Audio Experts: Cries For “Help” On 911 Tapes Not Zimmerman’s

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.

Source; msnbc; Orland Sentinel; Cleveland Plain Dealer

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

320 thoughts on “Audio Experts: Cries For “Help” On 911 Tapes Not Zimmerman’s”

  1. Well Patricparamedic, I would not SERVE on the jury for the Zimmerman case for the reason that I decided, when I heard that Zimmerman FOLLOWED Martin while HE knew that HE was packing, that he WAS the aggressor, so if I were chosen for a jury pool in the Zimmerman case, and they asked me if I was already decided on the issue of guilt, I would say, honestly, “HELL YES I am decided on the issue of guilt. I don’t think you get to go stalking a person you don’t know, after deciding you didn’t like their look, while YOU are armed with a gun, and you have in your past some kind of anger management issue, and then cry innocence if you happen to kill them, so knock me off this jury RIGHT NOW because I AM DECIDED, and I’d just as soon work for the prosecutor as sit here wasting my time.”

    So see, I would not call myself impartial and I would not take part in a faked-up parody of justice. BUT I would go ahead and tell the truth about my mind, and how my mind worked.

    See, some people are impartial about this. I am not one of them.

  2. Leander:

    Just a quick question:

    Why do you speak of Martin with the familiarity of a first name, as though you knew him, and Zimmermann as if you don’t?

    Just curious.

  3. Malisha said:

    “If Zimmerman is acquitted, we can still write songs about him. I’m gonna register for a little song-writing course at “Autodidact U” this coming semester. Let me try first draft, just in case”

    Which causes me to wonder whether you have ever served on a Felony-case jury.

    And if so, how early in the case did you decide to stop listening to evidence.

    Some people sharpen their minds by narrowing them.

  4. Plenty of people are wrong, and they can get off whether they are right or wrong, and in general, that is pretty much OK, but in this case, part of the problem was that he SEEMED to be quite in the wrong on 2/26/2012 and yet, at that time, the police (NOT in the judicial branch of govt. but in the executive, law enforcement branch) usurped judicial power to decide on their own that he was RIGHT so they short-circuited the whole system. Now that the case is in the judicial department, where it belongs, we have folks carrying on as if it shouldn’t be there (or, in the case of Professor Dershowitz, that it shouldn’t be there very MUCH and that the prosecutor shouldn’t have placed it there so MUCH).

    It is in the court system now, no matter what happens. That was what the demonstrations and the public outcry was all about.

    I agree with you, Leejcaroll, that we are free to continue to think him wrong even if he is acquitted. And we will be permitted to continue to say that, too.

    Lizzie Borden was acquitted. And whereas she was CHARGED with the killing of her father, she was NEVER charged with the killing of her step-mother. If Zimmerman is acquitted, we can still write songs about him. I’m gonna register for a little song-writing course at “Autodidact U” this coming semester. Let me try first draft, just in case:

    Oh Suzanna, now don’t you cry for me,
    ’cause I killed a coon in Florida and now I’m walkin’ free.

  5. Bottom line for me: I think Zimmerman was wrong, whether he will be found guilty of illegal behavior that is something else.

  6. stutter, stutter:
    himself as a the top representative of the neighborhood watch member

    I am in a hurry:
    introduce himself as the top neighborhood patrol captain.

  7. no, leejcaroll, definitively not. There are color images of him in the red jacket he wore, same as in the police video.

    I do not, by the way, believe Zimmerman was on his way to a shop. I think he was on his night-patrol, or lying in wait at the front entrance. I think, Taaffe talks about Zimmerman’s night patrols in the video above. If not there than somewhere else.

    I seem to remember Taaffe was in charge of the Neighborhood watch before Zimmerman, but I am only starting to save interesting links. Did he introduce him to his job? Who is John?

    To Trayon it makes no difference anyway, what exactly he did that night, it may well have been a chance encounter. …

    But if “Dee Dee”, Trayvon’s girl fiend tells us the truth, and if the time is correct, Zimmerman doesn’t go to any length to introduce himself as a the top representative of the neighborhood watch member:. See those signs out there, this is a patrolled community. What are you doing here? After all Tayvon wasn’t an authority like the police dispatcher, so why tell this “real suspicious guy”, who he is? Does my prejudice show again?

  8. I probably missed this somewhere along the line but did Zimmerman have anything on that indicated he was with a “watch”? Why would Martin answer any question as to what he was doing there absent some reason that appeared to be official? Heck, my response and I am a short white woman, would be, Why is that any of your business?

  9. Leander, I’m sorry, I got confused. I’m going to read and re-read your last comment — maybe tonight, after an extra cup of coffee. I want to understand it, may I say, I WANT TO UNDERSTAND every piece of it. I will try.

    Otteray Scribe, my kid had a whippet (Argos, died 3/17/2011, RIP) who used to look at me when he was confused by something, and he used to tip his elegant head and do a little wiggly thing with his ears, and that was the most emotionally evocative thing I think I have ever seen that wasn’t officially called “dance.” I wish I could do that with respect to two or three developments in this case, and one of them, the recent pas de deux between Lee and the Council.

    I keep thinking, (Argosian-head-tip-ear-wiggle) hmmmmm? hmmmmm? hmmmmm?

    I am even beginning to think the whole thing happened in a way that was even worse than the worst I can presently imagine, especially considering the fact that the police probably initially thought Trayvon Martin was unrelated to ANYONE IN THE AREA and therefore might be a nameless Potter Field homeless or runaway forever, with the body never identified.

    Ugh, I don’t like this.
    Ugh, I do not like this.

  10. In every statement there’s a little error, and the error gets bigger and bigger until the snake is scotched.

    wasn’t even close to one minute.= was only close to a minute.

  11. You are correct Malisha, there is another gunshot-like noise shortly before the real gunshot.about 07:16:38.Gunshot 07:16:56.

    One of the scenarios whirling through my head at one point was that the scream for help by Trayvon triggered the shot. Somehow making him aware that things may not be as he assumed, and the incident might have consequences for him. Given the extraordinary short time frame, could have led to an impulsive action.

    On the other hand we are asked to swallow–can I use that in English figuratively?–that Trayvon was such a hardcore fighter that he didn’t even respond to the painful cries of surrender by Zimmerman? But add to that a inexperienced youth, and the extremely short time span … It takes time to get the adrenaline from your body.

    Yesterday I immediately repented my responses above, maybe I will today. I hate to admit, but maybe the most realistic scenario is that Trayvon somehow behaved in a way that seemingly supported Zimmerman’s suspicion without Trayvon having a chance to realize. If what we know is correct, the whole encounter up to the shot wasn’t even close to one minute. There is not much time to reflect if you respond to a provocation.

    You can be sure that just like us, Zimmerman listens to these tapes carefully, maybe even an unedited edition. He could claim to have fired a warning shot.

    Besides if Gilbraith (?) stated during the bond hearing that the FBI investigation of the scream wasn’t conclusive, maybe there aren’t really safe methods to differentiate screams. What would Zimmerman’s curricula in associate criminal law have told him about the issue? Did he learn, one could be relatively sure, no one was able to completely tell, with one of the persons gone?

    I’d like to know more about this man: Frank Taaffe and witness John.

    I think this case made me change my mind about an American I respected up to this point. I may not completely understand America, but it was easy to see that he let pass the most rabid racist language while censoring or banning people that wrote quite rational responses on his blogs. Ultimately a NRA member, may consider Trayvon’s dead much less important that than his/her constitutional rights. “The racist”, wrote, it’s about winners and losers and Trayvon is simply another loser, so why care?

  12. Malisha, I have been wondering about the city not letting the police chief resign since I first heard about it yesterday. There could be a number of reasons, but if he is still a city employee, they may want to keep him under control and not ‘go rogue’ on them. That is just one possibility. Or maybe they just belive in him, which is a scary thougth all by itself.

    This is like everythiing else in this soap opera. We will just have to let it play out and see what crawls out from under the wet rocks.

  13. I’m thinking about this scene. It plays over and over and over again. Go awaaaaayyyyyyyy, go awaaaaayyyyyy, and then a sharp retort, then oooouououououuuuuuououououuuu…a gunshot, silence (except for the continuation of the 911 call itself and a sort of scuffly background) —

    It seems possible to me that a guy who was pumped up on adrenalin at that moment might even have pulled his gun to make sure the asshole “punk” came under control — so that he could deliver his quarry to the police when they arrived, and collect his gold medal for saving the neighborhood. Go awaaayyyy, go awaaaaayyyyy, sharp retort, ooooouououououoouuuu, gunshot —

    Do we know to trust the police officers at all? Do we know to trust enough to say there were NOT TWO SHOTS? Any evidence bags? Any inspection of what was wrapped in the jacket and shoved into the trunk of the patrol car?

    And Lee trying to resign and not permitted to do so — yet. What is the meaning of that? What is the meaning of any of it?

    If this is self-defense, we are ALL IN BIG TROUBLE HERE. Almost any armed person might defend themselves against us TO DEATH at any time.

  14. He was advised don;t follow after callinig 911. Had no reason to try and detain him.

    Yes, but it wasn’t an order, and he obviously didn’t obey. Why else would he needed to tell the dispatcher to ask the arriving officers to first call him, so he could tell them where to meet him?

    We do not know, if he left the car at the clubhouse or moved it somewhere else. Or do we in fact?

    His 911 statement clearly suggest he “suffered”, he in fact wailed like child, about “them” always getting away. I also hear clearly the racist term uttered by him under his breath.

    leejcaroll, I am absolutely on the side of TM, let there be no doubt about it. It feels had Zimmerman given Trayvon even a limited chance, he wouldn’t be dead now.

    On the other hand imagine a mind blocked by certainty interpreting the following statement: I am on a visit here., to the question, what are you doing here? I even can imagine Trayvon saying: Why the f**ck should I tell you?

    An experience is in the back of my mind: I once in my life felt a deep fear of death. I didn’t even have a chance to scream for help. No one would have heard it, but I surely thought about visual signals then, but came up empty. There aren’t any. But I had one huge advantage, it feels in hindsight, that Trayvon never had. The highly peculiar paraphernalia I was confronted with sent a clear message. I doubt Trayvon had these clear signals, and only if you have them, it feels, you can speed up your mind what to do best. A passage from Dostoevsky’s idiot, helped me to come up with a bluff carefully anchored in reality. It worked. I got me out of the trap.

  15. OK, wow, I listened again and again.

    Now, I would enter into an argument with Professor Turley and Alan Dershowitz BOTH that Zimmerman has been “overcharged.”

    I am not saying this is EVIDENCE yet because it will be EVIDENCE when and if there is a trial and it is placed on the record as EVIDENCE and evaulated by the jury, but for right now? I just listened about two dozen times to the 911 call from the woman who was upstairs in her house while the shot that killed Martin rang out, ending the loud screams.

    My ears heard the following:

    “Go away, Go away”
    Then a sound that was a sharp retort, sounded peculiarly strangely like a gunshot to me, but I’m no ballistics expert.
    Then a sound like wordless screaming, could be “nooooooooooooooh” but could be something else,
    THEN something that is DEFINITELY a gunshot,
    then silence. And the woman calling in tells the dispatcher there were “gunshots.” The dispatcher asks how many, and the woman says “one.” But she was SPEAKING when that first sharp retort occurred; and she was worried about where her own family was in the house, and she was afraid.

    I don’t know what that woman calling 911 heard; I only know what I heard. I did not hear the word “HELP,” by the way. Roaring shouts, “O” sounds and long O and U vowels — did not hear “Help” with “eh” sounds.

    But I’m no audio engineer. Just sayin’…

  16. am doing this for you all, so will you f****ing come and help me to detain this criminal till the police arrives?
    He was advised don;t follow after callinig 911. Had no reason to try and detain him.
    And Martin had just as much reason to think he was being followed by a criminal. Why is this guy following me? I ask that when someone stays behind me when I am walking alone.
    Both sides have their valid points but I dont get the defense of one or the other since at the end of the day it is fun debate but no one seems to want to change their mind and all the facts are still not in.

  17. Malisha, I can imagine different scenarios, in which Zimmerman cried for help, can’t you? I am doing this for you all, so will you f****ing come and help me to detain this criminal till the police arrives? What else but help would you scream in such a situation? Is there a different vocal signal to call attention? Strictly you could even scream to disguise a cold-blooded SYG murder.

    I also find it easy to imagine Trayvon reacted with fury to the obvious prejudice, he was confronted with. Notice I am not saying this justifies Zimmerman’s reaction. …

    In hindsight it makes sense to assume, it was in fact Trayvon that screamed. But to do that, wouldn’t he have needed the information that he was in imminent danger to loose his life? But did he ever have it? Concerning information, Zimmerman clearly had an advantage, no matter how biased his information was. If Zimmerman didn’t tell him, Trayvon hardly had a chance to completely understand, what was happening to him, why this guy watched and followed him. He may have even wanted to find out, instead of running back to the backdoor of the house were he stood. The curious among us, find it hard to accept all the things out there in the world we will never understand. Did his girlfriend show interest in what this guy was about too?

    The police had Zimmerman reenact the encounter, they also asked him to scream the next morning, if I remember correctly. This is no scientific expertise, but at least has to sound similar to an untrained ear, to leave out possible technical distortion for a while.

    Did Trayvon’s father initially say that it wasn’t his son’s voice, because he felt at that age he wouldn’t have liked to appear as a weakling: no thank you, I can help myself, or did they suggest they had tested it? Questions, questions, questions.

  18. So I was saying, I could have it go like this:

    (1) Guy is becoming kinda desperate because he’s not getting ahead in his criminal justice school, not really getting his neighborhood completely behind him in his quest to be the next Clark Kent, and can’t seem to become a decorated hero;

    (2) Guy feels overwhelmed with his need to be more than ordinary ho hum possibly not-as-great-as-someone-else and goes out, evening, 2/26/2012 to find and apprehend, single-handedly, the bad guy who has been terrorizing his neighborhood;

    (3) Guy sees really suspicious, possibly drugged, grey-hoodie-clad guy just lookin’ about, yep, that’s him…

    (4) Guy calls cops but doesn’t think they’re jumping on this one fast enough — yup, he’s gotto go into action to do what they aren’t doing fast enough, twiddling their thumbs, leaving the real wet work up to HIM;

    (5) Guy jumps into action — nobody STOP HIM — HE’S a HERO —

    OK, actor, I say, now we have a few things our fight choreographer will have to work on but for now, let’s just get George’s motivation clear.

    Oops– I think I need to hear that tape again, catch me later —

  19. ANNOUNCEMENT: Zimmerman has not been lynched. He has been charged with a crime by the prosecutor in the State of Florida after killing someone whom he had no evident right to kill.

    NOW, hysteria about his “lynching” is a bit premature. AND since “First Degree Murder” is off the table, Anon, your protectorate is out of danger.

    But let’s look at why FIRST DEGREE MURDER actually IS off the table. It’s not because Corey made her decision based on the attitudes of Dershowitz or Turley — after all, they are defense folks and she’s a prosecutor. I am guessing First Degree (premeditated at some point) was off the table because Corey didn’t want to deal with EITHER a grand jury OR a death sentence case.

    Neither would I, in her position.

    But I was looking at the facts, only those that are already more or less accepted, on little index cards, and I was thinking, “Gee, if I were a writer, and I had these facts and had to write a one-act play called ‘What George Did on the Night In Question,” what would I actually write for the lead actor to portray. Oh, by the way, in this fantasy I am also the director and the casting director.

    We, “George” and I, workshop this together after I have the first draft.

    Oh wait a minute, I have to go back and listen to the 911 tape with “Jeremy GET IN HERE” on it…OK…get back to you later.

Comments are closed.