I have a lot of clients and those people who are considering retaining my services as a criminal defense attorney tell me well, the prosecutors don't have any evidence against me, so I don't really understand why I'm arrested and I don't understand how they're going to prove their case. And this is where it's just a matter that people don't have the experience of dealing with a criminal case in the Los Angeles County court system and they don't really understand what evidence is available to the prosecutors.
Of course, if the prosecutors have a video tape of you or your loved on committing the crime, that would certainly be direct evidence to be able to prove their case. But in real life, they don't always have a video showing exactly what happened, so they have to rely on other means to prove their case.
One form of evidence is witnesses. If an alleged victim or any other witness says, yeah, this person did this to me. They hit me in the head. They stabbed me with a knife and there's no video tape of it, that doesn't mean that they don't have any evidence. The witnesses themselves are actually evidence. So, the case starts, there's an opening statement by both sides and then the prosecution – because they have the burden – is going to call the first witness and any testimony that witness gives is evidence. If a jury believes it and it satisfies the elements of a crime, then that person is going to get convicted by the jury. A lot of times people don't realize that the prosecutors do have evidence, and sometimes grant it, the evidence is not good – in other words, the witness that they're using is biased or is not credible or reliable, so, that's where a good criminal defense attorney comes in to cross-examine that witness, attack their credibility, attack their story and obviously give your side of the story.
Proving A Case By Circumstantial Evidence
Another form of evidence that the prosecutors can use in order to prove a case so people understand what it means when they're trying to use evidence is if – I'll give an example that I give in a lot of the cases that I do. Let's say a mother bakes a cherry pie and a little boy is in the kitchen watching her make it and she puts it on the counter to cool and she heads off to run some more errands in the house. When she comes back five minutes later, there's a huge bite taken out of the pie and she look at the little boy and she says, did you take a bite out of that pie? And the little boy says, absolutely I did not. So, I guess in that case the little boy can argue there's no evidence. You don't have the video that I took a bite of the pie, but by the circumstances, there can be an argument mounted that the little boy took a bite of that pie. I'm going to give you an example of what the mother sees.
No. .1, the little boy is the only one in the house. There's nobody else in the house and there's a bite taken out of the pie. So, yes of course, that's evidence. It could be the little boy. But let's go further. The little boy's hands have cherry juice all over them. There's cherry juice smashed all of the little boy's mouth and he has crumbs on his shirt and all over his face and there's crumbs leading from the pie back to where he was seated at the kitchen table. That is circumstantial evidence that the little boy is the one who took the bite of the pie.
So, in that circumstance, you can see in a criminal case a lot of times things happen – crimes are committed and the circumstantial evidence leads to the argument that the person who is charged with it is the one that committed the crime. So, there are a lot of different types of evidence.
Direct Versus Indirect Evidence
Direct evidence would be they have a video of the person committing the crime. The person admits that they committed the crime. There's an eye-witness that sees them as they're committing the crime. This is all direct evidence to prove a case. But indirect evidence is akin to the circumstantial evidence concept where you have to use deductive logic to figure out that the person committed the crime, and the prosecutors are specifically trained in this type of evidence to be able to put it on and then make the arguments.
But of course, you have to factor in a criminal defense attorney who is going to come in and say, wait a minute. This is not proof that somebody committed a crime. They're going to attack the credibility of the witnesses. They're going to try and show that other people could have committed this crime and just because the prosecutors believe this chain of circumstantial evidence leads to the conclusion the person committed the crime, doesn't necessarily mean that's true, and of course, you have an opportunity to put your version of events on to tell from your perspective what happened. In a criminal trial, the defense gets to put on an affirmative defense if they want to. We can rest on the state of the evidence if that's the right strategic move to make, or we can put the defendant on. We can call other witnesses. We can present other evidence that shows no, there is no proof of this case. The prosecutors have not met their burden, and therefore, the person should be found not guilty.
So, the bottom line is when it comes to evidence – the way that I do it – I've been doing this for twenty-five years. I've done over 200 jury trials – I have you come in, we sit down. We go over the case and then I can show you how the prosecutors are going to put together the case. You're going to tell me how you believe the case should go and what evidence you believe is available on your side and then I can tell you how that will be presented. Then we will have an educated idea of how the case will be resolved – whether it should go to the jury trial or whether it should be negotiated.
If it is going to go to jury trial, I can show you how we would put our evidence on, how they would put their evidence on, and most importantly, where the issues would be for the jury as far as trying to figure out whether someone is innocent or guilty of a crime, and whether the prosecutors have presented enough evidence to meet all the elements of a particular crime or crimes.