Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

The following is an example of a jury instruction that is given to the jury to explain Direct and Circumstantial Evidence:

Direct evidence is simply direct proof of a basic fact, such as the testimony of an eyewitness. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence; that is to say proof of a chain of facts, a chain of facts from which you can conclude that another fact or facts exist even though such other facts have not been proven directly. Let’s use a quick example: Let’s assume that in any particular case it was important to prove that it snowed last night. Well, how might you go about doing it? If you could locate a witness, who was actually out and observed and saw, felt, heard it snowing, if you call that witness forward and accept as accurate and believable the testimony, you can prove directly through the sensory perceptions of that witness the basic fact that it was snowing. Let’s take our example one step further. We aren’t able the locate awitness who was out and about while it was snowing overnight but we can find a witness, who, upon coming home from work the night before, notices it isn’t snowing. And our hypothetical witness gets up the next morning, it is not actively snowing but there is ablanket of new-fallen snow on the ground. If you accept as accurate and believable that series of events from our hypothetical witness, it might be perfectly reasonable to infer from that testimony that sometime overnight it snowed. Let’s take our example one step further: Our witness notices what would appear to be a set of motor vehicle tire tracks in the roadway in front of the dooryard as he or she is about to go off to work in the morning. Based on those observations it might be perfectly reasonable to infer that sometime overnight a motor vehicle passed in the roadway in front of the dooryard. But on those facts alone would it be reasonable to infer that the vehicle was a pickup truck rather than asedan, a Ford rather than a Chevrolet? Now, our law does not make distinction between how much weight you should assign to direct as compared to circumstantial evidence. Each type of evidence is entitled to equal wait, equal consideration, by you during the course of your deliberations. You should consider all of the evidence, both the direct and the circumstantial evidence, in evaluating the testimony, the evidence presented at trial. A verdict may be based entirely on direct evidence, entirely on circumstantial evidence, or some combination of each; remembering, of course, that in criminal cases such as these it would be the State’s burden to prove each basic fact by the standard of proof, beyond areasonable doubt.

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