Evidence is the cornerstone of all criminal trials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys utilize the evidence available to them to either prove the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Evidence comes in different forms and falls under different categories.
Most evidence may be classified as either physical or verbal. Physical evidence, which is usually presented as an exhibit, is any tangible piece of evidence. A weapon used to commit a crime, contraband such as drugs or drug money, DNA evidence, and photographs or video footage all are examples of physical evidence.
Verbal evidence, on the other hand, is non-tangible and usually comes in the form of testimony. For example, testimony from an eyewitness or expert witness and a confession from the defendant would be considered verbal evidence. Audio recordings also would be considered verbal evidence.
All evidence may be further categorized as direct or indirect evidence. Indirect evidence is also referred to as circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence is distinguished from indirect evidence in that it directly proves a fact without requiring any inferences on the part of the jury. For example, an eyewitness testimony from a person who witnessed a defendant commit a crime is considered direct evidence.
On the other hand, indirect or circumstantial evidence provides proof of a fact from which another fact—usually, the fact in question—may be derived.
For instance, consider a witness who testifies that she saw the defendant enter a bank with a gun, then heard an alarm and saw the same man running out of the bank with a bag of cash. This testimony would be considered indirect evidence that the defendant robbed the bank.