Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 13:58:47 -0700
From: Dan Alford dalford[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]S1.CSUHAYWARD.EDU
Subject: Re: oj trial
I'm sitting back in detached amusement today, looking at about a week's
worth of ADS messages about the OJ trial -- the replies to which went
every which way except to what actually happened.
I think everyone on the list that replied, AS WELL AS Johnnie Cochrane,
was subject to a mass hallucination -- that Darden asked the witness if
the voice sounded like a black man. That's the only explanation that
makes sense of Cochrane's and others' reactions. What Darden really asked
was whether the witness had ever TOLD anyone that it sounded like a black
Somehow (! -- Cochrane's motive?) the whole point turned from whether the
witness had ever told anyone that to whether such a thing was RELIABLE or
RACIST. I asked my Study of Language students yesterday whether they ever
depend on recognizing certain voice characteristics as in this case when
they don't know the person, and they all said yes -- even tho sometimes
they're wrong. It's still what we all do when scanning the vocal signal.
Most importantly, the witness was very clear that dogs were barking and
he couldn't make out any actual words. This reinforces the fact that he
was contrasting the younger, clearer first voice with a deeper second
voice. It makes a lot of sense to me that, after hearing about the
murders and putting it together with what he heard, he could have mused
to someone that the second voice, deeper, COULD have been a more mature
black man's voice.
Whether people use and report these vocal impressions on a daily basis is
one thing; whether they are as reliable as fingerprints is another. I
fully agree with Vicky R's observation that it's at least as reliable as
estimates of height and weight: it's a dialect estimate!