Expert Hired by Newspaper Says Cry on 911 Tape Is Trayvon Martin Pleading for His Life
Posted May 21, 2012 8:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A taped 911 call placed to police the night that Trayvon Martin was killed indicate the youth was pleading for his life, according to a former professor who has worked as an expert in hundreds of court cases.
The Washington Post hired expert Alan Reich, a former University of Washington professor, to examine a 45-second recording using software and visual depictions. An FBI analysis has been unable to conclude whether the person calling for help is Martin or the man who shot him, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. But Reich says the person crying for help is the younger man in the confrontation—17-year-old Martin.
Zimmerman, who called police to report Martin looked suspicious, has claimed he shot Martin in self defense after the youth attacked him.
According to Reich, Martin says the words “I’m begging you” and later “help me.” Before the shot is fired, Martin yells “stop,” Reich concludes.
A retired FBI expert, James Ryan, questions whether such certainty is possible, though he was speaking in general rather than analyzing Reich's work. Ryan said he doesn't know of any studies indicating it's possible to make conclusions about age from vocal pitch. In emotional situations, the range of the human voice is too varied to make any conclusions about age, he said. Nor is it always possible to positively identify words being said, even with the help of technology, he added.
“I think it’s hard to scientifically say anything definitive with audio like this,” Ryan told the newspaper. “One person will come up with one scenario, one speech, one sentence, and some other well-meaning person, trying hard, unbiased in a controlled environment with headphones, will come up with another one.”