What Is Circumstantial Evidence?
In an Oklahoma criminal case, most evidence can be classified under one of two categories: direct and indirect. Indirect evidence is also referred to as circumstantial evidence.
- Indirect or circumstantial evidence requires an inference or presumption in order to prove a particular fact
- Direct evidence proves the fact directly, with no inference necessary
Say, for example, the prosecution is trying to prove that Carl committed assault and battery against John. The prosecution’s star witness, Bill, gives testimony that he saw Carl run at John, tackle him to the ground and beat him with his fists in the face. In this instance, Bill’s testimony is considered direct evidence.
On the other hand, if Bill testifies that he witnessed Carl and John having a verbal altercation in which Carl threatened to beat up John, then watched the two walk out into the backyard, heard scuffling and shouting and then saw John walk back into the house with a bloody face and Carl with blood-covered fists, it could be inferred that Carl assaulted and battered John. Bill’s testimony in this case would be considered indirect or circumstantial evidence, because he didn’t actually witness the alleged act.
Weighing Indirect and Direct Evidence
From a practical standpoint, there is little difference between indirect and direct evidence when it comes to trial. In either of the above scenarios, it would still be up to the jury to decide whether Bill’s testimony is credible enough to believe and, therefore, whether or not Carl is guilty of the accused crime.
As criminal defense attorneys, it is our job to evaluate all of the prosecution’s evidence against you, find the weakest points and vigorously attack them in court—regardless of whether that evidence is direct or circumstantial.