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Experts Debate Whether Trayvon Martin Yelled ‘Stop’ Before Zimmerman Killed Him

Just days away from the start of  George Zimmerman’s murder trial, prosecutors and the defense are scuffling over which interpretations of Zimmerman’s and Trayvon Martin’s voices heard in the background of a 911 call will be presented to the jury during the trial.

The analysis by audio expert Alan Reich, a state forensics consultant, is fraught with peril for Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Martin last February in Sanford, Florida. In Reich’s analysis, Zimmerman utters the religious pronouncement – “These shall be” – and then Martin is interpreted as yelling, “I’m begging you” and “stop!”

Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson, who is in the midst of hearings to determine what the jury can hear, didn’t rule on Reich’s analysis yesterday for the trial that starts on Monday. Zimmerman’s team and outside critics consider Reich a practitioner of  “voodoo forensics” and believe his analysis should be discarded as hearsay.

The question the jury will be deciding when listening to the voice snippets is whether Zimmerman truly feared for his life when he fired, or did he control the situation and fire at a helpless and defensive Martin?

As the closely watched trial is about to start, the website reports on the presence of local pastors in the courtroom, who have come together to create a strategy for keeping their communities from exploding after the trial verdict.

The group is called Sanford Pastors Connecting and it consists of white and black pastors. The members of the clergy get four seats inside the courtroom each day, with many more posted outside the courthouse to help pacify potential protests.

“The ultimate request a year ago was that he [Zimmerman] be charged, was that he get arrested. Now that he’s arrested, now that he’s in the system, let’s let the system do what it’s supposed to do,” said Rev. Harry Rucker of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford. “If we’re there, regardless of the outcome, then we’re able to go back and communicate to our people the truth. Our concern is that first of all that justice be done and out concern is that people be calm and orderly.”

The pastors say they have already been getting a sense of how people in their communities are feeling leading up to the trial, and they believe people are calm.

“Tragedies happen, violence happens in every community,” said Rev. Charles Holt of St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lake Mary. “The difference is how does a community responds.”

During the pretrial hearing, an FBI speech scientist testified that current technology cannot categorically determine whether the voice heard on the 911 tape screaming for help was Martin or Zimmerman.
“The voice was outside the normal range. We know the [computer] system cannot distinguish normal speech from abnormal speech,” testified Dr. Hirotake Nakasone, a senior audio engineer at the FBI.

“That 911 call will get played in court. It is an important piece of evidence that will be played for the jury to make up their mind,” said Shawn Vincent, spokesman for the O’Mara Law Group.

Prosecutors believe the voice belongs to Martin and wants the jury to hear what they claim are the teenager’s last words. Most of the audio experts who have studied the available tapes, especially two recordings known as “Call 1” – Zimmerman’s call to the dispatcher – and “Call 3” – a 911 call from a resident where voices can be heard in the background — have agreed that a scream for “help” at the end of Call 3 is Martin’s voice.

Reich also matches that voice to Martin, though he believes he hears the word “stop” instead of “help” before a shot rings out.

In his May 15 report, Reich concludes Martin’s voice “is younger and he generates much of what some observers have called screams.” He continues, “The two males are engaged in a loud, purposeful, mostly ‘turn-taking’ linguistic dialogue. The speech associated with the confrontation is often quite difficult to understand, but is amenable to individualized digital enhancement and computer-aided transcription, using an interactive, segment-by-segment approach.”

But Zimmerman’s lawyers are fighting to keep Reich’s analysis out of the trial.

Robert Zimmerman, Zimmerman’s brother, told CBS News on Wednesday that Reich “is hearing what no one else is able to hear.” He added, “Experts that reach conclusions that can’t be re-created by any other person flies in the face of the very definition of science.”

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