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2.4-1 Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

Revised to January 1, 2008

There are, generally speaking, two types of evidence from which a jury can properly find the truth as to the facts of the case.  One is direct evidence, such as the testimony of an eyewitness.  The other is indirect or circumstantial evidence, that is, the inferences which may be drawn reasonably and logically from the proven facts.  Let me give you an example of what I mean by direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.  If you're looking out a third floor window and you see smoke rising outside the window, that's direct evidence that there is smoke outside.  It is also circumstantial evidence that there is a fire of some sort below the window.  

As a general rule, the law makes no distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence, but simply requires that the jury find the facts in accordance with a preponderance of all the evidence in the case, both direct and circumstantial.  Thus, both direct and circumstantial evidence are permissible evidence and each type should be treated equally.  In your consideration of the evidence, you are not limited to the bald statements of the witness, that is, the exact words that they use.  On the contrary, you are permitted to draw from facts which you find to have been proven such reasonable inferences as seem justified in the light of your experience. 

While you may make inferences and rely on circumstantial evidence, you should be careful not to resort to guesswork or speculation or conjecture to determine the facts in the case.


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