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Sunday, July 7, 2013

George Zimmerman Trial - Whose Scream Is It?

When Edvard Munch created his Scream series(1893-1910) the inspiration was an "infinite scream he felt passing through nature."

And maybe that is what a scream really is, something passing through nature. The face has been described as depersonalized, distorted and painful.  It speaks to us.  The 1895 version painted in pastels on board sold at Sotheby's for a record $120 million at auction May, 2012, to Leon Black who made the purchase by telephone.

Today while shopping at Loehmann's,  I heard blood curdling screams.  My first thought was that it sounded like the tape of  the screams played during the George Zimmerman trial and identified by each mother as her son. It turned out that the shrill cry was coming from a woman who had been caught shop lifting.

Defense forensic audio expert, Dr. Peter French explained the technology of voice science and stated that the poor quality of the recording meant there was no useful information for identifying the screamer. His main point was that you cannot compare screaming with normal voices. Another defense expert, George Doddington an electrical engineer and advisor at the NSA said evaluating one second of speech to reach a conclusion is "ridiculous." Judge Debra Nelson disallowed testimony from two state audio experts who say the voice heard screaming for help on a 911 call was someone other than Zimmerman. 

Despite this testimony, that the recording was too short for the voice to be identified,  the prosecution and defense presented each mother and Trayvon Martin's brother to claim the ear piercing shrieker as their own. Had either mother ever heard her son scream like the person on the recording?  Probably not. Mothers do not teach their children how to scream. Listener bias was determinative.

I still think the screaming sounded like the woman at Loehmann's.