The answer is "YES."
First, what is circumstantial evidence?
It's pieces of evidence.
Not all the pieces fit together.
There is no direct, linear connection between the pieces of evidence.
Yet for some reason, our mind fills in the blank where there are missing pieces of evidence.
Let me give you an example...
Let's say you're driving down the highway.
You come upon a car that is crushed and mangled.
There's smoke coming out of the engine compartment.
You notice the driver has massive trauma and is bleeding profusely.
You didn't see the events that caused this.
You don't know how this car or driver came to be like this.
But your mind has already started to make assumptions and reach conclusions about what happened.
You have no direct evidence of how this car came to be on the side of the road, crushed like a tin can.
You didn't see it happen.
You didn't hear it happen.
There's no witnesses to tell you what happened.
So what facts do you know to be true at the moment you observe this car by the side of the road?
- The car is badly damaged.
- The driver is hurt badly.
- There are skidmarks in the roadway.
So what conclusions can you draw from these bare-boned facts?
- Cars don't usually wind up crushed by the side of the road without some type of accident.
- The smoke from the engine bay suggests this happened recently.
- The forces that caused this crash were significant based upon the damage to the car and the trauma to the driver.
Since we don't have video showing us exactly what happened, we have to make assumptions.
Since we dont' have witnesses who can tell us what they saw, our mind has to draw conclusions.
Direct evidence would be a visual sequence of events from start to finish.
Unfortunately, not every situation has the benefit of video or witnesses.
In that instance, we look to see what facts ARE present.
Then we ask a jury to INFER what the gaps are.
We use our knowledge of the scenario and those facts we know to be true.
We then ask the jury to logically connect the separate facts to reach conclusions about how this incident happened and why.
In the example above here's one way we'd do that.
"Mrs. Jones, tell us what you saw when you approached the highway exit."
"I saw this silver car in a ditch on the right side of the road. The front of the car was smashed like an accordion. There were skidmarks for 20 feet before the car came to rest. The driver was bloodied and his face was resting on the deployed airbag. There was smoke coming from the engine compartment."
"Did you see how this car came to be in the ditch?"
"No, I didn't."
"Did you see if another car caused this accident?"
"No, I didn't."
"Did you see any witnesses around?"
"No, I didn't."
"You don't know how this incident occurred, right?"
"Well, I can pretty much assume..."
"No, I don't want you to assume anything. You didn't witness the impact, right?"
"You didn't talk to the driver after you made these observations, right?"
The jury is already trying to figure out, in their own mind, how this accident could have occurred.
Was there another car involved?
Did another car hit her and then take off?
Was the driver distracted and caused her own accident?
Was the car defective causing the driver to lose control?
These are all viable possibilities.
Every juror is scrambling to explain the facts that they know to be true.
But there are gaps.
Now, each attorney will present circumstances surrounding those facts to help the jury reach different conclusions.
That's what we mean by circumstantial evidence.