise, and giving information that the average judge or juror, trier of fact, would themselves be able to answer just as well as me.”

It appears, however, that Mantei was preparing foundation for an argument that perhaps the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin had not yet completed puberty at the time he was killed.

Which seems . . . odd.


Dr. George Doddington, PhD:  “It’s ridiculous.”  “Similarly ridiculous.”  “God, this is absurd.”


Dr. George Donnington, PhD, TI, SRI, DARPA, NSA, NIST

Dr. Doddington’s testimony was, if anything, even more derisive of the State’s experts than was that of Dr. French.  Although he refrained from saying so explicitly, a critical reading between the lines of his testimony, and the consideration of some very long pauses taken at judicial moments, suggests that in truth he believes that the forensic sciences in general, and forensic speech analysis in particular, barely qualify as “science” at all.

Speaker identification on 1 second of even good speech is absurd

The interesting parts of this testimony arose when the defense, in the person of Counselor O’Mara, got around to asking Dr. Doddington about his opinion of the work of the defense’s expert witnesses.  (This stuff is so good in it’s pure form I don’t see how I can add much value, but I’ve gone ahead and bolded the sweet spots.)

O’Mara:  “You’ve had an opportunity to review Mr. Owens report?”

Doddington:  “Yes.”

O’Mara:  “And the other reporst that were generated as well in this case, Dr. Reich as well?”

Doddington:  “Yes.”

O’Mara:  “Primarily [with regard] to Mr. Owen, or his system, presently, basd upon your work for NIST and some of your experiments you helped create, are there any other variables we have in this fact secnerio we have in this case that cause you concern about the accuracy or reliability of  [lost signal, presumably “of Mr. Owen’s findings.”]”

Doddington:  “Well, I reviewed this, Mr. Owens said he could do speaker recognition with just one second of speech, and then he revised that and said he could do it on 1/8th of a second.  Doing speaker recognition to any level of reliability whatsoever on 1 second of good speech is absurd.” (emphasis added)

. . .

Doddington:  “I think using one second is ridiculous.”

O’Mara:  “How about using 2.54 seconds.”

Doddington:  “Similarly ridiculous.” (emphasis added)

Screaming “destroys” the value of an audio sample for purposes of speech comparison

O’Mara:  “Are there additional variables that would affect the quality of the sampling.  You are familiar with the particulars of this case, correct?”

Doddington:  “Yes.”

O’Mara:  “In this case there was a certain type of speech, screaming or shouting speech.  You are aware of that.”

Doddington:  “Yes.  [Laughs out loud.]  I’m sorry it’s all ridiculous.” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “We’ll get to that.  When you had screaming or the type of speech that we have here, what does that do to the ability to assess it or evaluate it.” (emphasis added)

Doddington:  “It destroys it.” (emphasis added)

Comparing normal speech to screams is a “fool’s mission”

O’Mara:  “Has NIST done any evaluations or any studies in an attempt to see the efficieincy or eligibility of speaker recognition with screams.”

Doddington:  “No, that’s a fool’s mission.”  (emphasis added)

Replicating the same audio sample to meet biometric minimal requirements is “ridiculous”

O’Mara:  You were here for Mr. Owens’ testimony, correct?”

Doddington:  “Yes, I was.”

O’Mara:  “And you heard that one of the things he accomplished to make his machine work was to double the length of the sample.  Were you here for that testimony?” (emphasis added)

Doddington:  “Yes, unfortunately I was.” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “Do you have a concern with doing that from an evaluative perspective as to what that might do to the underlying testing.”

 Doddington:  “It’s pretty obvious.”

“O’Mara:  “If you would . . .”

Doddington:  [Firmly.]  “Doing that is ridiculous.” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “Why is that?”

Doddington:  “You’re not adding anything [useful].  If you take the same thing and repeat it over, on what basis can you say that would improve the performance?  It’s a violation of common sense.  Can I take one second of speech data and play it over and over for 10 second and get the same results as I would from a 10 second sample?  No.”

Changing pitch or other variable in the exemplar all but guarantees a non-match

O’Mara:  “When you take speech and you take the pitch of speech and raise it up, three or four or five multiples, to make it smilar to the comparison speech, is that problematic in addressing the speech comparison.”

Doddington:  “I think you asked that question of Dr. French also, and I was surprised at how mild he wsas in his response.  It’s ridiculous.

 O’Mara:  “Why so?

Doddington:  “Because the pitch frequency is a completely separate mechanism to a first or second of magnitude from the vocal tract frequencies, which are defined by the resonances in the mouth, not by how fast the vocal cords are flapping.  So, for example, if you basically scale up the frequency you are purposely distorting the phoneme  frequencies, so they are not going to match at all . . . there’s just no proper basis for comparing the phoneme frequcnies when you distort the frequency scale.”

O’Mara:  “So if you were to do that in Mr. Owens’ box, or in any evaluative process, if you were to increase pitch or change a variable, and then look for a match, what would you expect to get.” (emphasis added)

Doddington:  “Not expect to get a match.” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “Which is of course what Mr. Owens’ machine came up with.  A non-match [between the scream and Mr. Zimmerman’s exemplar.] (emphasis added)

Doddington:  Yes.”(emphasis added)

Words that only Dr. Reich was able to hear on tape is the “imaginary stuff”

O’Mara:  Were you here for Mr. Reich’s testimony as well.”

Doddington:  “Yes, I was.”

O’Mara:  “Have you had any opportunity to listen to the tapes that are subject to this proceeding?”

Doddington:  “Yes I listened to the call to the dispatcher, the non-emergency call, and the 911 call.”

O’Mara:  “When you accomplished similar analysis by amplifying it, doing what you did to filter it, were you able to hear what Dr. Reich heard?” (emphasis added)

Doddington:  [Laughs out loud.]  “No!” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “Anywhere, we’re talking now about the first call, the non-emergency call.”

Doddington:  “Yes.”

O’Mara:  “Do you know about what Dr. French testified, I think Dr. Nakasone also, this listener bias concept?”

Doddington:  “Yes, I’m familiar with it.”

O’Mara:  “What is that?”

Doddington:  “That is the ability of a listerner to hear what he wants to hear or what he’s pre-conditioned to hear.”

O’Mara:  “And how significant an affect is that on an individual’s ability to perceive an event.” (emphasis added)

 Doddington:  Apparently for Mr. Reich it is very effective.” (emphasis added)

 O’Mara:  “Similar question with your review of the 911 call.  Did you have an opportunity to listen to t hat?”

Doddington:  “Yes.”

O’Mara:  “Did you hear anything on there that Dr. Reich thinks that he heard.  Not the yells or screams . . .” (emphasis added)

Doddington:  “Just the imaginary stuff, right?” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “We’ll leave that up to the court to determine.  Let’s call it what Dr. Reich heard and I’ll ask you if you heard any of the additional language that he says he heard.”

Doddington:  [Laughs out loud.]  “God, this is absurd.” (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “Is that a no?”

Doddington:  “That’s a no.”

Although Reich says 16-bit audio essential to finding it was Trayvon screaming–he actually had only 8-bit audio

Then a final blockbuster:

Doddington:  “I have to say, one of the things that Mr. Reich put in his report is that it is critically important for this data be 16-bit data.  . . . [Note: Dr. Reich had essentially written and testified that having the 16-bit data was essential to the integrity of his findings.]  It looked a bit odd to me.  . . . I thought this doesn’t look like 16 bits.  . . . I discovered that in fact the data in both of those recordings is actually 8-bit data.  The top 8-bits of the recordings are all zero.  And the only data in the recording is the lower 8 bits.  It is in fact 8 bit data. (emphasis added)

O’Mara:  “So it is not a 16-bit piece of sound.”

Doddington:  “It’s a 16-bit format, but it’s actually 8-bit data.” (emphasis added)


Judge Nelson could decide to allow Owen and Reich to testify regardless of the weakness of their expertise and findings.  Given the testimony developed during this Frye hearing, however, I imagine the defense is salivating at that prospect. 


A cynical observer might suspect that the relatively poor performance of the State’s witnesses, Mr. Owens and Dr. Reich, actually makes it more, rather than less, likely that Judge Nelson would permit their testimony at trial.

Surely the State dare not present either Mr. Owens or Dr. Reich to the jury, and subject them at trial to what would unquestionably be devastating cross-examination.

If that is the case, Judge Nelson can permit their testimony in the confident knowledge that they would never actually appear, and thereby provide no basis for the defense to argue that they have been harmed by her decision.

At the same time the State obviously has no complaint if it has gotten what it wanted–permission for their witnesses to appear.  The fact that the permission may be of no help, from a practical perspective, is not Judge Nelson’s problem.

Finally, the outside forces that have been driving much of the public narrative of the Zimmerman case might make much noise out of Judge Nelson denying the State’s experts permission to testify, but they can make little hay out of her doing exactly what both the State and they claim they want:  granting permission for the State’s witnesses to testify at trial.

In short, granting permission for the State’s witnesses to testify, despite the train-wreck of their Frye appearances, could constitute a win-win-win for Judge Nelson.

Boy, it would be tough to go through life with so cynical a perspective.


Next step:  Jury selection on Monday.

Andrew F. Branca is a MA lawyer with a long-standing interest in the law of self defense.  He authored the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense” (second edition shipping June 22–save 30% and pre-order TODAY!), and manages the Law of Self Defense web site and blog.  Many thanks to the Professor for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!


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Conservative Beaner | June 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

Dr. Reich reminds me of those ghost hunters who record a series of sounds and determine a ghost said “get out”. If you start to use your imagination you can as well. In this case though we are not talking about some entertainment value but about a man possibly going to prison for the rest of his life.

I think this should be no contest between the prosecuter and defense expert witnesses. Unfortunatly emotion and political correctness will come in to play and that is a bad thing for Mr. Zimmerman.

As testifying experts go, Doddington was more dismissive and pugnacious than one would like.

Not that I disagree with him in the least. Just that you want an expert on the stand to retain an air of scientific objectivity, and not be too partisan.

Coming after Nakasone and French, however, his contempt may have been just right.

I would be amazed if the judge lets the state put on its experts after this.

    Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | June 9, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Wellll…that “crazy cynical” part was added, and I gotta say that there is a lot of common sense in that from the standpoint of the bench. I happily don’t have to think like a judge in a murder trial…

      Indeed, I added the “crazy idea of the day” shortly after this post went live.

        Trapped in Davis in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        If the judge does allow the prosecution “experts” to testify and they don’t call them, could the defense then call them? That way they could get their scientifically bad analysis out there, claim this to be the basis of the prosecution’s case, and have the real experts tear them to shreds for the jury. I agree with Rags about Dr. Doddington, he would have to tone it down for the trial.

          I doubt Doddington would be needed. Nakasone and French should be more than sufficient to crush Owens and Reich.

          The defense also has another expert witness who will testify as part of the Frye process next week (he was caught on an airport tarmac when he was scheduled to testify yesterday, so he was necessarily pushed back). I don’t yet know much about him, but I expect he’d also be an additional nail in the coffin of the so-called “scream” analysis.

          Ragspierre in reply to Trapped in Davis. | June 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm

          Maybe I’m missing something key to your strategery, but generally the LAST thing you want to do is introduce anything that confuses the jury.

          Plus, having been through this Frye process, the experts would be gunning for the defense, and they would be complete wildcards on the stand. They could gut you, and the prosecutors would not bother to cross. Their testimony would just hang in the air, un-impeached. Not a positive cost/benefit thingy by my lights.

[…] few minutes ago I put up my most recent blog coverage of the Zimmerman case at the Legal Insurrection web […]

TrooperJohnSmith | June 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

Incredible article, sir… Thank-you!!

Is there a Holiday Inn in Sanford?

inspectorudy | June 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I have enjoyed the articles on this site and think that they are well written and informative. I am still waiting for someone to explain how an armed man who supposedly chased down a much younger and obviously more athletic male and was able to catch him and then was beaten up by the younger man while the pursuer possessed a gun. Can someone please tell me how this absurdity could have taken place and how the prosecutor is trying to present it?

    manberk in reply to inspectorudy. | June 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    The state just released new evidence from Zimmermans gym that suggests he was in self D, police force training at Kopekis Fight Gym in FL. So I’m not so sure he’s the feeble out of shape shlub the D has led everyone to believe.

    I thought Doddington testified he doesn’t have a degree in anything but engineering and doesn’t practice this sort of science. He’s more of a “conductor” of analytical efforts. Sounded to me like he himself uses the same type of science and software as the states witnesses.

    Anyway, I found they spent very little time on wither or not it was new and accepted science which is what I thought was the point of the hearing. Not whether or not the sample was appropriate.

      Whatever fighting skills Zimmerman might have possessed, the uncontroverted evidence is that Martin’s were vastly superior–only Zimmerman had any injuries consistent with being caused by fisticuffs. The legal issue is the proportionality of force actually brought to bear.

      As for the gym membership–many people join a gym in order to improve their fitness from a relatively poor state to a better state. The mere fact that Zimmerman had joined a gym can just as easily suggest that he had little fighting skill and was seeking more, not that he possessed any particularly high degree of fighting skill the night he was attacked and beaten by Martin.

      As for the Doddington testimony, I don’t have anything to add that isn’t already included in the post. If you believe there’s a particular error there, please point it out and I’ll check on it.

        manberk in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

        Well, you might want to do your own fact checking. Zimmerman didnt just join a gym, he joined a fight gym and listed self defense and law enforcement training as his desires. So no need to speculate on why he was there. He writes why on his application.

        How exactly does a scrape on ones head prove ones ability? Proof of GZ combat training is less valid than the Ds unproven innuendo and hearsay?

        As far as Doddington is concerned, I heard his testimony, and he said he did not have a degree in any of the pertinent sciences & wasnt an expert in this science. Am I misrepresenting his testimony in some way? And if I am please correct me? While you made sure to highlight this with the states witnesses, it seemed like thats something you should also mention in regards to Doddington.

          Exactly . . . self defense and law enforcement were “his desires”. One does not seek something one already has. Your point is consistent with my suggestion that he was at the gym to acquire self defense skills, not because he already had them. Thanks for making my point.

          In any case, whatever level of self defense or law enforcement skill Zimmerman may have desired or possessed is irrelevant at the point that Martin has knocked him to the ground, straddled him, and continued to relentless beat his head into the sidewalk, smashing his nose and causing other grave bodily harm including threatening loss of consciousness.

          At that point Zimmerman–or any other reasonable person under the same circumstances–was legally justified in using whatever force was necessary to stop the attack. He’d already failed to stop the attack with his bare hands, been knocked to the ground and straddled by his attacker, his screams for help were of no avail, and Martin kept raining blow after blow on him, “MMA style”.

          I’m aware that some say that George should have just taken the beat down, whatever the consequences. I’m just not one of those people. You, of course, are entitled to your own opinion.

          I’m not sure what you are referring to about a “scrape on ones head”. Are you’re referring to Zimmerman’s broken nose as a “scrape on ones head?” Is it your experience that whenever you “scrape your head” your nose is smashed, broken, into your face? I rather think not.

          I address Doddington’s extensive and decades-long experience in developing and evaluation speech recognition and speaker identification in the blog post. If you didn’t see it the first time you read (I’m assuming, contrary to evidence that you did read it)I don’t expect you’ll see it if I recount it here, and in any case I have ribs on the barbecue to attend to.

      Uncle Samuel in reply to manberk. | June 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Trayvon Martin was into Mixed Martial Arts, and had recorded a gang beating a homeless man.

      Whereas Zimmerman had stood up for a homeless who was beaten by a cop’s son.

      Quite a contrast of character of the two families and their supporters and defenders.

      All on the Martin side (including the surrogate father) have “shown their heineys” (true character, racism) or committed criminal obstruction in this case.

Didn’t they have a witness that saw the fight and said Zimmerman was the one screaming?

    Sometimes witnesses don’t show up to testify, for one reason or another. If, for example, some national organization were to place a $10,000 bounty on the their head they might consider it prudent to finally take that long-delayed fortnights holiday in New Zealand, in which case they’d unfortunately not be available to testify.

    Not to suggest that anything like that could happen in this case.

    If there’s no eyewitness about who screamed, the “expert” witness analysis of the Witness #11 911 call could have been pivotal. The defense was therefore obliged to take appropriate steps to counter such a possibility.

    manberk in reply to ez. | June 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    His name is John (alias). He recanted much of the first interview. In his follow up with the FDLE he said he had no idea who was screaming and that he assumed initially. He also recanted the MMA comment that was attributed to him and said he saw no strikes, but rather what looked like TM trying to hold GZ hands. He also saw no head bashing. If you google witnesses interviews you can find it.

Thanks for sharing.

With the case Bernie has, I’m not sure why it would hurt him to call his experts. He should not have any chance of getting a guilty verdict and the goal of all involved seems to be merely to have a trial and get past it. The Scheme Team wants a civil case, the state wants any case to save face, and we know Nelson will see to it the jury will provide her with a verdict. The state experts would actually help Bernie look like he was under the impression he did have a case, for the record anyway.

    I don’t know . . . there appears to be a lot of potentially sanctionable shenanigans going on for someone who merely wants to go through the motions.

      Bernie’s delays and “shenanigans” would have created a slow death for his case had the media been reporting the truth from the start, but he’s still treading water. The list of issues ignored by the media, while the “fairy tale” lives on, has had me trying to figure out who does not want a trial for one rea$on or another. I think Bernie’s reason now is pure show, from the prosecutor seeking justice…

        I certainly agree that there are a number of participants in this circus whose agenda is accomplished regardless of the verdict. For those folks it’s the noise and smoke that is the core value proposition of this whole charade. Zimmerman himself is merely a pawn in their pursuit of more important (to them) ends. Whatever happens to him as a human being is of little consequence (to them).

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 10, 2013 at 6:09 am

          Truer words never spoken, and those agenda are evil. Those with an agenda other than seeing justice served may get Nifonged if the defense can keep its act together.

          As in the Duke case, this is a racist, low-tech lynching, as evidenced by the rposecution having the cojones and chutzpah to even call somebody like Owens and reich. Mr. Owens’ magic voice box has more the ring of a Halloween toy than a bona fide forensic device.

“Whatever happens to him as a human being is of little consequence (to them).”

One could add a few million(s) to THEIR of little consequence list..

Great job, Andrew. I am an old, retired trial lawyer with plenty of time on my hands, and took the time last night to watch French’s testimony on youtube. I will vouch that your highlights are accurate and dead on.

IMO, if Judge Nelson allows the states “experts” to testify and Z is thereafter convicted of anything, such conviction will be reversed on appeal for violation of Frye. In addition, I predict such a ruling by Nelson will cause the FL Supreme Court to impose the Daubert rules to expert opinion in FL, and if it doesn’t, the FL legislature will do so.

Allowing the prosecution’s clowns to spout their nonsense would be a travesty as it would be useful only to confuse the jury and to give it an excuse for a conviction.

    wald1900 in reply to Jim. | June 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Jim. Interesting comment. I have absolutely no legal training and a profound respect for my own limits, so rather than make assertions about the law, I always find it better to ask question and see what people come back with. A couple of days ago I gave up trying to listen to Dr. Reich’s testimony and instead looked up “Frye Hearing” on Wikipedia. This led me to a related article on the “Daubert Standard”. If I understood what I read correctly, while Owen and Reich may be let in under Frye (to the extent that the judge deems their techniques aren’t new or novel), under Daubert Reich and Owen would be laughed out of court. Further, I read that the Florida legislature has mandated Daubert for state courts, but the law doesn’t go into effect until July 1. My Crazy Questions are 1) am I right about the likely outcome of Reich and Owen’s expert status under the competing standards and 2) is the defense, with all of its requests to delay, trying to delay the trial long enough to allow the Daubert Standard law to go into effect, and 3) what will happen when the prosecution introduces their experts qualifying under Frye prior to July 1 but the defense will not be able to present theirs (presumably qualified under Daubert) until after July 1? Andrew, you could answer this one too if you felt like it 🙂

      The effectiveness of both Frye and Daubert are a function of the presiding trial judge. If a judge wanted to find a rationale to let the expert witness testimony in under Frye, she’d find one under Daubert. She might be overturned later under both standards, but in the meantime the evidence would still have gotten in.

      I would also note that the reason the defense has repeatedly called for delaying the trial is because of the outrageous slow-rolling of discovery by the prosecution, often for months.

Uncle Samuel | June 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Trayvon Martin was involved in amateur ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ aka street fighting according to his cell phone conversations and internet posts.

He also had no preference about fairness and classical form, evidently since he filmed the homeless guy being beaten by a gang. He was punching and beating White Hispanic Zimmerman’s head against the concrete and would probably not have stopped. Zimmerman said, ‘he saw my gun and said was going to use to kill me,” but Zimmerman got to it and shot first.

Too bad about the chicken witness and the involvement of the racist NBP party, Sharpton, Crump and Obama.

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Crump’s (and the media’s) manipulation, hiding and distorting evidence has been disgraceful and criminal.

    manberk in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    With all due respect Uncle Sam, that story was already debunked. The D lied and had to openly apologize. There was no video of TM in a fight. It was a misrepresentation. The video was of 2 bums. No fight involving TM. While your story was quite animated, its a lie. Link attached. You may want ponder why the D lied to the public? Justice? Doesnt look like it.

    I should tell you the only reason the state apologized is because some web sleuths found out the truth.

    George Zimmerman’s attorneys apologize for mischaracterizing evidence

      I have neither the time nor inclination to respond to every one of manberk’s posts. I write now only to note for the record that my failure to reply to any particular one of his statements or mis-statements of “fact” should not be interpreted as an acquiescence to its “truth”. It merely means I’m bored of him.

      PDQ2 in reply to manberk. | June 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      I should tell you the only reason the state apologized is because some web sleuths found out the truth.

      Tell us how you come to the ability to speak for “the state” or the defense, as I think you mean.

      I thought that the correction that they made was very complete in that they expressed that they were wrong, why they were wrong, and apologized for putting something wrong out into the public. They made no excuse. They were wrong.

      Al Sharpton should be so straightforward with the mis-statements he has made in this case.

        manberk in reply to PDQ2. | June 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        The Orlando Sentinel printed and article that exposed the fact the Mark o’Mara lied to the court, and pulled it down shortly after. Unfortunately for the D people saw it and pulled it up in cache. It then quickly spread all over social media. This was all admitted to if you read the articles and the post at GZ legal.

        “On Thursday, in preparation for the anticipated release of the fight video, an Orlando Sentinel reporter drafted a story describing it, intending to publish it once the video had been made public. A web producer prematurely posted it to Friday but quickly took it down after discovering the video had not been released. The story correctly characterized the video. After readers found a cached version of the story online Sunday, Zimmerman’s attorneys released their statement and decided against posting the video.”

        IE they got caught.

        Theres nothing forthright about lying to the court. They knew in Dec, 2012 this was a bike video, and not a fight video. If you need that evidence too, it would be my pleasure.

These posts are very much appreciated and very interesting.

Mr Branca thank you for the high quality commentary. This is a very good summary of the expert witnesses. It is by far the best I have seen as far as commentary is concerned.

Andrew, any reason I cant respond?
I disagree. His application was from 2 years ago. Hes had 14 months of training since. You didnt think it was irrelevant when you thought TM had more training, which is a baseless comment. Self D and police training is combat training. Im sure it can be used for morew than just losing weight.

Like I just responded to another, the MMA comment by John was recanted and clarified to no blows being seen. Only wrestling. You cannot pick and choose the testimony you like. The jury will not have that luxury.

The scrapes Im referring to are the 2 lacerations to the back of his head that his PA told him to treat with soapy water. And he didnt have a broken nose. Although he valued his life enough to take another, he didnt value it enough to go to the hospital and have it confirmed.I wonder what he was hiding? The most you’ll find in evidence is “likely” broken. But that lie came from GZ himself.

Because you cant refute my comments about Doddington not being an expert in this science, I can only assume the agenda is yours. All due respect my friend. The Emperor Has no Clothes.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to manberk. | June 10, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Trademark was shot in 2/12. Even if what you say is true, and I don’t agree that it is, an application two years ago would yield a maximum of 8 months of such training at the time of the shooting.

    Do you, by any chance, have similar “records” of Trademark’s initiation into MMA and football?

Like I just responded to another, the MMA comment by John was recanted and clarified to no blows being seen.

Whether you are a police officer, an investigator, or a lawyer and you are confronted with a situation which an eyewitness makes an account of a crime soon after the crime has been committed…and then that same eyewitness conveys a different account after more time has passed, which one bears more weight?

Hint: There is only one right answer.

    manberk in reply to PDQ2. | June 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    The one the bears more weight is the one he will relay to the jury, which is the 2nd one when he clarified everything he initially said. And he said by MMA he meant only straddled. Im just quoting him. You are welcome to double check. My guess is his assumptions came from hearing the story, not what he saw. But he later clarified what he saw, and I wrote it above. No punches, more like TM holding GZ arms and hands. So IMO thats what the jury will hear.

    This is not a witness who saw the beginning or the end of the fight regardless. Witness 18 did, and she saw Zimmerman on top at the time of the shooting.

      cazinger in reply to manberk. | June 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      Is that the witness who is commonly referred to as the distraught teacher? The one who told the 911 dispatcher that she first heard noises similar to the others whose homes had windows along the T. She called 911 after the shot, before she saw Zimmerman or Trayvon. She told the 911 dispatcher on tape that she didn’t have her windows open and didn’t look when she first heard the noise, assuming someone was out walking their dog. She told the 911 dispatcher that she heard the voices get louder and what sounded like an argument. She then looked out and saw two people wrestling, and she told the 911 operator it was too dark to see anything distinguishable.

      She then told the dispatcher she then heard help and the shot and decided to call 911. As she finished this part of the story, she saw the flashlights and Zimmerman surrendering and a young boy on the ground. She then changed her story as to what she said moments earlier, and now says she saw the larger man on top during the struggle. In later versions, she could see he was Hispanic and she knows it was the young boy crying out for help, despite it being dark and despite the distance between her home and where the struggle took place?

      THAT witness 18?

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to manberk. | June 10, 2013 at 6:21 am

      Wrong answer. His ass will be impeached by prior statments made at the time of the incident. Further, he will be examined at length as to WHY his story has changed. Threats? Money? WHY?

FYI, a new “Zimmer Case” post just went up, right here on Legal Insurrection:

“The Five Principles of the Law of Self Defense”

And he didnt have a broken nose. Although he valued his life enough to take another, he didnt value it enough to go to the hospital and have it confirmed.I wonder what he was hiding? The most you’ll find in evidence is “likely” broken. But that lie came from GZ himself.

This just in from May 2012, it’s not a “lie that came from GZ himself”. It’s a medical report that ABC got from his doctor. Broken nose.–abc-news-topstories.html

    manberk in reply to PDQ2. | June 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Wrong. Thats an article about a medical record. We have the actual record and it only says likely.
    GZ did not go to the hospital, so theres no proof of a broken nose. He didnt even seek medical attention at all. He went to work the next day like nothing happened. He was then told to get a Dr note, at which point he went to see a PA at his family practice. He told her the EMT said it was likey broken and that whats in her report. Paraphrasing; she found no damage to his septum, no swelling and no blood in his mucus membrane. Her only treatment suggested was soap and water to his life threatening injury.

      cazinger in reply to manberk. | June 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      Just out of curiosity, how do you know exactly what the medical record says? It has not been released to the public AFAIK. Do you have a link to it?

      As for the next day, George Zimmerman sought medical attention, like you said, and he also re-enacted the scene of the night before for police on that day. Where do you get your information that he went to work? Do you have a link to that information?

        Perhaps the State could call manberk as an expert witness. Mr. Owens, Dr. Reich, and manberk. A perfect trio.

          cazinger in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm

          I am keeping an open mind. If he can direct me to information I have not seen before, then I will better inform myself. If that new information warrants changing my view, I will do so.

      woodchuck64 in reply to manberk. | June 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      manberk: Paraphrasing; she found no damage to his septum, no swelling and no blood in his mucus membrane.

      The report mentions “closed fracture” which certainly could be damage to the septum.

      But, really, what difference does it make? Any injury to the nose, whether septum or not, is consistent with his account of being attacked. No one is claiming TM’s attack actually was life-threatening, only that it appeared to GZ to be so. I can certainly see how someone attacked by a very capable assailant might think so.

        Strictly speaking, it would need t be true that GZ believed he was under life-threatening attack AND that a reasonable and prudent person in his circumstances would have believed the same. Both the subjective and objective elements must be met to support self-defense. Just Mr. Zimmerman’s subjective believe alone would not be enough. The jury must believe the objective, hypothetical “reasonable and prudent person” would have perceived the situation in the same life-threatening way.

          This real life tragedy might come down to a court room scene from the musical “Chicago”:

          And yet we both reached for the gun
          Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, we both, oh yes we both
          Oh yes, we both reached for the gun
          The gun, the gun, the gun
          Oh yes, we both reached for the gun, for the gun

          Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, they both, oh yes, they both
          Oh yes, they both reached for the gun
          The gun, the gun, the gun
          Oh yes, they both reached for the gun, for the gun

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to manberk. | June 10, 2013 at 6:23 am

      GZ did indeed go to the hospital or received medical attendance at the scene.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to manberk. | June 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

      Perhaps you would willingly be pummeled in the face and endure having your head bashed on concrete and just consider it another day like any other day. It may have already happened to you. Such events can cause brain damage, after all. For myself, I’m not going to take life-threatening abuse. Yeah, if I think “one or two more blows and I’m going to die or lose consciousness such that I am completely incapable of saving myself”, I’m popping that cap.