Massachusetts Circumstantial Evidence
Circumstantial evidence is very different than direct evidence. While circumstantial evidence is more difficult to explain to jurors, jurors may accept or reject any evidence they chose at trial. Prior to determining what evidence to accept, jurors must keep two ideas in their head when dealing with circumstantial evidence.
First, the jury may only draw inferences and conclusions from facts that are proven through the trial. Conversely, the jury may not draw inferences to facts that were not produced at trial. Second, all inferences or conclusions that the jury draws must be reasonable. The jury may use their common sense and life experience in determining what a reasonable inference would be depending on the evidence.
Judges give many different examples of circumstantial evidence. One example is called the rain situation. Say if you were at work and you walked into the lobby. While walking in the hallway near the front door you see a lot of people coming inside. You see people carrying umbrellas and their coats are wet. No one tells you that it is raining outside and there are no windows so you can’t see the rain yourself. Based on the wet clothing and umbrellas you make the conclusion that it is raining outside. The wet clothing and umbrellas is circumstantial evidence.
The jury could find a defendant guilty on a case based solely on circumstantial evidence. However, the jury must determine that the circumstantial evidence is conclusive to the point that it is beyond a reasonable doubt. No matter what type of evidence the jury considers the burden is on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
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