Direct versus circumstantial evidence
Direct versus circumstantial evidence (Forensic Science)
Direct and circumstantial evidence of a series of material facts related to a crime builds the case and leads to an outcome of guilt or innocence. In obtaining evidence, forensic scientists rely on Locard’s exchange principle, which states that every contact of an individual with another person, place, or object results in an exchange of materials. The work of forensic science applies scientific disciplines to the law and encompasses the discovery, gathering, investigation, preservation, examination, comparison, documentation, and quality control of materials found at the scenes of crimes. The work of forensic science enables investigators to use the physical evidence or the absence of particular physical evidence at crime scenes to develop associations that prove or disprove material facts as those facts relate to the crimes.
If no such evidence is available, investigators would turn their attention more closely to circumstantial evidence. Suspicion might then fall on a company employee who knows the combination to the safe, who shortly after the robbery quit his job and left the area, and who cannot account for his whereabouts at the time of the theft. None of these facts would directly link the employee to the crime, but in combination such circumstantial evidence could be used to build a case against him.
Direct evidence is evidence that links directly to material issues in a case; it may take the form of witness testimony,...
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Best, Arthur. Evidence: Examples and Explanations. 6th ed. New York: Aspen, 2007. Uses the Federal Rules of Evidence to organize examples and explanations of types of evidence, relevance requirements, and exclusionary rules.
Genge, N. E. The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation. New York: Ballantine, 2002. Presents examples of evidence sleuthing from real cases to illustrate the work involved in forensics.
Giannelli, Paul C., Albert J. Weatherhead III, and Richard W. Weatherhead. Understanding Evidence. 2d ed. Albany, N.Y.: LexisNexis/Mathew Bender, 2006. Provides an informative summary of the basic concepts of evidence law.
Pentland, Peter, and Pennie Stoyles. Forensic Science. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003. Discusses the scientific methods used to investigate crime scenes. Intended for young adult readers.
Platt, Richard. Crime Scene: The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2003. Explains concepts in forensic science using well-known cases and easy-to-understand examples.
Sapse, Danielle S. Legal Aspects of Forensics. New York: Chelsea House, 2006. Provides an overview of the legal issues relating to forensic science techniques and their uses in trials.
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