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Voice expert hearing goes to 4th day

Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

SANFORD, Fla. – A Florida judge suspended until Monday a hearing to determine if voice-recognition experts will be allowed to testify at George Zimmerman’s trial.

Circuit Judge Debra Nelson halted the hearing Saturday after an audio expert was unable to testify because he was stuck at an airport. She will issue a ruling after testimony is concluded.

The hearing will continue Monday along with the first day of jury selection in Zimmerman’s trial. He has been charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

Audio experts have been giving testimony over the past three days on whether screams heard on 911 calls can be attributed to either Martin or Zimmerman. Voice experts were hired by lawyers and news organizations to analyze the calls, which were made during the confrontation between the two. Thus far, the experts have reached mixed conclusions. Defense attorneys don’t want them to testify.

In deciding whether to admit the voice-recognition technology, Nelson must determine whether it is too novel or whether it has been accepted by a community of experts.

The screams are crucial pieces of evidence since they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation. Martin’s family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman’s father has said it was his son.

A British audio expert testified for the defense Saturday that it would be extremely difficult to analyze voices by comparing screaming to a normal voice.

“I’ve never come across a case in my 13 years where anybody’s tried to compare screaming to a normal voice,” said audio expert Peter French.

A second audio expert for the defense also criticized prosecution experts who said Friday that screams and pleas on a 911 recording likely belonged to Martin.

“It’s all ridiculous,” said audio expert George Doddington.

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Patrick Peterson contributed to this report from Sanford, Fla.

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