By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
The chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, Tom Owen, and Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio engineer and forensics expert, have independently concluded that the furtive pleas for help clearly heard on the 911 tapes are not George Zimmerman’s. Both acknowledged experts used voice enhancing software, but different techniques, to rate the probability of the voice being Zimmerman’s at no more than 48%. A 90% match is considered scientifically reliable.
In a report published by the Orlando Sentinel, Owen said he derived his conclusions based on biometric analysis. “It basically just means using personal characteristics for identification. A fingerprint scanner is an example of a biometric device. Much as the ridges of a human hand produce a fingerprint, each human voice has unique, distinguishable traits, Owen says. ‘They’re all particular to the individual.’” The expert recently used the technique to identify the accused killer of Sheila Davalloo in a 911 call made almost a decade ago.
Owen, who also served as the chief engineer for the New York Public Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, said that, “as a result of [the testing], you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it’s not Zimmerman.”
Ed Primeau agreed but went further, saying that, under the known circumstances, “ I believe that’s Trayvon Martin in the background, without a doubt. That’s a young man screaming.” Primeau used the technique of voice enhancement to reach his conclusion. Unlike biometric analysis, his method does require an in-context sample of the voice for testing.
An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer published in 2010 describes the 66-year-old Owen and his cohort, Stuart Allen, this way:
[The pair have] more than six decades of experience between them in the forensic audio profession. They’ve worked with the FBI and other federal agencies, police departments, private detectives, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and news organizations. Many courts have designated them as expert witnesses. They’re good friends who sometimes are on opposing sides, but respect each other’s abilities. “Both of us are known as sort of contrarians,” Owen said.
Primeau is a former sound engineer in the movie industry who worked with pop stars Anita Baker, Bob Seger, and Barry Manilow. Primeau has over thirty years of experience in voice identification and is a registered investigator for the American College of Forensic Examiners. He describes his work in voice identification as:
There can sometimes be differences in speech patterns that can help identify clues in your identification puzzle. I look for several similarities as well as differences, nasal resonance differences, voice tone with regard to inflection both similarities and differences.
The test results seem to present another blow to Zimmerman’s credibility who claimed that it was his voice on the tape – and not the African-American teen — heard crying out for help mere seconds before the fatal gun shot.
It is likely that similar audio testing is being conducted by the FBI’s Digital Evidence Laboratory’s Forensic Audio, Video, and Image Analysis Unit, based in Quantico, Virginia. Should they reach the same conclusions as Owen and Primeau, Zimmerman would almost certainly face charges in the death. An opposite result would go a long way in substantiating his claim of self-defense.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger