Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 13:58:47 -0700


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!