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Voice Analyst Testifies In Zimmerman Trial; 19 Firefighters Killed In Battling Wildfire; Expert: 911 Tape "Utterly Unreliable"; Skepticism About Zimmerman's Fears

Aired July 1, 2013 - 10:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining us. We've hit the top of the hour so welcome to NEWSROOM.

We're covering the George Zimmerman murder trial, of course, in its entirety. You are about to hear live testimony from Dr. Nakasone. He is an FBI voice analyst. He testified that there is no way that he can determine as a voice analyst whose tape was screaming on that 911 call. He couldn't tell whether it was a younger man or an older man. He said the best way is to come from the person or persons, they would best know the voice on tape.

Dr. Nakasone is being cross-examined by Don West, George Zimmerman's defense attorney who is talking more of the analysis of these kind of tapes, what it means, what it can determine. Let's listen.


DR. HIROTAKA NAKASONE, VOICE ANALYST: -- edge technology is in scientific studies.

DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: If I heard you earlier correctly, there is no methodology or science that can reliably evaluate screams as the speaker identification at this time?

NAKASONE: That is correct. The niche has not addressed the extreme voice samples like that.

WEST: The working group that you talked about includes, you said, academics, are you talking college professors and researchers that don't necessarily run a laboratory?

NAKASONE: Yes, in addition to those, we also have representatives from forensic communities say like we had a presentation from the DOJ that's FBI.



WEST: The Department of Justice? NAKASONE: That's correct. We also have representation from U.S. Secret Service. We have representation from intelligence communities I'm not allowed to spell out the names.

WEST: It's another acronym, shall we say?

NAKASONE: Multiple agencies are also sending representation for this group, indeed, you are here, are you not, with special representation of the FBI legal counsel?

NAKASONE: Yes, sir, assistant counsel allowed me to testify for this particular case.

WEST: And as a result, in fact, the scope of your testimony is somewhat limited, if we were to ask you questions that maybe protected for security reasons or outside the scope of this case?

NAKASONE: That is correct.

WEST: It is your FBI lab a forensic lab?


WEST: And I want to have you just address that for a moment. The jury may not know what forensic means in the context of the work that you do. By forensic, I'll summarize it or you correct me or that it's when a focus towards evaluating evidence for possible use in a courtroom setting?

NAKASONE: The other narrow definition and broad definition of the working forensics, what you just defined is narrow definition of the forensics. Usually, other people think that any existence should be able to be produced as evidence in the courtroom. However, there is another interpretation, which is the broad definition of forensics simply means the analysis that is being conducted for the purpose of investigative guidance, criminal investigations or terrorist investigations.

WEST: So, in other words, if --


COSTELLO: OK, we will jump away from this cross and talk about it. Because as I mentioned in the last hour, some of the jurors are getting sort of tired of this testimony, several of them are yawning. Jason Johnson, you are my court observer, some are saying they don't get it.

JASON JOHNSON, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: It makes no sense. The defense isn't using it. The guy is droning on and on about his resume, it's a staff meeting. I'm in this club. I'm in that group and none of that means anything to the jurors who will trying to decide, look, can you say anything about this voice, can we use that to determine whether or Zimmerman is guilty.

COSTELLO: It's boiled down to, no, no can't expertly testify to whose voice was on that 911 call. If a family member got on that stand, they may be better able to tell who was screaming on that tape, right, Page?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. That's basically a one question cross examination. Is that your opinion? Yes, sir, no, sir, and then sit down. I really don't see from the defense standpoint the purpose of drag out his credentials over and over again unless you use this witness to support something later in your case once you get a chance to call witnesses.

COSTELLO: Sunny, that in your mind, too?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it seems with me with Attorney Don West. He doesn't have the best sense of time in the courtroom. I will tell from experience, when you are in the courtroom, it's almost you are so in the weeds, you are in a vacuum. Are you so in the zone that sometimes you don't keep your hand on the court and it just seems to me given the fact that he gave almost a three-hour opening statement it was rambling started with that knock, knock joke around the world.

He cross-examined Rachel Jeantel in a way that many find him offensive. Now we have him keeping a witness on the stand a bit too long. Sometimes as a trial attorney, are you so in the zone, you lose your sense of the courtroom. I'm sure Page may or may fought have had that experience. I had it early in my career and so, you know, I tend to think that's what's happening with this defense attorney.

COSTELLO: We were all expecting this morning, Page, that the prosecution would put on one of the more exciting witnesses and that would be Detective Serino. Detective Serino initially questioned Zimmerman. His initial thoughts were to charge George Zimmerman with man slaughter and you were surprised that that witness wasn't put on the stand first.

PATE: I was surprised. Again, trials are about momentum. When the defense and it's so strongly on Friday, I expected early Monday, we would hear from a strong prosecution witness that clearly supported their theory. You got the jury's attention, they're awake you start out with something this dry and somewhat confusing to the jury. You will lose them the rest of the day perhaps.

COSTELLO: OK, while that testimony goes on, of course, we'll continue to monitor the witness in the Zimmerman trial. But there is another big story we're following this morning and that would be the tragic death of 19 elite firefighters in the Arizona Mountains, an out of control wildfire killed the entire crew last night. They were battling the Yarnel Hill fire between Phoenix and Flag Step.

This elite group from the city of Prescott was responsible for digging a fire break and creating an escape route when fire simply overtook them. That fire has burned more than 6,000 acres, destroyed 100 structures, and this tragedy decimated the fire department by 20 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF DAN FRAIJO, PRESCOTT, ARIZONA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Families are in terrible shock. Fire departments are like families. So the entire fire department, the entire area, the entire state is being devastated by the magnitude of this incident.


COSTELLO: CNN's Kyung Lah has more for you.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Yarnell Hill fire began moving at a ferocious pace on Sunday, suddenly changing direction, claiming the most firefighter lives since 9/11, trapping 19 firefighters with no way out.

FRAIJO: We're devastated. We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you'll ever meet. I mean, right now, we're in crisis.

LAH: The firefighters were part of the Prescott Fire Department Hot Shot crew, getting their name because they worked in the hottest parts of the wildfire, confronting wildfires up close and setting up barriers to stop the destructive spread.

FRAIJO: These are the guys that will go out there with 40, 50 pounds of equipment and walk five miles, they will sleep out there. These are quality people.

LAH: The crew was tasked with digging a fire line and creating an escape route. The flames hadn't even touched Prescott. But like many other fire departments across the state, the Prescott team jumped into help fight the blaze. The fire which began Friday has burned at least 6,000 acres and at least 100 structures destroyed. Forced to evacuate, some residents had only minutes to grab their belongings. Others witnessed their homes burn as they fled the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went up to get the wife because the fire was getting close. And I woke her up and got the evacuation notice and we had no time. We got the dogs. We got the wife and it's gone.

LAH: Officials believe lightning may have sparked the fire. The area has been experiencing severe drought conditions.


COSTELLO: That was Kyung Lah reporting. We are going to continue to monitor the George Zimmerman murder trial. We'll be back with more after this.


COSTELLO: All right, don't you take us back live to Sanford, Florida, a voice analyst for the FBI continues his testimony. It's been going on for over an hour now. Now the attorneys are starting this spat over the witness in a line of questioning the defense attorney can ask. What's that about? HOSTIN: You know, I didn't hear the first part of your question, Carol, but I have been watching the trial during the breaks and it's interesting because the defense I think wants to use this witness as their own witness, so he's been trying to get a feel for what the direct examination is. He is trying to expand the subject matter. I can't tell where he wants to go. He certainly wants to go in a different direction the judge said, no, you can't get there yet. He would have to call this witness back in the defense case, but perhaps the defense won't put on a case that would force them to put on a case, now they're at sidebar arguing about that very issue.

COSTELLO: Yes, it's interesting. We are all stumped to what this witness can say beyond the fact that you can't tell through scientific means whose voice it was on those 911 tapes.

HOSTIN: Yes, although clearly, these attorneys have met with these witnesses before. This witness was a defense hearing. Suffice it to say they have met with him a couple times, there is something he has given them that they want injected into this trial. Will they be able to go there on the state's dime in the state's case? I'm not so sure about that. That's why I think you heard don west say let me treat him as my witness? Of course, the government always objects to. That you say, sorry, this is my attorney, will you have your turn if you choose to do it.

COSTELLO: We were all expecting two homicide detectives to take the stand one Detective Serino initially questioned George Zimmerman after the event happened his inclination was to bring manslaughter charges. Do we have that tape available? We'll have it soon now, as soon as we get it, we'll let you listen. Let's talk about that. There is some controversy. He since has been demoted. Nobody can figure out why, Jason.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, there are so many political machinations going on. So a lot of other people got involved, but I think he's a police officer. That's not going to matter. Anyone who was a member of the law will be somebody this jury will listen to. So that's why the prosecution wants him.

COSTELLO: I will play the initial interrogation between the detective and George Zimmerman. He was questioned about the events of that night. Let's listen to a piece of that interrogation.


SERINO: What happened is that you essentially saw somebody who you were in good faith over doing something wrong?


SERINO: And, you ever hear of Murphy's Law?


SERINO: OK, that's what happened. This person was not doing anything bad. You know, the name of the person that died? ZIMMERMAN: Trayvon?

SERINO: Trayvon.

ZIMMERMAN: Trayvon Martin.

SERINO: Trayvon Benjamin Martin. He was born February 5th. He was 17-years-old, an athlete, probably somewhere, somebody's going be in aeronautics, a kid with a future, a kid with folks that care. In his possession, we found a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles and about $40 in cash. Not the goon.


COSTELLO: OK. So after this interrogation as I said, Detective Serino decided that George Zimmerman probably should be charged with manslaughter and Page Pate brought up an interesting thing. Page, you said it doesn't much matter who was on top or on bottom during that tussle. What does matter?

PATE: Well, at the end of the day the judge will instruct the jury on the law of self-defense, what is important is the George Zimmerman had to be acting lawfully at the time he used lawful or deadly force against Trayvon Martin. If he initiated the fight, if he's in there throwing punches, just because Trayvon throws a few and may be winning does not give him the right to shoot him. Zimmerman if he's initiating the fight, grappling with him. He's not acting lawfully at the time.

COSTELLO: Is it enough that George Zimmerman may have been following Trayvon Martin? Is that enough to be the aggressor?

PATE: I don't think so. We heard that Zimmerman was asked, you don't need to do that. I think he had a lawful purpose for being there at the time. That is part of his deal as the neighborhood watch. Once you start throwing blows and start a physical altercation, then it's a physical assault and battery. And you're not acting lawfully at that time.

COSTELLO: How can you possibly figure out who threw the first punch?

JOHNSON: That's where Rachel Jeantel comes in, she hears the phone drop. But I think the prosecution also going to make this argument with their (inaudible) and they said this in the opening statement. Zimmerman had a gun in the chamber. He got out of the car with the gun ready to shoot. He didn't have the safety on. They build that. He gets out of the car. He has a bullet in the chamber. Jeantel says I think Trayvon was hit. They will have to string that altogether.

COSTELLO: Also, maybe introduced later today, when you don't really know is this re-enactment video. They brought him to the scene of the incident George Zimmerman was animated. Do we have the sound from that? OK, let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZIMMERMAN: I passed here. I didn't see anything. I was walking back to my truck. I got to right about here, he yelled from behind me to the side of me, he said, you got a problem? I turned around, I said, no, I don't have a problem, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was he at?

ZIMMERMAN: He was about there, but he was walking towards me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this direction here?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir. Like I was already passed that, so I didn't see exactly where he came from. He was about where you were. I said, I don't have a problem. I went to go grab my cell phone. I left it in a different pocket. I looked down and he said, you got a problem now. Then he was here. He punched me in the face.


COSTELLO: And you see that big band-aid on the back of George Zimmerman's head. Sunny, I want to ask you this question because as part of that interrogation, Detective Serino said that he didn't think he was particularly afraid of Trayvon Martin that night.

HOSTIN: Yes, that's really important. I think Page is right in the sense that what this case is going to boil down to is whether or not George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor. In determining that, what the jury needs to look at, what is provocation, how do you instigate? Is following, approaching, coming fronting enough?

I think it is, if you lock at Florida case law and self-defense law, I think you use your common sense, which the jury will be asked to do once they get back into the jury room. That will be enough. Then the analysis will change, it becomes if you start the fight, if are you the initial aggressor, then you have to be in fear of imminent bodily harm. You have to exhaust all imminent fear.

I think what you have to think about it in a common sense way. All of this is legalese, lawyer speak. When you are a kid, when your parents come in, what do you say? He started it. She started it. That's what the common law is about. It's about who started it. When you start a fight and are you losing, you then can't pull out a gun and kill someone, unless the tables have really, really turned.

That's why I think Detective Serino or that tape may be important to the prosecution because it comes down to that important issue. Who started it? Did he start it or Trayvon Martin started it?

COSTELLO: We will take another break. So stick around. We'll be right back with more from Sanford.


COSTELLO: We're going to take you live back to the courtroom in Sanford, Florida, where Defense Attorney Don West is now questioning this witness, Dr. Nakasone. He is the voice analyst from the FBI. Something has just been introduced into evidence. I'm not sure what it is. Let's listen and determine.


WEST: There is a consensus to certain kind of voice samples that are suitable for forensic analysis.

NAKASONE: That is correct.

WEST: So your decision in this case wasn't based solely on your personal view about what samples are reliable or suitable and which ones aren't?

NAKASONE: I strongly belief my opinion is supported by my colleagues in the scientific communities.

WEST: Let's talk about, first of all, the suit ability of the samples in this case, which boils down to the screaming the cries for help on that reporting. When you evaluated it, I know from what he said you took the total amount of the speech and you said that was about 18 seconds give or take?

NAKASONE: That is correct.

WEST: Out of the 45 second period from when the screaming started to the apparent gunshot?

NAKASONE: That is correct.

WEST: So you distilled that to 18 seconds.

NAKASONE: Then when you removed the masking noise or overland speech, you had considerably less to work with. Fact, it was under 3 seconds.

NAKASONE: That is correct, 2.53 seconds.

WEST: And are you saying it was only 2.35 seconds that could to in anyway be considered suitable? I don't mean suitable that it was suitable, but that's what you had to start with to make that decision?

NAKASONE: Yes, that was cleanest area that we attempt to do any kind of analysis, not just for scientific but any kind of analysis.

WEST: When you would say you like 30 minutes or up to 3 minutes of speech for analysis, are you talking about normal speech ore screaming speech?

NAKASONE: Normal, natural conversational speech.

WEST: Why is that? What's this notion of phonetically balanced speech?

NAKASONE: The computer takes statistics of dynamic variation of somewhere around 1,000 different speech features.

(END LIVE FEED) COSTELLO: And he is continuing to ask Dr. Nakasone of the quality of the 911 tapes. Basically what the defense attorney is trying to get at even if you know the person intimately the tape quality is so poor, it might be impossible to determine whose voice is on the tape, earlier, it might be to identify it by someone who is familiar with that person. Testimony will continue along those lines after we come back.