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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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.


If I were the judge l would admit expert opinion evidence regarding who uttered the death shriek

June 6, 2013

It’s important to remember that every scientific principle, law, or methodology that is generally accepted in the scientific community today was once a novel theory or new methodology.

The process by which these novel theories and new methodologies become generally accepted in the scientific community can take many years.

It can be extremely frustrating to have to wait for general acceptance to develop in the scientific community when a pressing need exists to use a novel theory or methodology to solve crimes as was the case with applying DNA testing to solve otherwise unsolvable crimes or to hold a pharmaceutical company liable for birth defects that mighth ave been caused by anti-nausea medication prescribed by doctors for pregnant women.

The so-called DNA Wars of which I was a part in the late 80s and 90s resisting the admissibility of DNA test results that implicated my clients in death peenalty cases and the pressure on the courts to provide a legal remedy for parents of children born with birth defects possibly because the mothers ingested prescription Bendectin at the recommendation of their physicians to overcome morning sickness placed a mighty stress on our legal system.

The National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys pressured the courts to admit DNA testing and they were eventually successful in overcoming criminal defense lawyers like me who fought hammer and tong to prevent the evidence from bein admitted.

Plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers fought hard to persuade the courts to permit them to show a link between not only Bendectin and birth defects, but also between certain lung cancers and exposure to radioactiviy, coal dust, asbestos or smoking.

The SCOTUS decided the Daubert case in the midst of this war being fought in the courts to reject or at least loosen the strictures of the Frye Rule to allow litigants a shot at convincing juries to rule their way.

For those who cling to the Frye Rule believing the scientific tradition should be respected and followed before a litigant should be permitted to introduce into evidence the results of a scientific test based on a novel scientific principle or new methodology, I think they need to reexamine their view in a manner that recognizes that most trials consist of a lot of evidence from different sources that often independently confirm a result obtained using an experimental theory or methodology.

In addition, one party or the other has to satisfy a burden of proof and each side can call its own experts to challenge or support the results obtained with the new theory or methodology.

I have confidence in the ability of jurors to evaluate evidence obtained as the result of new scientific theories and methodologies in light of other evidence in the case and to fairly and impartially determine guilt or innocence according to which party has the burden of proof in any case, whether civil or criminal.

Of course this requires skilled lawyerswho understand science and can explain it to lay people. Unfortunately, we have a shortage of those lawyers, but the times are changing.

Daubert recognizes that, although a courtroom is not a laboratory, it is an excellent crucible for determining the truth and judges, lawyers and jurors are capable of making correct decisions and delivering justice in a way that no laboratory can accomplish.

The death shriek in the Zimmerman case is an excellent example of a situation where other evidence in the case confirms the hypothesis that Trayvon Martin uttered the death shriek.

Briefly, the evidence will show that Trayvon was an unarmed 5’11,” 158-pound 17-year-old male walking home in the rain minding his own business after purchasing Skittles and an iced tea at a 7/11. He spent most of his time during his walk home talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone informing her about a creepy man who followed him slowly at a distance in his vehicle in a menacing manner without identifying himself or attempting to engage him in a conversation. Trayvon attempted to elude the creepy man by running away from the street and ducking into a grassy area corresponding to the backyards of two rows of town houses,That area was not visible from the street and once there he told his girlfriend that he thought he had successfully eluded him.

The evidence will also show that the defendant was a 5’8,” 207 pound 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch Captain, professionally trained fighter and former bouncer, who was armed with a fully loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that he carried in a holster concealed from view inside the right rear waistband of his pants.

The evidence will show that he got out of his vehicle after Trayvon ran away, ran after him in hot pursuit, and continued running after him despite being warned not to do so and agreeing not to do so by the NEN dispatcher. Then, instead of agreeing to meet the officer dispatched to the scene at a set location such a his parked vehicle, the RTL front gate, Clubhouse, or the rear entrance to RTL though which “these assholes always get away,” he instructed the dispatcher to tell the officer to ring him up on his cell phone when he arrived at the RTL so that he could tell him where he was.

Finally, the evidence will show that Trayvon’s girlfriend heard Trayvon say to someone, “Why are you following me for?” and then she heard an older male voice challenge Trayvon stating, “What are you doing here?”

Then she heard a sound like two bodies coming together and Trayvon yelling, “Get off me. Get off me.”

Then the phone went dead.

Less than one minute later, the defendant shot Trayvon in the heart, killing him.

I contend that nothwithstanding Dr. Nakasone’s legitimate concerns about the capability of audio technology today to positively identify the source of the death shriek from an isolated 3 second recording of a 911 call, a jury can reach the right conclusion by considering Dr. Nakasone’s opinion together with the opinions of other experts, and most importantly, the other evidence in the case, and the possibility that only Trayvon Martin or the man with the gun could have made those screams.

This, by the way will be the State’s argument, given the questions that Mr. Mantei asked Dr. Nakasone.

I hope this clarifies your understanding of the issues that relate to the admissibility of expert opinion evidence regarding the identity of the person who uttered the death shriek.

In my experience, judges have almost always allowed the expert witness to testify and express an opinion in a situation like this. They rule that objections by counsel go to the weight that the jury should give to any expert’s opinion rather than to the admissibility of the evidence itself.

I believe Judge Nelson will reach the same conclusion.

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What to expect tomorrow at the hearings in the Zimmerman case

June 5, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Good morning:

Except for RZ, Jr.’s unsupported claim that Dr. Alan Reich’s opinions are based on voodoo science, nothing new has been reported in the press today about the case.

Speaking of new, the purpose of a Frye hearing is to determine whether a new or novel scientific theory or methodology is generally accepted in the scientific community. If the answer to the question is “No,” evidence obtained using that theory or methodology will be excluded and the jury will never hear about it.

If the theory or methodology used is not novel or new, the evidence will be admitted and objections to the accuracy of the results will go to weight and not admissibility. In other words, the jury will determine how much weight to assign to the evidence.

I think the defendant’s objections go to weight rather than admissibility, since the technology used is not novel or new.

Therefore, I am predicting that Judge Nelson will deny the defense motion to exclude testimony by the defense audiologists, including Dr. Reich.

The other motion scheduled for tomorrow is the defense motion for sanctions and a judicial review of alleged prosecution discovery violations. This will involve a continuation of the hearing that began last Tuesday with Wesley West on the stand. West, the former Nassau County prosecutor who resigned due to differences of opinion with State Attorney Angela Corey last December, represents whistleblower Ben Kruidbos, the Fourth Circuit Director of Information Technology who is going to testify that Bernie de la Rionda had photographs and video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone that he did not disclose to the defense.

As I have said before, “Who cares?”

BDLR turned over the BIN file to the defense back in January, but the defense did not hire anyone to extract it or purchase the software to do it themselves.

In addition, the information on the phone is not relevant, admissible or exculpatory and, in light of Mark O’Mara’s lie about a video supposedly depicting Travon laughing as his buddies beat up a homeless person, O’Mara should have the decency to withdraw the motion and apologize for filing it.

He will not do that, of course.

I would deny his frivolous motion and fine him, if not jail him for contempt, but Judge Nelson is nicer than I am, so she will just deny it or hold off on issuing a ruling until after the trial, which is what she did with the last defense motion for sanctions.

The testimony from the audiologists should be interesting and worth listening to. After they are finished testifying, I think O’Mara will deeply regret having asked for a Frye hearing.

This is a golden opportunity for BDLR to inform the jury panel, the nation and the world on the eve of trial that Trayvon uttered the death shriek.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 am EDT.

We will live blog on the road via livestream from a motorcycle somewhere deep in Tennessee.

Ciao, baby.

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Please keep those donations coming.

We’ll need the gas money to get home.

Many blessings to all of you from

Fred and Crane


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