Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 13:58:47 -0700 From: Dan Alford 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 man. 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!