In “My Fair Lady,” the 1964 musical, Eliza Doolittle — an attractive denizen of a tough working-class neighborhood in London — is utterly frustrated by the condescending pressure of phonetics Professor Henry Higgins, who takes upon himself the herculean task of teaching her to speak in perfectly proper British form in order to enhance her high-society job prospects. She famously laments: “Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!”
As a former federal prosecutor with close to three decades of experience, including 110 trials, I can safely write that words do profoundly matter in a criminal case. And tapes can be potentially explosive. The tone. The bravado. The pause. The context. The silence. The hidden meaning.
The wink-and-a-nod that tapes bring to light between alleged conspirators. Defendants, whose voices were on recordings in quite a few of my trials, always had one thing in common: They hated tapes. I loved them! And notwithstanding Eliza’s feelings, the words were usually priceless.