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Yes. Circumstantial evidence is enough to convict someone at trial. The standard for finding someone guilty in a criminal trial is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard can be met using either direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. An experienced criminal attorney can explain this more indepth.
Direct evidence is evidence that, if believed by the fact-finder, proves the existence of a certain fact without needing any inference or “connecting the dots.” For example, if Susan sees Mary put a diamond ring into her purse and then walk out of the store without paying for the ring, then Susan’s testimony would be direct evidence that Mary committed a theft.
Circumstantial evidence is also known as indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence involves the connections of a series of facts that, when examined together using reason and experience, can lead one to infer a certain conclusion. For example, say that Susan, a jewelry store employee, knew that Mary had very little money and loved diamond rings. One day, Susan and Mary were alone in the jewelry store, where a diamond ring lay on a table. Susan leaves the room briefly and when she returns, Mary and the diamond ring are gone. One can reasonably infer from that set of facts that Mary stole the diamond ring. There are alternative explanations, though, because Susan did not witness the alleged theft. A criminal attorney will be able to develop a strong defense to a circumstantial evidence case.
It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which circumstantial evidence is all that is needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, imagine Jane sees Tom go into an empty house with Jim. Then, Jane hears screams and shortly thereafter sees Tom run from the house covered in blood and carrying a knife that is later proved to be the weapon used to stab Jim to death. We have to infer from the facts presented what happened. The facts are: 1) Tom and Jim go into a house together; 2) the house was empty before Tom and Jim entered it; 3) someone screamed; 4) Jim was stabbed to death; and, 5) Tom was seen running from the home covered in blood and carrying the murder weapon. We can fill in the dots, so to speak, to believe that Tom stabbed Jim. However, Jane did not actually see Tom stab Jim, so there is no direct evidence.
Clearly, direct evidence makes it easier to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a prosecutor can still convince a jury using only circumstantial evidence that a defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to win a case where there is direct or circumstantial evidence. The important questions to ask is: What is the evidence? Are there reasonable ways to interpret the evidence that lead to a conclusion other than the defendant committed the crime? Each judge and jury is different. What may be persuasive to one jury falls short of persuading another. That is why it is important to have an experienced and skilled criminal attorney defending you at trial, no matter how circumstantial the evidence may be.
Are You Accused of a Crime?
Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Schmiege is experienced in defending criminal cases in Chicago and throughout the United States. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer today. Call our office for a free consultation.