George Zimmerman – 6 Important Missing Questions During Voice Analysis Testimony
I am a trial lawyer. I tell clients, forget what you think about trial lawyers (please). It boils down -if done correctly- to the trial lawyer being the producer and director of an elaborate play about a crucial chapter in their life. It is written by the client’s own life- their doctors, witnesses, experts and a host of others, but performed live without scripts (generally). And the trial lawyer is the quarterback, the conductor and the storyteller.
As such, like a quarterback sitting at home judging another quarterback’s play in the field, it is a bit unfair to critique another lawyer’s strategy while the “game” is ongoing. And, I must note that it is not a game and there is no score kept- just the end. But there have been so many questions in my mind where I ask- did the State Attorneys’ Office for the 4th Judicial Circuit and State of Florida produce and direct this story of the death of Trayvon Martin with proper thought and execution?
To me, the whole case boils down -in large fashion- to the identity of the voices screaming and yelling that night. Emphasizing that point, George Zimmerman started his case-in-chief on defense with that issue, countering Trayvon’s family’s identity and ownership of that crucial voice heard here- zimmerman.
And even though Zimmerman was TOLD it was his own voice by the officer (who was trying to impeach him on the point Zimmerman claimed he was being smothered at the same time he was yelling), Zimmerman said, it didn’t even sound like him. So how are we to believe his uncle and mother, who testified without such hesitation? How could that not be brought before the jury?
Jurors are allowed to tie loose strands together and are encouraged to bring past experience and common sense into the courtroom, but with about six missing questions, the State of Florida dropped the ball on a key issue. And, realize, these questions could have been asked with leading statements, making the points therein far more important and direct that what I ask here.
And like the quarterback in his recliner, here I go-
Question: “When was the last time you heard your son (or nephew) scream over the phone?”
While it was a question that should have been asked to all parties here on cross examination, it never was. It is the key issue. It is the reason why experts could not identify the voice- not enough of a sample or reliability with all of the factors involved, particularly phone quality from 100-plus feet away.
And no one precisely asked if the witness had heard Trayvon or Zimmerman yelling in the phone ever before this incident? Likely, the answer would have been, “never.” But, it also could have opened an interesting door. What if Zimmerman or Trayvon had a habit of flying off the handle, what if Zimmerman or Trayvon a habit of wailing, what if there was something in the past (like the purported incident where Zimmerman turned off his mother’s electricity or was verbally abusive, see statement to the right) where this made the witness truly think or debate discussion of like incidents.
Or heard his scream or talk while being muffled?
And once the State knew it was in the clear on these questions, as the Defense really didn’t flush it out, why not let it rip?
Question: “When was the last time you lived with your son (or nephew)?”
The answer is one sided. The voice expert testified precisely to the unique familiarity of immediate family members to recognize the voice of those really close to them. George Zimmerman had moved on, gotten married, become educated and, arguably, was a very different and better educated man when he left home 5, 6 or 8 years before. This points could have been spelled out quickly.
His voice or his way of speaking, maybe even his language used around the house to his mother, may have been different. MORE IMPORTANTLY, the proper leading question would point our that- while Trayvon continued to be a ward of his parents, living at home the entire time, their familiarity lapsed. Simply having the witness point out he or she had never heard him yell “help” or scream only emphasizes the possibility it was him and is almost flattering, as it shows (indirectly) he was not “crying wolf,” a characterization the State contends. It’s lazy.
Question: “Does the last sample or two sound like “help”?”
First, George denied the screams sounded like him at first- huge point. Then, on his TV tour, he was emphatic it was him- an even larger point. He formulated his story. The key component of the voice at the very end doesn’t sound like “help” at all. It is more of a wailing. It seems more like primal screams FOR help, but does not sound like the word “help.” Yet, Zimmerman has said repeatedly, he screamed “help.” In the re-creation, he used the word “help.” Listen here- VoiceExemplars_03222012_643pm.
Zimmerman’s family was asked about the word, “help.” The issue isn’t “help,” or any other particular selection from the King’s language. It’s the final wailing from someone in fear of his life. The point to make- Zimmerman couldn’t even get what was said correct. He expressed doubt it was him. And the voice ends with a shotgun in dead silence. And he made it despite being muffled by Trayvon. Those points could have been made. They were not.
Question: “How can you be so sure when George isn’t?”
A properly prepared witness could dodge this question, saying we actually do not accurately “hear” our own voices, but I’d still make the point and play the piece right here- zimmermandenial. If George isn’t sure and had heard it over and over, how could you be so sure, when you admittedly had no proper sample in your brain to compare it to?
Question: “Listen to this recreation, does that sound like George Zimmerman?”
Play the recreation. I submit the recreation is different, although I fully understand the inability to recreate those events, but you have to make the point with the jury. The recreation does not sound like the yells for help (or moans) in the 911 call, and (arguably) that is PRECISELY what he is trying to do, to save his freedom. How that isn’t a feature of this argument is beyond me. Maybe it has been ruled out of evidence, but I don’t see how. VoiceExemplars_03222012_643pm
And you are setting up the next question with this question.
Question: “Does that sound like the same voice to you?”
I always want a question in there, entirely open ended, where the witness is damned no matter the answer. If they say “no,” they have proven my point (and inside I do a little dance). It has happened, although not often. If they say, “yes,” if you are right and the jury agrees, you have entirely wiped out their testimony. It is now worthless because they wouldn’t follow the path you paved for them. I then close with a statement that (my mother always said), “a liar is a liar and a cheat is a cheat” or “a liar in part, a liar in whole.”
It is the State’s case- their burden. And they whiffed on a major issue.
What do you think?