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Evidence- Direct vs. Circumstantial

Evidence: Direct vs. Circumstantial 

Types of Direct Evidence:

1. Physical
2. Testimonial

Direct evidence, if believed by the jury, establishes a fact, without the jury having to make an inference in order to connect the evidence to the fact.

Direct evidence: Proves or disproves a fact

Example: An eyewitness testifies that she saw Donald Defendant strike the victim in the head with the butt of his gun.

Circumstantial evidence does not prove the fact that is to be decided, but is evidence of another fact or facts that the jury may use to infer that the fact in question occurred. 

Circumstantial evidence allows the jury to infer that because of one fact, another fact is true

Example: Donald is on trial for aggravated battery and armed robbery; he is accused of beating Valerie Victim with his gun and stealing her purse. Moments after hearing the victim scream the police see a man running away and chase ensues. The officer tackles the man. The woman described her purse, a purple coach bag and the contents which include a Lego style wallet filled with two hundred dollars cash and some credit cards and her makeup. Valerie Victim and Walter Witness both described the gun as pink or pinkish in color. Valerie Victim was under stress, but believes the gun was the kind that they use in the army. "You know the camouflage kind.  Donald Defendant, had ample time to ditch the purse before the police officer caught up to him. He doesn't find a gun on the man, but finds a gun that looks like this

in the bushes, two feet from the man, next to a Lego wallet.

You can infer from the description of the gun and the wallet and the close proximity to Donald that he is the robber.

The police officer searches Donald, but does not find the purse. He does find two hundred dollars in cash.

Here is an example that is unrelated to a crime or the legal system:

Circumstantial evidence: When you go to bed tonight it is not snowing, but the weather man reports that there is a 90% chance of snow. When you wake up in the morning and look out your window, the ground is blanketed in fresh, powdery white snow.  

Did you see it snow? No. Can you infer from the circumstances that it snowed last night? Yes. Is there any other, possible  for the white snow that covers your yard? I suppose, it is possible that your neighbors rented a snow machine and filled the neighborhood with snow. Is that a reasonable explanation? That is up to you as a juror- the trier of fact.

2 Kinds of Direct Evidence:

1. Physical- The gun, the wallet

2. Testimonial- Suppose Valerie Victim takes the stand and testifies, and she identifies Donald Defendant as the man who robbed her and she identifies the recovered gun as one resembling the gun that her attacker used and she positively identifies the wallet as her own.   The jury must then determine the credibility of the witness and if the witness is believed, then her testimonial evidence is just as good as physical evidence

On Law & Order you will often hear the defense attorney say something like, "You don't have a case. You only have circumstantial evidence." Experts disagree as to the importance of circumstantial evidence. Many believe that it is as strong or stronger than physical (specifically testimonial ) evidence. Studies have consistently shown that eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable testimony offered at trial

Here is a question for you, that as a prosecutor, I always asked the potential jurors during jury selection.
If the case presented to you, consist solely of circumstantial evidence, and you believe that evidence could you return a verdict of guilty? Or, in other words, before you convict someone of murder and send them to prison for the rest of their life, would you require direct evidence?

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Melissa Sugar said...

I think I would rather not be on the jury that had to decide the fate of someone's life.

Melissa Sugar said...

I think I could convict based solely on circumstantial evidence...if there was enough of it and it was very convincing!

Melissa Sugar said...

This A-Z theme is so educational! I love it. :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Excellent explanation. Cheers.

Melissa Sugar said...

Good stuff, Melissa. I know where to come when one of my characters lands in trouble with the law.

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