George Zimmerman’s credibility and the screams on the 911 call
There might be some news buried in the news.
On June 5, The Orlando Sentinal published an article titled “Credibility may prove key in George Zimmerman case.” In addition to the failure to disclose funds that led to Zimmerman’s bond being revoked, the Sentinal mentions 3 issues in the lead:
After shooting Trayvon Martin in late February, he told Sanford police he didn’t have a criminal history. He did. Several weeks later, he told the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office he had never been in a pretrial-diversion program. That’s also untrue. He contradicted himself on the witness stand in April, telling Trayvon’s family during an apology that he had thought their son was close to his age. On the night of the shooting, Zimmerman, 28, described the 17-year-old to police as in his “late teens.”
But several paragraphs down (in what would be after-the-jump land in a print edition) the Sentinal also notes:
Zimmerman cooperated with Sanford police during their investigation, agreeing to five interviews and re-enacting what he says happened, but police said afterward that they doubted some of his statements, for example that before he shot Trayvon, the teenager had put his hand over Zimmerman’s mouth. If that were the case, police said, the cries for help in the background of one 911 call would be muffled.
Now, the possible actual news here would be the affirmation of an element of George Zimmerman’s statements to the police. These statements have not been released, and by Florida law will remain redacted throughout the discovery process. All we know of Zimmerman’s version of events has come to us second-hand, either through police leaks to the press, or via one of Zimmerman’s surrogates (his father and brother, friends Joe Oliver and Frank Taaffe, former attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig…). These various accounts have varied in a number of key details — for example they have not all asserted that Martin’s hand was covering Zimmerman’s mouth. Of course, the statements from Mr.Zimmerman himself are the ones that will really count in any legal proceeding. And now it seems we have confirmation that Zimmerman did indeed tell the police that Martin’s hand was covering his mouth.
And I can confirm with over 95% certainty that if indeed Zimmerman claimed Martin’s hand was over his mouth as he (Zimmerman) called for help, then Zimmerman is not being truthful. I can’t look inside his head and say he was lying — he could just have just been mistaken I suppose. I can say, however, that there was not a hand over the mouth of the person heard screaming on the 911 call.
How do I know that? The same principles of sound physics I discussed in the previous post about the noise in Zimmerman’s police call, which some folks have (unfoundedly) taken to be the sound of his gun. Again, it’s all about fundamentals and harmonics. High frequencies — like harmonics — travel in a straight line and are easily blocked by obstacles. When harmonics are blocked, the result isn’t a reduction of the perceived VOLUME of sound, but of it’s CLARITY, crispness, intelligibility. You can test this yourself if you have a TV, FM radio etc. with a decent sounding front facing speaker. Tune in to your favorite talking heads and listen to the sound quality of the voice. Now take some solid flat object, like a coffee-table book or an LP if you still have one of those and lean it up against the speaker — so its in the direct line of sound but there’s still space for sound to leak out to the sides. The result should be a sound that’s more or less as loud, but more significantly more muddy and dull.
The screaming on the 911 call is quite clear, and consistently so. The high frequency components of the screams as present as you would expect them to be coming over a cell phone microphone. Nothing is blocking them. Neck muscles are pretty strong, so if person X was placing his hand over the mouth of person Y in a struggle, X would most likely be able to cover Y’s mouth only intermittently (especially, you know, if Y doesn’t suffocate as a result). So, if Y was screaming while X was having variable success at covering Y’s mouth, you would be able to hear that — not because the perceived volume would go up and down — but because the tonal quality would be changing as those harmonics get more or less blocked.
So, physics being what it is, the only way someone could have intermittently held a hand over the mouth of the person heard screaming on the 911 call is if those screams corresponded exactly to the moments and durations during which the screamer’s mouth was free of the covering hand. Not impossible. Just all but impossible.
Does this little physics lesson work to establish that Martin rather than Zimmerman was the sources of the plaintive cries? Not at all. It works to establish that George Zimmerman may have told a significant untruth to the police (until we see or hear his actual statement we can’t be certain what he said). Which in turn would mean that he either has a very poor memory for detail, or he’s BSing. One way or the other, it would shake his credibility a lot more than any false statements he made about his police record, since this pertains directly to his account of the events of February 26th.