“The practical reality is that juries often give the most weight to their own opinions when it comes to evaluating this kind of evidence,” Baldwin said. “Since they can listen to the tape as often as they want when they deliberate, their playing Sherlock Holmes is inevitable.”
The judge’s decision on the audio experts was highly anticipated.
Previous hearings on the experts, heavy on scientific jargon and explanations of computer software and national standards, unfolded during five separate days over the past two weeks, concluding Thursday afternoon.
One expert, Reich, claimed in his report that he hears Zimmerman say “these shall be,” which he calls a “seemingly religious proclamation,” while Trayvon, scared and in a high-pitched voice, screams, “I’m begging you,” just before the shooting.
The other expert, Owen, used computer software to analyze a four-second snippet of cries. He compared it to a sample of an audio clip of Zimmerman, and concluded the voice on the 911 call did not belong to him. He could not say the voice belonged to Trayvon.
In an effort to keep the testimony from being used as evidence for jurors to consider, Zimmerman’s defense team challenged the reliability of the science involved. During the hearing, defense expert James Wayman testified that Owen’s methods were “fundamentally flawed.”
During arguments over the motion to exclude the testimony, defense attorney Don West mocked Reich’s report, saying it showed Trayvon and Zimmerman “having a conversation” and that the document should begin, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Both experts had rendered opinions about the recording for newspapers before they were hired by the State Attorney’s Office.
In her 12-page order, sent via e-mail Saturday to the lawyers in the case, Nelson found that the methods the two men used to analyze the audio were not generally accepted in the scientific community.
“There is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable,” she wrote.
She singled out Reich, saying his report to the prosecution, which differed from one given earlier to a newspaper, “would confuse issues” and “mislead the jury.”
And she hinted that Owen might not have been completely objective in reaching his conclusion after he “acknowledges he markets and has a small financial interest in the software program he utilized.”
Nelson also pointed out that one expert, FBI communications analyst Hirotaka Nakasone, said the audio was too poor to compare to voice samples. For a scientist to claim to have identified the voices on the recording was “disturbing,” he said.