Evidence comes in manydifferent forms. There are eyewitnesses, documents, physical evidence, DNA,prior statements, fingerprints and so on.
No matter the form of evidence, thereis one method of classifying evidence which divides all evidence into twotypes: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. A conviction can be basedon either direct or circumstantial evidence or a combination of both. To add on,either the evidence establishes that a fact exist, which would be considered directevidence or the jury needs to draw up an inference based on the evidence toconclude that a fact exist would be circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is based on personal knowledge orobservations of the person testifying. No inference or presumption is needed.If the testimony is believed by the jury the fact it relates to is conclusivelyestablished. Important to note that direct evidence will be admissible if itwas legally obtained and is not privilege.
Direct evidence of a fact at issueis always relevant. Such as in a criminal case, direct evidence usuallyinvolves eyewitness testimony regarding the severity of the crime. One examplewould be if a witness personally saw the defendant shoot the victim that wouldbe considered direct evidence. The shooting is within the witnesses actualexperiences. Whether the judge or jury believes the witness is a separate issueregarding credibility, but that does the change the nature of the testimony asdirect evidence.
When direct evidence is introduces the jury has to decide thecredibility of the witness. This usually involves the demeanor of the witnessand the likelihood that what the witness said could have happen. On the other hand there is circumstantial evidence; itindirectly proves a fact or observation. It’s based on inferences that the jurymust draw rather than personal knowledge or observation of the witness. Circumstantialevidence is evidence that strongly suggests something but doesn’t necessarilyprove it.
It simply helps to draw inferences about a fact or events that tookplace. Some may consider the type of evidence weak on its own. Though actuallycircumstantial evidence is an important tool used by prosecutors to convictpeople. It can be derived from variety of sources and can be used to lay thefoundation of belief as well as backed up by witness testimony. When somethingis unknown a collection of facts can be put together to make an inference onthe conclusion of an event and determine the unknown.
An example ofcircumstantial evidence could be if a witness saw a man enter a house with aknife in his hand and the witness heard a scream and saw the man ran out thehouse no longer holding the knife. Then a woman is later discovered dead with aknife stabbed in her back. Though no one saw the man stab the woman, what thewitness observed can be put together and create a conclusion that the man didstab the woman. Circumstantial evidence is admitted at the discretion of thejudge.
The judge will consider whether the evidence is relevant and it fairsother factors like the amount of time it will take to introduce the evidence,confusion that may result from the evidence and the possibility that theevidence may be unduly prejudicial. It can be said that circumstantial isevidence is harder to evaluate. The jury has the task to decide the credibilityif the witnesses what inference should be drawn from the evidence that ispresented and the weight to be given to each piece of evidence. The termCircumstantial evidence of ability to commit the crime is also connected. Some crimes are committed which would requirea certain person to have a special skill or ability that an average personwould not have to commit such a crime. The more unique and special the skillthe stronger an inference can be used against a defendant if the defendant hasa similar skill or ability.
It also can use in favor to the defense, in thathis defendant doesn’t have the specific skill or ability that one would need tocommit that certain crime. Examples of this are computer crime such asembezzlement schemes. These crimes required advanced programming techniquesthat the average person does not have. Then there’s Circumstantial Evidence ofguilt, what the suspect does after the crime may also be circumstantial ofguilt. Flight to avoid prosecution; attempts to hide evidence possession ofstolen property, sudden wealth and attempts to sliced witnesses are commonlyput in this category.
Although the average juror probably considers the factthat the defendant has invoke the fifth amendment to be evidence of guilt theU.S supreme court has made it clear that jury must draw this conclusion. Thecourt reasoning was that the constitutional rights would be meaningless if thejury could conclude that a person is guilty if he or she used them. Direct andCircumstantial evidence are both important to the criminal justice system. Theyhave their differences and similarities but neither is favored over the other.Both are used to convict someone or prove innocence. Though with directevidence it can be prove a material fact by itself it does not need inference,circumstantial evidence cannot prove a material fact by itself.
Meaning thatcircumstantial evidence can’t prove anything by itself, circumstantial evidenceneeds to use other facts gathered to prove a certain material at question.Unlike direct evidence circumstantial evidence doesn’t stand alone logicalreasoning is needed. Inferences from circumstantial evidence may be drawn onthe basis of reason, experiences, and common sense. In criminal cases some have been appealed due to anevidentiary issue, one those cases is Mapp v. Ohio. The case was from ClevelandOhio when police officers forced their way into Dolle Mapp home without consentor search warrant.
Police officers believed that Mapp was hiding a suspected bomber;though no suspect was found in the home police did discover a trunk of obscenepictures in Mapp basement. She was arrested for the possession of those pictureand convicted in an Ohio court, Mapp argue that her constitutional rights wereviolated by the search. She took her appeal to the United States Supreme Court.The court favored with Mapp stating that evidence seized unlawfully without asearch warrant could not be used in criminal prosecution in state courts.Designed to put off police misconduct, the exclusionary rule allows courts toexclude any evidence that was obtained unlawfully or it violated constitutionalrights while obtaining the evidence. By filing a motion to suppress beforetrial, it can prevent prosecution from using legally obtained evidence.
To addon the exclusionary rule applies to evidence that’s a direct produce of a constitutionalviolation. Then come in, Fruit of the Poisonous Tree this doctrine is like anoffspring to the exclusionary rule. Fruit of the Poisonous tree states that anyevidence that was gained from an illegal search would be excluded as well. For instances, if a police officer stops aperson for a minor traffic violation and then searches the car this would be aviolation because the officer had indication that car would contain evidence ofa crime this would be an unreasonable search under the fourth amendment. Duringthe illegal search the officer finds marijuana in the vehicle and the driver ischarged for possession of a controlled substance. In trial the marijuanaevidence is excluded under the exclusionary rule because it obtained in anillegal search so the charges are dropped.
Before the charges are dropped theofficer had asked a judge for a search warrant to search the driver’s home. Thejudge not knowing that the marijuana was obtained illegally approves the warrant;during the search of the house the officer finds stolen property of at thehome. The stolen property would also be excluded in trial because the search ofthe house was based on evidence first gather from an illegal search. Tocontinue on with exclusionary rule, there are exceptions to the exclusionaryrule. To start off there is the good faith exception which states that officermust be acting under a fair belief that what they are doing is constitutional.The facts must be such that a reasonable officer could have made an honest mistakebut if the officer had an ulterior motive this exception would not apply.Examples of Good Faith Exception would be a mistake done by court employee orjudge. Secondly is the inevitable discovering exception this is based on theidea that the police would have the evidence even if they had not usedunconstitutional evidence.
The prosecution would have the burden of convincingthe judge that the evidence would inevitably have been found by legal methods.Next is the Independent Source Exception to admit evidence under this exceptionthe prosecution must convince the judge that the police discovered the evidencewithout relying on constitutional procedures. An example of the IndependentSource Exception could be the case of State v. O’Brernski 1967 when thetestimony of a teenage girl who was found in a house during in an illegalsearch regarding the defendant’s involvement of sexual activity with her can beregarded as admissible in court. Then there is the Public Safety Exception itsbased on the idea that the police are justified if acting to protect the publicfrom imminent danger even if it is necessary to violate someone’s constitutionalrights to do so.
Finally there is the Procedural Exception cases are not automaticallyreverses because the judge admitted unconstitutionally obtained evidence thatshould have been excluded. The Harmless Error Rule applies to mostconstitutional violation. The case will be reversed only if the appellate judgesare convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the erroneously admitted evidence influencedthe jury decision on the case. In this scenario case, a couple were on their night runas usual during their night run they spotted a suspicious male entering a homewith what appeared to be a gun in his hand. Then they heard a woman screamedwith gunshots following right after. The man was seen running out the door secondsafter the gunshots went off, the couple called the cops as the cops arrived tothe scene the woman was discover dead in her home with gunshot wounds.
Crime investigatorswere on scene, the police set up a restricting access to the area preventingpeople from stepping on evidence handling it or removing it from the crime scene.Investigator’s recorded the details of the scene and gathered all the evidencelike the gun that was found near the woman dead body. Before collecting andpackage the gun for storage, the officer made a detailed record of the crimescene with clear indications of where the gun was found. A man who wassuspected to be the one who entered the home was found cover with blood hidingunder a dumpster he was taken under custody. Investigators grab samples of theblood that was on the suspect clothing and it was packaged carefully, bloodstained clothing needs to be air dried before package to avoid the growth ofmold and mildew that could interfere with tests for blood types. The suspect was taken to court on charges offirst degree murder, it was later found that the defendant was an ex-boyfriendof the victim and they had a tense argument because the suspected had justfound out that the victim his girlfriend had cheated on him which led to thembreaking up.
There was no direct evidence because no one saw the defendantshoot the victim but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to draw up inferences.The prosecution can bring to the stand the couple who saw the suspect leave thevictims house after the gunshots were heard, their testimony can be used todraw up inferences as well as the fact that the defendant was found hidingunder a dumpster cover with blood. Then the gun that was found near victim’sbody can be brought up, to lay the foundation for the admission of the gunsomeone needs to identify the object and testify about where the item wasfound. In this case the first officer that arrived at the scene would do thisand also maybe the couple if they can accurately identified the gun was thesame one which they saw the defendant walk in the victim’s home at night.
Themotive also connects with the defendant; one can draw up an inference that thedefendant had hatred for the victim because she had cheated on him so he wentto her house shot heard and ran away after. Circumstantial Evidence of Guilt ispresent here because what the defendant did showed guilt. The defendant wasseen running away from the scene and then caught hiding not far from the crimescene with bloody clothing. The Circumstantial Evidence would eventually be enoughto draw up inferences to prove that the defendant did in case shoot andmurdered his ex-girlfriend and be convicted of first degree murder. In conclusion, Circumstantial and Direct evidence are twoimportant factors in Criminal court.
I learned that they both come in differentways and are presented differently depending on the case. Rather if inferencesare needed to draw up an inference or the evidence is flat on his face,circumstantial and direct evidence are crucial in convictions or proving innocence.