My lawyer told me that we can fight my case, but the DA has a strong case based on circumstantial evidence. What does this mean?
Circumstantial evidence means facts are being presented and the person hearing those facts is asked to combine those facts to form or infer a conclusion. The opposite of circumstantial evidence is direct evidence. Direct evidence is facts that need no conclusion drawn nor inferred.
The best example is a murder in Philadelphia, PA.
A man is shot and killed. Apparently, no one is present except the shooter and the decedent. The police come to the scene, they find DNA in the room for someone other then the decedent. They run the person in NCIC and find that the person is a know drug dealer and wanted for another murder in Allentown, PA. The police go on a man hunt for the person and find him the same night. The police do not recover the gun, however, they perform a paraffin test on him and it comes back positive for gunpowder. Further, no alibi is given because the defendant asserts his right to silence. The defendant’s mother tells the police that he was in Philadelphia at the time of the murder and left the house and told her that he was going to the decedent’s house for a “business matter.”
This is an example of a circumstantial case. No one placed the defendant at the scene of the murder, he made no statement, no gun was recovered, yet the DA wants to convict this man of murder.
Let’s change the facts.
The decedent’s wife is present at the time that defendant comes to house. She sees his gun. She hears an argument in an upstairs bedroom. She goes upstairs. She see the defendant shoot and kill her husband. She flees and escapes. She calls 911 and reports it, gives a statement to a detective, and shows up to testify. Further, the murder weapon is recovered from the sewer outside of the house and it matches the wife’s description of the gun used to kill her husband and is covered in the defendant’s fingerprints and DNA.
This is direct evidence. The DA is not asking you to draw any conclusions, simply to believe the wife.
Circumstantial evidence can be tricky though. Its not nearly as reliable as direct evidence.
Let’s change the facts again.
The defendant and the decedent were lovers. The decedent’s wife walked in on them and was shocked to learn about her husband’s homosexual affair. She picked up the defendant’s gun and shot her husband. Gunpowder residue sprayed on the defendant because he was standing to the left of the wife (killer). The defendant managed to escape. The defendant gave no statement because he didn’t want the community to know he was gay–he never even told his lawyer.
The wife denies being home that night and the police and DA proceed just like the first example from above.