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Zimmerman judge considers allowing voice experts

SANFORD, Fla. — An expert hired by an Orlando newspaper testified Friday that screams for help on 911 calls don’t match neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman’s voice.

George Zimmerman arrives in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., for a pre-trial hearing Friday, June 7.

Tom Owen testified on the second day of a hearing that will determine whether voice identification experts can be used at Zimmerman’s second-degree trial for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The trial starts Monday and Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.

Owen was hired by the Orlando Sentinel last year to compare a voice sample of Zimmerman with screams for help captured on 911 calls made by neighbors. He said Zimmerman’s voice doesn’t match the screams. He only compared Zimmerman’s voice to the 911 calls because he didn’t have a voice sample for Martin at the time.

“The screams don’t match at all,” Owen said. “That’s what tells me the screams aren’t George Zimmerman.”

Owen also testified that remarks Zimmerman made in a conversation with a police dispatcher aren’t a racial slur. He testified Zimmerman said, “These f—— punks.”

Under questioning from Zimmerman’s attorney, Owens conceded that the sample wasn’t long enough to run a proper test according to the specifications of the software. He said he “looped” — or repeated the sample — in order to run the analysis. Defense attorney Don West said that was a novel technique and went against usual standards.

Circuit Judge Debra Nelson has said the standard for determining whether technology under question is allowed at trial is whether it is too novel or not accepted by a community of experts.

Owen also conceded he had a financial interest in the software he used to conduct the analysis.

An FBI expert testified a day earlier that there wasn’t enough clear sound on the 911 recordings to determine whose voice it was. Hirotaka Nakasone also said the concept that individuals have unique voice-prints that identify them is misleading. “No one can speak in the same way twice,” Nakasone said.

The screams captured on the 911 calls are crucial pieces of evidence since they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation. Martin’s family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman’s father has said it was his son.