Parties in a criminal trial may introduce both direct and circumstantial (indirect) evidence to prove their side of the case.
Direct evidence can be real evidence or testimonial evidence.
What is Direct Evidence?
Direct evidence is any evidence that if believed, directly establishes a fact which resolved a matter at issue in the trial. The only inference that needs to be drawn from direct evidence is that the testimony being provided is true.
The main difference between direct and circumstantial (indirect) evidence, is the number of inferences that must be drawn to connect the evidence with the fact the evidence is attempting to prove. Direct evidence only requires that the trier of fact make the inference that the testimony being provided is true. Circumstantial evidence on the other hand, requires additional inferences.
Common examples of direct evidence include eye-witness accounts of an event, video footage of an incident, DNA evidence, and fingerprints.
Person A is on trial for murder. At trial, the Crown calls person B as a witness. Person B testifies that he was in the parking garage when the murder occurred. He testifies that he witnessed person A, the defendant, pull out a black gun and shoot the victim, person C, killing him. Person B’s eyewitness account of the murder is direct evidence. If the judge and/or jury believes person B is telling the truth, person B’s testimony will prove that person A committed the murder.
When is Direct Evidence used in a Criminal Trial?
Direct evidence is commonly used at trials to provide evidence of the accused’s guilt. Both the Crown and defence counsel can present direct evidence. Direct evidence commonly introduced at trial includes eye-witness testimony from individual’s who witnessed the offence or witnessed some other event that is related to the offence. It is also common for the Crown or defence counsel to introduce video or audio of an offence. Fingerprint and DNA evidence is another type of direct evidence that is commonly used at trial.
In some cases, a party may call an expert witness to present direct evidence.
Person A is on trial for murder. The Crown calls person B to testify that they witnessed person A shoot person C. The Crown also presents fingerprint evidence that was found inside the victim’s vehicle. Both pieces of evidence are direct evidence. If the judge believes that person B is telling the truth in their testimony, the judge need not make any more inferences to determine person A shot and killed person C. The fingerprint evidence is further proof that the accused and victim were together.