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Los Angeles Times & Ted Rall: Forensic Video Response

Friday, September 11th, 2015

I was hired by the LA Times to perform a forensic audio investigation on a 2001 recording of a jaywalking citation being given to Ted Rall. The LA Times posted my results in an recent article to clarify the reasons behind Ted Rall’s dismissal from the paper. Ted Rall has since posted a rebuttal to this article on his blog, in which he made various claims about the results of my investigation. I would like to clear any confusion or misinterpretations about my forensic investigation and the results it produced. In the list below I have outlined points which I believe address the issues Mr. Rall published in his article:

  • I did not hear a crowd of people on the audio recording that I enhanced of former Los Angeles Times freelancer Ted Rall being ticketed by an officer for jaywalking.  I heard two people other than Rall and the officer talking on the recording.  At most, I could make out the word “jaywalking” being spoken by one of the two people.  I did not hear anything about “handcuffs” on Rall’s enhanced version of the recording or on the version that I enhanced.
  • We have an established chain of custody of this recording by the Los Angeles Police Department since officer Willie Durr recorded it in 2001.
  • We have no signs of tampering anywhere in the recording.  I found no evidence of tampering when I performed my authentication test.
I have created the following video to clear up these misunderstandings as well as clarify the actual results of my investigation.

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Ted Rall and the L.A.P.D – What Really Happened?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Ted Rall

On May 11th, 2015, Los Angeles Times Freelance Political Cartoonist Ted Rall published an Op-Ed relating to an incident he allegedly faced with the LAPD back in 2001.

Rall claimed while being stopped for jaywalking in Los Angeles, an officer of the Los Angeles Police department assaulted him. Rall included descriptions of the officer throwing his driver’s license into the sewer, being thrown up against a wall, and being handcuffed. Rall went on to describe a crowd of onlookers surrounding him during this event, asking officers about the legitimacy of the arrest.

In response to the post, the Los Angeles Police Department presented a 14-year-old recording of the event. Based on this recorded evidence, Rall was fired from the L.A. Times. Since then, Rall has disputed the LA Times and has produced both an enhanced version of the audio and a transcript of what he believes can be heard in the recording.

The L.A. Times commissioned Primeau Forensics to examine and enhance the audio recording provided by the L.A.P.D. The audio evidence was analyzed with the goal of uncovering the events as they occurred. Primeau Forensics holds no bias toward either party and approached the investigation as such.

You can hear the enhanced audio recording below. Read Primeau Forensics’ transcript of the confrontation here.



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Visual Inspection

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

visual inspectionSound waves can tell us a lot about a recording. Like metadata, the visual elements of a sound wave can expose characteristics of an audio recording without even having to listen to it. These characteristics can be important, especially when it comes to detecting edits within audio evidence. The process of observing these characteristics is called visual inspection.

Visual inspection (a general term that comprises a variety of forensic tests like narrow band spectrum analysis) is a crucial part of an Audio Forensic Expert’s job. To understand how crucial visual inspection really is, it’s important to understand the concept and value of the noise floor.

The noise floor (usually unwanted sound) of a recording is the present background noise and overall “ambience” of a recording. For example, if you’re recording yourself speaking on the street in New York City, and you’re speaking into a microphone while standing in one place, the sound of the cars going by, the conversations happening around you, and the overall city noise (unwanted sound) will contribute to the noise floor.

If you’re standing in one spot recording that audio, the noise floor will never change, because the environment your audio device is picking up will stay consistent the entire time. The second that noise floor is altered;you know you have an edit.

There are many ways to examine this. One of the most reliable ways to observe this noise floor is what’s known as a spectrogram. The spectrogram is meant to read the spectrum of an audio recording. To put it simply, a spectrogram takes the contents of an audio recording and conforms the characteristics to blends of color that represent the spectrum of an audio recording in Hz. You can see that below.

Now, because the noise floor of a recording never changes, you can tell when you have an edit when the spectrogram shows a change in, or absence of, color. The noise floor will always stay consistent, so when there’s a short drastic change such as the one pictured below, you know you have an edit. This makes the recording inauthentic.

Spectrogram edit circled

Surely there are other ways to visually detect edits. Even the sound wave itself can expose an edit.

All sound waves should be smooth and continuous. Even if someone were to loudly clap during an audio recording, the sound wave will still remain smooth and continuous. When you see gaps, or a wave that is not smooth and continuous with another piece of the audio file, you know you have an edit.

Though a critical ear is generally considered the most important part of Audio Forensics, a good eye for edits in visual inspection can teach you a substantial amount about the evidence you’re working with before even taking the time to listen to it. Visual inspection really comes in handy when trying to determine the authenticity of a piece of audio evidence and to make sure a proper chain of custody was kept throughout the distribution of audio evidence.

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Authentication of Digital Audio Recordings

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

digital audio recordingsOne of our day to day activities as audio forensic experts is authenticating digital audio evidence. When one of the parties in a litigation believes that an audio recording was tampered with or edited, an audio forensic expert is brought in to investigate the recording. When we authenticate an audio recording, the first step is to establish chain of custody. While it is the first step, chain of custody does not, in and of itself, establish a recording as being authentic. I have seen audio evidence that was not authentic and was stored in a digital audio recorder. So why is audio authentication so important? What should an audio forensic expert be aware of when examining audio evidence? What is the process of examining and authenticating audio evidence? I am going to answer these questions and more in the following post.

A majority of audio recordings we are hired to authenticate are created on digital audio recorders or smartphones using a recording app. These devices are easily concealed in a pocket or purse. They come in many shapes and sizes. They record various formats. One of the first steps an audio forensic expert must take when authenticating a digital audio recording is to become familiar with the equipment that created the recording

Importance of Authentication

The authentication process determines whether or not the audio recording in question has been tampered with. In this age of digital audio, edits can be made and covered up very easily. There are free versions of audio editing software – such as Audacity – which are available on line and can make edits that alter the events or conversation that originally occurred in digital audio recordings.

In the last 30 days, of all the audio authentication cases I was assigned, I found two had been edited. Both of the recordings were downloaded to a computer, edited, then played back and re-recorded through desktop computer speakers using a digital audio recorder. Most of the time, if an audio recording is edited after downloading to a computer and before authoring a CD, the editing can be detected in the digital recordings meta data. During the forensic authentication process, the software that created the edits will be detected in the HEX information of that edited recording.

If audio evidence is found to be altered, it should be ruled inadmissible in court because it is not an accurate representation of the events that occurred.

So what should the audio forensic expert be aware of during the authentication process?

First, establish and determine the chain of custody. If the expert is able to retrieve the evidence from the original source, in most cases that will automatically create and establish an authentic chain of custody. Or, provide clues of tampering if the recording was edited and re recorded. If it’s not possible for the forensic expert to retrieve the recording, then the forensic expert must carefully go through all of the documents and reports that arrived with the evidence. Sometimes a chain of custody log from law enforcement will be included, which will strengthen the authenticity of the audio evidence. But if the chain of custody cannot be established, the forensic examiner must rely on other techniques as well as their own expertise to determine the authenticity of the evidence. If further investigation reveals more inconsistencies in the recording and metadata, more often than not that recording is determined to be altered.

Digital audio recorders aren’t the only equipment that record audio evidence. CCTV surveillance systems, as well as most other digital video recorders, will include both audio and video in the recordings. As an Audio and Video Forensic Expert, I often work with both the video and audio from these recordings. When I receive digital media evidence that includes sight and sound, I analyze both audio and video using separate forensic processes. I have come across cases in which the video was unedited but the audio had been tampered with. In this case, I was unable to authenticate the evidence because a chain of custody could not be established. Plus, there were anomalies in the audio that could be measured, heard and documented.

Process of Examining and Authenticating Audio Evidence: Critical Listening

One of the first steps that I take when audio evidence arrives at our lab, I listen critically to the entire recording a number of times. During this process I note unusual sounding sections in the recording which are called anomalies. I take notes and place markers using the forensic software so that I can find them later and include them in my forensic report.

These unusual sounding sections can be changes in the background ambience, inconsistent speech pacing and wording as well as changes in the noise floor. The noise floor is a series of natural and electronic sounds that should be consistent throughout the recording. Noise is defined as any sound source signals like hiss, hums, wind, HVAC and other sounds that are not part of the intended recording.

Critical listening must be the first step to become familiar with the audio evidence. If an edit is discovered during the critical listening phase, they are usually in the form of abrupt changes. Detecting these changes is not easy and comes with experience.

It’s important for the forensic expert to put themselves in a quiet, isolated room during critical listening so as to avoid any outside disturbances. The quiet environment enhances the critical listening focus. High quality, professional grade monitoring headphones and high quality studio monitors (speakers) are best for critical listening analysis of digital audio recordings. Professional quality headphones and speakers will have the flattest frequency response, which means they produce neutral and natural sound. This is very important for the forensic expert because subtle boosts and cuts in frequencies can impact the analysis of the digital audio recording.

Sometimes frequencies may be more audible in headphones and sound clearer to the forensic expert while other frequencies may be better heard through speakers. When the forensic expert is examining audio evidence for authentication, it is important to use both headphones and speakers to hear every aspect of the recording.

In some audio evidence I have examined, I have been able to hear a second noise floor in the recording. This usually occurs when a recording is played through speakers or an auxiliary cable into another recorder. The original noise floor from the recording is heard along with the second noise floor created from the second recording.

Electronic Measurement

After critical listening, the forensic expert must use electronic measurement to examine the audio evidence. This is done by noting the prominent frequencies in the voices or other sound source and the noise floor. The levels of the recording and of the different frequencies can be measured as well. Tools such as spectrograms, frequency analysis windows and level meters are very helpful for observing and collecting this information. The expert should note the frequency range of the overall recording, the voices or conversation and the noise floor or extraneous sounds in the recording.

If the frequency range of a voice suddenly becomes larger or smaller or shifts in frequency range, that can be a sign of an edit. Sudden, unexplained changes in the noise floor level as well as the sudden presence of another background noise can also be a sign of an edit. As I mentioned before, I have come across recordings in which I could hear two noise floors. This can often be measured and seen in a spectrogram and a frequency analysis panel.

Visual Inspection

Visually inspecting the audio wave form and spectrogram is the next step in authenticating the audio. This goes hand in hand with the electronic measurement as the forensic expert analyzes the physical wave properties and frequency information. Waveforms are continuous and smooth when examined very closely. Even a quick, loud sound like a clap will have a smooth, continuous wave. If there are sudden breaks in the waveform of a recording, these are signs of editing. The expert should also pay close attention to the phasing of the waveform. This can also been seen when visually zooming in to the waveform. If the waveform of the recording is suddenly inverted, this can also mean an edit was made.

The spectrogram will show the full frequency spectrum with warmer or colder colors representing the strength of that frequency. The noise floor can be seen very clearly in this view, helping to identify breaks in the sound. All recordings have some noise floor, even if they are almost inaudible. When viewing the spectrogram, any breaks in the noise floor may be signs of an edit. Changes in the volume of the noise floor can also be a sign of an edit.

Analyzing Metadata in Digital Audio Evidence

When I first began working as an Audio Forensic Expert, most of my work was with analog audio evidence in the form of mini, micro and standard audio cassettes. I did have some cases where reel to reel tape was used. Today almost all recordings are done digitally, there is additional information that can be analyzed when performing an audio authentication. Digital audio recordings contain metadata which reveals information about how the recording was made and the type of equipment that created the recording. If a recording was loaded into a software program capable of performing edits, there will often be a footprint left in the recording HEX information showing what software was used.

When examining the digital information, it is necessary to create an exemplar recording to compare the metadata with the original. An exemplar is a recording that is made in conditions that are as close to the original recording as possible . The exemplar is made on the same kind of audio recorder and, if possible, the same environment. Using this exemplar, the forensic expert can compare the metadata and HEX information of the two files. If there are inconsistencies in the data, that can also be a sign of tampering.

For a forensic expert to authenticate a piece of audio evidence, the expert must prove beyond any doubt that the recording is in its original form and has not undergone any tampering. If a piece of evidence is not authentic, it should not be used in court because it may be incomplete or altered to purport events that did not occur.

Hopefully this post helped inform you about the authentication of digital audio recordings. If you have any questions, email us at primeauforensics@gmail.com, or give us a call at 800-647-4291.

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Audio Anomalies Discovered on Video Evidence

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

audio anomalies One of the activities of an audio forensic expert is to determine whether or not an audio recording has been altered or edited when it has been submitted to be used in the courtroom. As an audio forensic expert I find, very often, that when people are in shock or in the middle of a traumatic experience they remember the series of events differently than they actually occurred. Therefore, people involved in a legal case may believe that a piece of recorded evidence has been altered when, in fact, it has not.

Many times defendants will tell me that they said something during a police interrogation that has ‘magically’ disappeared from the interrogation recording. I find it hard to believe that a police officer that has so much invested in their career, may be close to retirement, would risk their reputation, career, credibility and retirement to alter an audio recording in an effort to wrongfully convict someone.

But, when someone who is in a litigation or has been convicted of a crime feels that a recording has been altered the audio forensic expert, like myself, comes in to authenticate the recording.

Today nearly all audio recordings are created on a digital recording device. This same principle holds true with digital video recordings that have audio recording capability, such as, dashcam video from police cars that have a microphone on the officer as well as a microphone in the car. Smartphone video also records audio in addition to video. One of the activities that I am starting to notice as an audio forensic expert is that audio tracks are being altered in smartphone recordings and video portions of those recordings have not been altered. That’s why it’s very important for the audio forensic expert to authenticate both the audio and video portions of those recordings.

I was working on a case the other day that was recorded on an iPhone and while looking through the vector scope and the other tools that I use to authenticate audio and video evidence I noticed on my oscilloscope that there were anomalies in the audio recording. I went back to review and there were no edits in the video, but there were in the audio. It was clearly heard, using my critical listening skills, as well as viewed on the oscilloscope. The spectrum of that audio was not authentic.

I could not establish a chain of custody and the file had been downloaded from the iPhone into a computer and burned onto a disk. The original phone was no longer available and the file properties that were on the file that I examined did not match the file properties that an iPhone would produce.

Now we have a situation where I could not authenticate that video recording to be used in the courtroom because of the anomalies that I discovered, the file properties that had been changed, and the original phone that was not available for examination. When I draft my report for this investigation I list all of the reasons using scientific proof and keeping the report simple enough for the lay person to understand, explaining all of the reasons why this evidence should not be used in the courtroom because it is believed to not be the actual representation of the events as they occurred, based on the following reasons. Then I list all of the reasons, in order, as to what happened, when it happened and why it has altered the original evidence.

This report alone often helps litigators determine whether or not to use that video evidence. Because the bottom line is, there may be portions of that recording that aren’t altered. Let’s say from four minutes to six minutes it’s a complete piece of recording; at four minutes there’s an edit, a part was removed, and at six minutes there’s an edit, a part that was removed. But for that two minute stretch there are no edits or anomalies and there are words exchanged, video documented, that is still crucial to the case. A judge will look at that and say even though this recording has been altered the expert has said that two minute section is genuine and that’s very important to the case, and the judge will allow that portion of the recording as evidence in the case.

As an audio and video forensic expert, I examine both audio and video portions of video recordings and often times find anomalies or edits in the audio portion that does not occur in the video portion. It’s important for the forensic expert to list all of the anomalies, time coordinates where the anomalies occurred and the type of anomalies so that the litigators understand and can strategize how to use this information going forward to either prosecute or defend the case.

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Release or Destroy Audio Evidence After Litigation

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

audio evidenceAn audio forensic expert listens to audio recordings of litigation points during a forensic investigation. Oftentimes, these audio recordings are very sensitive in nature. They are crucial to the litigation and must be destroyed or returned to their provider once the litigation is complete. Generally, in civil litigations, settlements are reached based on a series of conditions. One of those conditions is often that all of the evidence be destroyed that was used to process that litigation. It is very important that the audio forensic expert stay in good communication with their lawyer contact to make sure that they clearly understand what to do with the audio evidence once the litigation is complete.

If that audio evidence were to become available to the wrong people after the litigation settlement it could violate and have other ramifications to the terms and conditions of the settlement. That’s why it is very important for the forensic examiner to know what is expected of them from the attorney and other litigators regarding that forensic evidence.

In the past I’ve received letters from attorneys asking me to dispose of the audio evidence I used to investigate their case. In my professional opinion, there are only two options for an audio forensic expert for dealing with the evidence they examined upon reaching a settlement in the litigation.

One, return the evidence back to the attorney or your contact person in the case. Signature required, delivery confirmation is essential so that the forensic expert has proof that it was returned to the appropriate party. Second, destroying the evidence by physically breaking or destroying the playing surface on a compact disc, which is the most common media for delivering the audio recordings to be examined by the forensic expert. Or delete files stored in computer hard drives or other external storage devices, such as a thumb drive.

So, we either return the evidence to the contact person, signature required so that we have confirmation and proof of delivery; or we dispose of the evidence by destroying the compact disc or delete from external storage device. It is best, if possible, to get their instructions in writing (particularly if the instructions are to destroy the evidence), just to protect yourself and make sure all your bases are covered.

I recently had a case that settled and I was contacted by someone who identified himself as a friend of one of the litigators, and claimed to have permission to listen to part of the audio recording that I investigated for this litigation. I denied the (alleged) friend access to the recording and contacted the party who retained me for the investigation and let them know I was being contacted. The huge problem here is that, had I given the audio evidence to the person that contacted me not only could I have jeopardized my reputation in the forensic community if this person had released that evidence, it would also have had a huge ramification on the settlement for my client because, that audio evidence being compromised, would also violate the conditions of his litigation settlement (not to mention opening myself up to a possible lawsuit for releasing the audio evidence to an unauthorized party).

Bottom line, when the forensic expert completes a forensic examination, it is the forensic examiner’s responsibility to determine what to do with the evidence that they have investigated so that it does not fall into the wrong hands and violate the terms of the litigation settlement.

photo credit: Salat via photopin (license)
 

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The Why and How of Audio Evidence Integrity

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

audio evidence integrityWhen audio recordings are used in any litigation, the integrity of the evidence is not only important, but oftentimes questioned. It’s crucial to consider evidence integrity before you present your evidence in court.

As an audio forensic expert, I am often asked to authenticate audio evidence for litigations. This authentication process provides integrity for the audio evidence and strengthens its weight in the litigation.

For example, it is easy for just about anyone who has some basic computer skills to alter audio evidence by removing portions of the recording that they don’t want the litigators to hear. Although this is not a common practice, it has a huge impact on the credibility of the audio evidence being presented. The reason is as simple as this: the altered audio recording is not an actual representation of the facts as they occurred. Portions of the actual evidence have been removed.

This is similar to missing evidence from a crime scene. What if a police officer arrived at a crime scene and began moving or removing items from the scene? How would the crime scene investigation team know the actual facts of the crime as it occurred without all the evidentiary items at the scene?

Once the integrity of the evidence has been compromised, the audio component of the litigation is reduced to “he said, she said” – my word against theirs.

Police officers have been trained to maintain evidence integrity at the scene of the crime. However, people who submit media evidence like audio and video recordings may not completely understand how important it is to maintain evidence integrity.

Tips to maintain integrity:

1: Keep originals in a safe place.

2: Photograph or video record any specific activity information.

3: Retain a forensic expert to help you document the authenticity of your evidence.

photo credit: Scope via photopin (license)

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Trayvon Martin Follow Up

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Trayvon MartinThe human voice is like a symphony: a follow up on the 911 calls

By Ed Primeau

There are always two sides to any litigation. One side believes and defends while the other disagrees and prosecutes. Yesterday,  April 2, 2012 was a day full of requests, demands and criticism.  It wasn’t much different from when I testify.  It’s the opposing council’s position to discount my findings and any of the forensic cases I have successfully completed.

As forensic experts we use our available tools to examine and bring truth into the courtroom. Regarding the Trayvon Martin case and voice identification, as forensic experts, Tom Owen and I may have the tools and experience available to us to conduct voice identification, but we do not have the proper voices recorded to arrive at a positive ID and conclude the voice yelling on the 911 recording is Trayvon Martin yelling for help. By process of elimination, both Tom Owen and I agree the voice yelling in the 911 recording is not George Zimmerman.  That is our opinion, and there is no money involved.

Tom used a computer software program to analyze his findings and I used my ear: critical listening skills. Lawrence O’Donnell summed it up well (last night on MSNBC) when he compared my skill to that of a piano tuner.

The human voice is like a symphony; each voice’s uniqueness is based on the physical and psychological characteristics of the individual. A symphony uniqueness is based on the type of instruments played and skill of the musicians playing the instruments. Similarly, human voice is created using many physical components, like the lungs, larynx and wind pipe.  A person’s voice exits the body through the mouth, involving the tongue, teeth and lips.

When the human voice is electronically recorded, we add other electronic characteristics to the voice through the electronic equipment used to make the recording.

During playback of the recording, forensic experts have the opportunity to listen to these components in harmony and examine them forensically.  As a voice identification expert, I have the skill to look for symphonic characteristics of each human voice and make note of my observations to arrive at a conclusion. Does it match the person in question or not?

I believe like a fingerprint, no two human beings have the exact vocal components, which is why no two voices are exactly alike. When conducting voice identification, I listen for voice tone, articulation, how words are pronounced, vowels etc.  I also view the sound spectrum by electronically measuring the sound frequencies with a spectrum analyzer which reveals the frequency spectrum range in the voice being examined.

In the background of the 911 call, I hear a male voice yelling for help which cracks like teen male’s does when going through puberty. This is one of the characteristics I observed during my initial investigation. The tone of Zimmerman’s voice is also different than the tone of the voice yelling for help. That’s about all I can conclude as absolute at this point.

It would help us continue our investigation if we could convince George Zimmerman to agree to let a forensic examiner record a sample of his voice screaming in the exact same location as the voice in the 911 call (we would have the same acoustics on the sample which would serve as an exemplar), and use as many of the same electronic components that were used in the recording of the woman’s 911 call where we hear the screaming and the gun shot.

However, in this case all we have is Zimmerman’s voice speaking, not yelling.  At this point Tom and I agree based on our skills and what we have to work with that the voice is not George Zimmerman yelling for help.  Until we get the right tools, we cannot proceed to determine if the voice is Trayvon.

Right now I believe only one person knows the answer: George Zimmerman.

photo credit: 2013/07/14 #HoodiesUp for Trayvon in Oakland via photopin (license)

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The Trayvon Martin Killing – In the Media and the Press

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Over the last few days, I’ve been contacted by news sources wanting to interview me about voice identification.  Some 911 recordings had been released a week prior from the Trayvon Martin case out of Florida.

Reporters asked me about voice identification reliability.  Voice identification is a reliable science when done properly. Trying to determine who is screaming in the background of a 911 call is not easy but seems to be of great significance since these were the final hours of this young man’s life.

I became interested in this case and decided to listen to and peruse the 911 recordings.

I literally stumbled upon the link of 911 calls from http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained#transcript

I listened to the 911 calls and recorded them into my audio forensic computer to critically listen to the events.  Two of the 911 calls are very interesting: George Zimmerman’s call and the woman who called 911 when she heard screaming outside her home (which we can hear clearly in her 911 call recording).

This second recording is the same recording where the gun shot is heard that killed Trayvon.

I am not writing this to judge but rather to present the facts as they occurred from a forensic perspective.

As an audio forensic expert I want to make clear that this is not formal voice identification and not meant for legal purposes. It is not a statement of my opinion but rather a presentation of facts as I hear them in two particular 911 recordings.  I believe you will hear what I hear.

Listen carefully to the 911 call segment I chose from George Zimmerman.   Then listen to the tone of the male voice screaming for help in the background during the second 911 call. Can you see the series of events in your mind’s eye?

For more on Voice Identification, check out Ed Primeau’s latest book, “That’s Not My Voice!” available on Amazon.

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Emergency Voice Identification

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

14763374988_7de3a129a1_bBased on my 28+ years working with the human voice for identification purposes, I have been asked on several occasions to determine a person’s identity based on a voice sample when an exact exemplar was not available. I call this nontraditional voice identification.  I do not make this type of voice identification a day to day practice and I always let our clients know that my findings are preliminary based on experience rather than exact science.

One example is the Elvis Presley voice identification I did.  Since Elvis is dead, I could not record an exact exemplar.

Because the family who produced the song was convinced it was Elvis and needed my opinion, I compared the unknown song to known Elvis Presley songs from the same timeframe.  My opinion was that the new song is the voice of Elvis.  Not everybody agreed with my opinion, however.  Since science was not involved, these people had reason to base their opinion on their personal knowledge of Elvis Presley’s style.

The above Elvis story is a good example of nontraditional voice identification. An emergency situation is another example, such as when a threatening call was made with intent to do bodily harm to a person or persons. Emergency voice identification becomes necessary to provide the authorities with evidence so they can order the accused to cooperate and provide the voice identification expert an exact exemplar.

One scenario is when a bomb threat call is made to a place of business. Voice identification becomes necessary to determine if the threat was made by a previous employee.  I have worked on cases like these many times.  Management often has an idea of who made the threat.  Their opinion is based on more information than a voice identification expert would use such as discharge date, personality characteristics and work history.  I would conduct an emergency voice identification using known samples of the accused person’s speech, like voice mail recordings when the suspect employee called in sick.

Here are the steps I take for emergency voice identification:

1. Locate a known sample of the accused voice

2. Locate the threatening voice recording

3. Make a list of all speaking characteristics of the known voice.  These include stutters, vowel pronunciation, any other speech observations and consistent speaking styles that can be observed.

4. Make a list of all speaking characteristics of the unknown voice. Are there any similarities or differences that can be assessed?

5. Use a spectrum analyzer to note voice spectrum of both samples.  Are the samples close enough in spectrum to be a match or different enough to help arrive at a conclusion?

The voice identification expert’s task is to take all information from critical listening, spectrum analysis or electronic measurement, and visual inspection of the wav formation and decide if the voice in question is the same voice or not.  The next step is to have the law enforcement officials use the voice identification expert’s report to encourage the suspect to cooperate and record an exact exemplar.

photo credit: Caution via photopin (license)

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