Of note, the prosecution (i.e., the government) has a legal duty to preserve certain types of evidence that it collects during criminal investigations and prosecutions. This duty exists to protect the accused’s rights to due process and right to a fair trial under the United States Constitution’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The government has a duty to disclose any evidence that it has, and has a duty to preserve evidence from the moment any state agency or actor is in possession of evidence as part of a criminal investigation.
There are generally two types of evidence that are presented during a Georgia criminal trial – direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. While there is no legal distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence – the rules that govern evidence in both criminal and civil cases – they are often distinguished outside of the courtroom. Below is a basic explanation of what the two types of evidence are and how they differ.
Direct versus Circumstantial Evidence
As the name implies, direct evidence directly establishes a fact. Simply put, direct evidence does not require a juror to make any inferences about the evidence. An example of direct evidence is an eyewitness who testifies in a Georgia murder trial that he or she saw the defendant shoot the victim in the back. This is direct evidence that is provided to assist the prosecutor in proving that the accused murdered the victim.
Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, requires the jury to make an inference in order to connect the evidence presented to a conclusion of fact. An example of circumstantial evidence is a witness testifying that, after walking into a couple’s apartment, he or she saw blood all over the man and his hands and the female victim dead on the floor, but did not see a knife in his hand.
For a jury to conclude that the defendant (the man) killed the female victim, it must infer that (1) the blood on the man belonged to the victim and (2) the man got blood all over him when he was stabbing the victim as opposed to as he was trying to render first aid to his dying girlfriend.
Under Georgia law, circumstantial evidence holds the same weight as direct evidence. That being said, an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney will point out any inconsistencies in the circumstantial evidence to discredit it.
There are several types of evidence that may be presented by Georgia prosecutors that must be preserved. This may include crime scene evidence, tape recordings and video surveillance, law enforcement’s investigative notes, and emergency call recordings, among others.
Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys
The rules of evidence are complicated. At Moffitt Law, LLC, our experienced Georgia criminal defense attorneys know how to knock out evidence that is improper and discredit circumstantial evidence brought forth by prosecutors. Do not leave your liberty to chance. Contact us today for your initial case evaluation to learn what your rights are under Georgia law.