I have changed my mind and now support Judge Nelson’s decision

June 22, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good afternoon:

I was in the waiting room at my doctor’s office down in Tennessee browsing through a dictionary looking for new words with which to torture y’all when CNN announced that Judge Nelson had issued an order excluding the State’s audio experts (Tom Owen and Dr. Alan Reich) from testifying at the trial. For those of you who may not be as familiar with the case as we are, both experts would have testified that George Zimmerman did not utter that haunting shriek. Dr. Reich also would have testified that Trayvon Martin likely uttered the shriek.

The anchor person said Judge Nelson determined that there is an absence of agreement in the scientific community that the methodologies used by Mr. Owen and Dr. Reich were capable of identifying the source of the terrified death shriek due to the current inability in the scientific community to match a voice exemplar with a shout, the poor quality of the 911 recording, and the short length of time in which there are no competing sounds on the recording and only the shriek can be heard (approximately 3 seconds).

Although I predicted Judge Nelson would deny the defense motion, I cannot say that I am surprised or dismayed by her decision. In fact, and I may surprise some of you with this statement, I am going to compliment Judge Nelson for her decision because it is the right decision at the right time in our nation’s courts and I believe it took a lot of courage for her to make it, especially in a high visibility case like this one in which the whole world is watching.

I have previously written about the deplorable state of forensic science in our nation and the need for standards, regulatory oversight, and mandatory blind proficiency testing of lab personnel modeled after the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA). There is no question in my mind that Dr. Nakasone and Dr. Weyman are on the right track attempting to establish a national set of standards and accepted methodologies for use in forensic voice identification. Judge Nelson did the right thing by endorsing their efforts and her decision was courageous because a lot of forensic scientists and the prosecutors and defense lawyers who employ them will criticize her.

My support for the admissibility of the results obtained by Mr. Owen and Dr. Reich is based on the unique set of circumstances of this case in which the shriek could only have been uttered by one of two known individuals. This situation only requires eliminating one of the two individuals. Since all of the experts who testified agreed that the methodologies used by the State’s experts have been used for many years and continue to be used today; it was easier to exclude than to declare a match; the defense was unable to find an expert willing to testify that George Zimmerman uttered the shriek; and the circumstantial evidence proves that Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek; I concluded that the State’s experts should have been permitted to testify. I still believe that would have been an appropriate conclusion to reach applying the Frye rule.

I am very pleased and proud of your reaction to the news. I anticipated dismay, some panic, and cynical complaints that Judge Nelson is corrupt and the outcome is rigged. I anticipated this reaction because I confess that it was my first reaction. A 2-hour motorcycle ride home on a beautiful afternoon driving on a lesser-traveled 2-lane highway curving through forests and corn fields with the Crane-Station sitting behind me was the perfect antidote. I fully engaged in driving my motorcycle, forgot my disappointment, and realized the prosecution is in a much better position because of her ruling.

When I arrived home and checked the blog I saw that y’all were taking it in stride without any help from me. Y’all know that the prosecution does not need the expert testimony to convince the jury that Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek and I think y’all also realize that not presenting the expert testimony avoids the inevitable distraction and confusion that a battle of the experts might cause. Indeed, in a case like this with only two possible individuals who could have uttered the shriek, there is virtually no chance that any jury would conclude that the shooter uttered that shriek when the evidence will show that he was the person who was armed, he was the person who got out of his vehicle and ran after an unarmed Trayvon when Trayvvon attempted to get away from him, he was the person who admitted to establishing control over Trayvon with a wristlock before pulling his gun and shooting Trayvon, and the shriek ends with the gunshot. Just as we do not need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind blows, we also do not need experts to tell us who uttered that shriek. Neither will the jury.

Therefore, Judge Nelson did the prosecution a huge favor by excluding the experts. In essence, she applied the KISS rule and is forcing the prosecution to do the same thing. She deserves to be thanked for that, not criticized. Y’all realized that without any assistance from me and that is why I am so proud of you and so delighted to see how much you know about the case and how sophisticated you have become in understanding the evidence and the rules governing the use of expert witnesses.

Anyone lacking your knowledge of the evidence in this case would have thought the prosecution had lost any chance to convict George Zimmerman, given the near unanimity of so-called legal experts characterizing this ruling and the selection of an all woman jury as devastating disasters for the prosecution.

Before I got involved in this case, I did not believe my low opinion of the national media and their so-called legal experts could possibly get any lower. However, the nonsense they are spewing as informed opinion has significantly lowered the bar. Despite its availability, they are ignoring the evidence that we have so carefully analyzed and discussed. They have accepted Mark O’Mara’s false narrative and joined in demonizing an innocent 17-year-old kid with loving parents and a bright future. I would have considered myself extraordinarily fortunate if Trayvon were my son and I would have been extremely proud of him. Anyone lawyer who has joined in the demonization of Trayvon and his parents by appearing on national television and voicing an expert opinion regarding the case that endorses the false narrative as though it were true, is a fundamentally dishonest human being without empathy or moral compass.

In many ways, Travon’s case functions as a mirror reflecting the prejudices people have about race, black male teenagers, and black people as parents and citizens. With the selection off an all female jury, the case is reflecting the prejudices people have about women as decision-makers.

Before this case, I knew we had a long long way to go before we reach a place where we no longer disrespect people by the color of their skin and their gender.

Trayvon’s case has taught me that our society is far more racist and sexist than I imagined. His case is an opportunity to set the record right and recommit to seeking equality and justice for all of our people as opposed to a privileged few.

Congratulations to all of you from your humble professor.

Fred

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All Female Jury to decide Zimmerman case, Opening Statements Monday at 9 am

June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good evening:

We have a jury, an all female jury.

B-29
B-76
B-37
B-51
E-6
E-40

The four alternates:

E-54
B-72
E-13
E-28

Two males and two females.

Here’s a link to fauxmccoy’s chart on the jurors.

Those in green made the jury. Those in red were stricken.

I tried hundreds of cases during my 30 year career and never had an all female or an all male jury.

5 of the 6 women are white. One is Hispanic.

5 of the 6 women are mothers.

I would be very worried, if I were George Zimmerman, because I believe those mothers are not going to believe him. I think they are going to hold him accountable for killing an unarmed teenager.

I am unhappy that none of the jurors are black, but I do not believe that is going to affect the final outcome of this case.

I predict GZ will testify because Mark O’Mara did not voir dire the panel of jurors regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent and not testify. When my clients decided not to testify, I always made sure that the jurors understood that my clients were not required to testify and no one could assume that their silence was evidence of guilt.

Judge Nelson announced that counsel will give their opening statements beginning at 9 am EDT on Monday morning.

After she dismissed the remainder of the panel and swore in the jurors, Judge Nelson excused the jury and completed the evidentiary part of the Frye hearing.

Assistant State Attorney Manthei summed up the situation when he said there was nothing novel or new about the methodologies used by the State’s experts. What is new is a move across several different scientific disciplines to establish a universal set of standards to use when attempting to match a recording of an unknown voice to a database of recorded voices of known individuals in order to declare a match.

That is a far more complicated task than listening to a known voice and excluding that known individual as the source of a voice on a recording. There are only two possible sources of the terrified shriek that ends with the shot and it’s not difficult to exclude the armed defendant who admitted firing the fatal shot as the source of that scream.

Manthei added that the State was not responsible for the recent news reports that the defense had an expert who identified GZ as the source of the scream.

And some PJs mentioned hearing that in the news before reporting for jury service.

However, as it turned out, the defense could find no expert to testify to that opinion and the reports were false.

If I were Judge Nelson, I would rule that the State’s experts may testify and express their opinions. The defendant’s objections go to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility.

Judge Nelson will issue her ruling after court reconvenes at 9 am tomorrow.

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Zimmerman Frye Hearing Resumed: Rebuttal

June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have a jury, an all female jury.

B-29
B-76
B-37
B-51
E-6
E-40

The four alternates:

E-54
B-72
E-13
E-28

Two males and two females.

Here’s a link to fauxmccoy’s chart.

Next up is the prosecution’s rebuttal case in the Frye hearing.

They will be presenting one witness, Tom Owen.

Here’s the link to the livestream coverage.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbcnews.com/52117880/


Zimmerman: Day 8 Liveblogging Jury Selection Completed

June 19, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have completed liveblogging the 8th day of jury selection.

Bernie de la Rionda spent the day teaching and indoctrinating the panel of 40 prospective jurors (PJs) with the legal foundation of the case that he will present to them in opening statement. Judging by their reaction, he succeeded in building rapport and trust.

The defense has a big mountain to climb tomorrow.

Bernie used a mixture of one-at-a-time voir dire as to the entire group and then switched to what we used to call the Donahue Method after the former TV host, Phil Donahue.

We would never have been allowed to conduct a classroom style multiple-hour education of the panel regarding legal principles as Bernie did.

Judges instruct on the law, not lawyers.

Voir dire means to question.

During his initial questioning of the panel, he asked each individual juror how long they had lived in Seminole County and Florida, their marital status and children, and what they liked to do with their spare time.

Then he used the Donahue Method to question the panel of 40 as a group on the following subjects:

1. Knowledge of the defendant, lawyers, court personnel and witnesses to be called;

2. Familiarity with TV programs about forensics, cops and the law;

3. Difference between direct and circumstantial evidence;

4. Whether anyone was arrested and prosecuted for a crime;

5. Victims of crime, particularly violent crime;

6. Experience with Neighborhood Watch programs;

7. Whether anyone believes they have the right to take the law into their own hands;

8. Whether anyone believes any person by reason of wealth, education, employment, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, language or dress should be treated differently under the law;

9. Whether anyone has been a witness before or served on a jury;

10. Member of law enforcement or knows someone who is;

11. Whether anyone has medical experience or knowledge;

12. Owns a gun, has a license to carry concealed, NRA membership;

13. Whether people who own guns have a responsibility to learn how to use them;

14. Whether anyone is a fitness freak or trained fighter or been in a fight;

15. Whether anyone has special knowledge or training in cell phones, phonetics, linguistics, or DNA testing; and

16. Whether anyone would not be able to look at gruesome photographs for their evidentiary value.

No one was excused today although I believe 2 PJs should be excluded for financial and familial hardship, especially since the trial is expected to last 2-4 weeks and the jury will be sequestered. Both are Hispanic.

B-29 is a married mother with 8 children at home. The oldest is 22. She works as a CNA. She is juror #2 in the box and would be replaced by B-51, a retired white female from Oviedo with a dog and 20-year-old cat. Knows a good deal about the case, but said “I’m not rigid in my thinking.” She moved to Florida from Atlanta and was the Director of a call center for 1,200 employees.

P-67 is an auto mechanic whose job might not be there after the trial. He is 22nd on the list of 40.

The defense will voir dire tomorrow starting at 9 am EDT.

If the defense has not completed questioning the PJs by 2 pm, Judge Nelson will excuse them for the day in order to resume and complete at least the evidentiary portion of the Frye hearing. The prosecution will be presenting one rebuttal witness, Tom Owen.

I doubt she will be ready to issue her decision at the conclusion of the hearing, so look for it early next week, probably Monday.

I will see you all tomorrow morning at 9 am EDT.

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Zimmerman: Day 6 of Jury Selection Completed

June 17, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Good evening:

Judge Nelson just recessed court for the day at 8:30 pm EDT after a very long day in court.

Day 6 of jury selection concluded at 4 pm. Counsel questioned 8 prospective jurors (PJs), 4 were excused for cause.

The 4 who were passed for cause on the hardship and pretrial publicity issues are H7, H18, H29 and H35.

They join the pool of 29 PJs (Total 33).

Here is the updated list of 33 PJs for your scorecard:

1. B-12 F 40s-50s White
2. B-29 F 40s Black
3. B-76 F 50s-60s White
4. B-7 M 40s-50s White
5. B-35 M 40s-50s Black
6. B-37 F 50s White
7. B-51 F 60s-70s White
8. B-55 F 20s E. Indian
9. B-86 F 50s White
10.E-6 F 20s-30s White
11.E-40 F 50s-60s White
12.E-54 M 60s-70s White
13.E-73 F 60s White
14.M-75 F 30s Black
15.B-61 F 20s White
16.B-72 M 20s White/Bi-racial
17.E-22 F 50-60 Black
18.E-13 F 20s White
19.E-28 F 50s-60s White
20.K-80 F 40s-50s White
21.K-95 F 40s-50s White
22.P-67 M 40s-50 Hispanic
23.G-14 F 40s-50s White
24.G-29 F 30s Black
25.G-47 M 20s White
26.G-63 M 20s Mixed
27.G-66 F 50s White
28.G-81 M 30s-40s Black
29.H-6 M 30s-40s White
30.H-7 M
31.H18 M
32.H29 M
33.H35 F

Judge Nelson wants to get a pool of 40 PJs passed for cause on hardship and pretrial publicity before she switches to group voir dire.

She will gather that group together seating the PJs in the jury box, and subsequently the benches, in the order in which they were called and likely instruct them to raise their hands indicating an affirmative answer as she asks a series of questions, pausing to record each PJ’s affirmative answer to each question.

For example, she might ask for a show of hands by each PJ who has been a victim of a crime and write down each PJs number who raises their hand.

After she completes her list of questions, the lawyers, starting with Bernie de la Rionda, will question the first PJ on the list (B12) regarding each question she answered affirmatively. After both lawyers have finished with B12, they will pass or challenge her for cause. If she is excused, she will be replaced in the box by PJ B51 (she is 7th in the order).

This process will be repeated with B51 until she is passed or excused for cause. If she is excused, her seat will be taken by B55. If she is passed, the lawyers will question B29, the PJ in the second seat in the box.

This procedure likely will be followed until 30 PJs have been passed for cause.

Then the lawyers will exercise their peremptory challenges, which is usually done secretly with the lawyers passing back and forth a sheet of paper alternately listing a PJ number until one or both sides exhaust their allotment of peremptory challenges.

If one side accepts the jury of 6 before exhausting their peremptories, they retain the right to use a peremptory challenge to excuse the PJ who replaces a member of the jury struck by their opponent after they accepted the jury.

In other news today, the defense rested its case in the Frye hearing after calling Dr. James L. Wayman.

Dr. Wayman testified that science does not have the capacity yet to identify who screamed in the background of the 911 call or identify anything said.

In a surprising development, Don West may have provided him with a document that does not describe the test that Tom Owen conducted thereby rendering Dr. Wayman’s criticism of Owen’s results irrelevant.

The State is going to call Owen to the stand in rebuttal on Wednesday at 4 pm after the court concludes jury selection for the day.

Jury selection resumes tomorrow morning at 9 am EDT.

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Expert opinions about the death shriek are admissible at trial

June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

The defense presented the testimony of two expert witnesses yesterday, Dr. Peter French from the UK and George Doddington from the United States, who agreed with Dr. Nakasone of the FBI Crime Lab that there is insufficient information in the background of the recorded 911 calls with which to form an opinion regarding whether Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman uttered the terrified death shriek.

The three experts also agreed that there is insufficient information to support an opinion regarding whether there are any identifiable words or phrases in the background of those calls.

Note that the three experts have described the prosecution and defense effort to rely on expert witnesses to identify the source of the terrified death shriek, as well as any words or phrases that either of them might have used, as an absence-of-evidence problem. That is, they agreed that the methodologies used by the prosecution experts are generally accepted by audiologists and neither novel nor new.

This conclusion is all that is required to satisfy the Frye rule, since the rule is a counting-heads test that establishes a threshold requirement or legal foundation to introduce an expert opinion that is based on a novel scientific theory or new methodology. The expert’s conclusion is irrelevant.

In other words, there was no need for a Frye hearing since the prosecution experts based their opinions on long accepted methodologies. Therefore, their opinions are admissible.

How much weight should be accorded to those opinions is a separate issue that only the jury can decide.

Defense counsel have focused their effort during the Frye hearing on attacking the validity of the opinions expressed by the prosecution experts. They are going to have to repeat that effort during the trial.

I predicted long ago that expert opinion regarding who uttered the terrified death shriek would not play a significant role in the outcome of the trial.

If I were arguing the State’s case to the jury, I would emphasize the strength of the circumstantial evidence that proves Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek. I would briefly add that the conclusions reached by the prosecution experts independently confirm the circumstantial evidence.

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Prosecution experts exclude the defendant as the source of the death shriek

June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good evening:

The Frye hearing is developing much as I expected it would, although I am surprised by how far afield the testimony has wandered.

The scope of the hearing should be confined to determining whether the methodologies used by the experts are generally accepted by forensic audiologists. Dr. Nakasone, Tom Owen and Dr. Reich agreed that they are and that resolves the Frye inquiry.

The defense presented evidence questioning the accuracy of the results due to the very short (3-second recording) length of time in which the death shriek is not competing with other sounds. However, that argument and the rest of the defense arguments affect the weight that should be given to the results rather than the admissibility of the evidence.

Therefore, we basically watched a full dress rehearsal of the defense case challenging the accuracy of the opinions expressed by Tom Owen and Dr. Reich.

They agreed that the defendant did not utter the death shriek and indeed the circumstantial evidence independently confirms their opinions.

I confess that I had a difficult time hearing what the experts were saying because the audio was fuzzy and cutting in and out.

West’s monotone and stubborn nitpicking instead of focusing on the general acceptance issue, which is the purpose of the Frye hearing was quite annoying.

I think the defense committed a potentially serious tactical error by asking for a Frye hearing this close to trial because they have little or no chance to win and the hearing creates an opportunity for the State to remind everyone that their experts have excluded the defendant as the source of the death shriek.


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