Wednesday, October 8, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

What is the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence?

There are two types of evidence that can be used to decide questions of facts or to determine facts in a case. There is direct evidence and there is circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is when a witness testifies directly about what he or she claims to have seen or heard or felt with his/her own senses. This witness cannot testify about what somebody else said they saw or heard.  That is hearsay.  The only question with direct evidence is whether or not you believe the witness. 

Then we have circumstantial evidence where a witness cannot testify directly about a fact that is to be proved but you are presented with evidence of other facts and you are then asked to draw reasonable inferences from them about the fact that is to be proved.  Allow me to give an analogy.  You've moved into a new home and when you get up in the morning there is freshly fallen snow covering the ground.  You open the door to get the newspaper and the newspaper is not there yet but there is a plate and it's warm to the touch with foil over it and there are warm muffins in it.  You can see footprints back and forth to your next-door neighbor on the right. You didn't see anyone put them there.  This is circumstantial evidence that the neighbor is the one who left the muffins on your doorstep.  The  conclusion you draw must be reasonable and natural based on your own common sense and experiences in life.

If the State's case is based solely on circumstantial evidence, a jury may find the defendant guilty only if those circumstances are conclusive enough to leave them with a moral certainty, a clear and settled belief, that the defendant is guilty and there is no other reasonable explanation of the facts as proved. The evidence must not only be consistent with the defendant's guilt, but inconsistent with his innocence.

Whether direct or circumstantial the Commonwealth must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt from all the evidence in this case.

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