Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thriller Thursday - Wrapping Up the Villers Trial, Part 6

The Jamestown Weekly Alert,
20JAN1898, pg1
We are getting there. This is the last Charlie-Brown-teacher-talking post. At least I hope it is. The clipping today continues to talk about circumstantial evidence and the role it can play in a case. Now, I'm no lawyer and I've always heard that convicting someone on circumstantial evidence is a no-no, but perhaps that was just an ideal rather than a legal reality. Apparently you can.

"The Conclusion Not Forced.

'Circumstantial evidence, therefore, is found on experience and observed facts and coincidences establishing a connection between the known and proved facts and the fact sought to be proved. From this view it is manifest that great care and caution should be used in drawing inferences from proved facts. It must be a fair and natural and not a forced and artificial conclusion; the inferences to be drawn from the facts must be a reasonable and natural one and of a moral certainty and certain one. It is not sufficient that it is a probable one; it must be reasonably and morally certain. The next consideration is that each fact which is necessary to the conclusion must be distinctly and independently proved by competent evidence. It may and often does happen that in making out a case on circumstantial evidence many facts are given in evidence not because they are necessary to the conclusion sough to be proved but to show that they rebut, not control presumption.

The several circumstances upon which the conclusion depends must be fully established by proof. They are facts from which the main fact is to be inferred; and they are to be proved by competent evidence and by the same weight and force of evidence as if each one were itself the main fact in issue.

Also that all the facts proved must be consistent with each other and with the main fact sought to be proved; that the circumstances taken together should be of a conclusive nature and tendency leading to a wholly satisfactory conclusion and producing in fact a reasonable and moral certainty that the accused and no (sic) else committed the offense charged. It is essential, therefore, that the circumstances taken as a whole and giving them their reasonable and just weight and no more should to a moral certainty include every other hypothesis.
The Jamestown Weekly Alert,
20JAN1898, pg1
The guilt of the accused may be established from circumstantial evidence alone, provided you first have all direct proof beyond a reasonable doubt that August Tromer was killed as charged in the information and provided the facts established by circumstantial evidence are inconsistent with any other view than the the defendant's guilt. To find the accused guilty on circumstantial evidence the facts proved must be wholly inconsistent with the innocence of the accused and incapable of explanation upon any other reasonable hypothesis than that he is guilty.

Three verdicts were given the jury. One finding the prisoner guilty and fixing the punishment at death; another finding him guilty, but placing the penalty at life imprisonment; and the third finding the prisoner innocent."

So we've reached the point where the judge's instructions have been given fully to the jury and he made it pretty clear that you can convict on circumstantial evidence. We already know that he was found guilty so now I'll have to wonder if the reason the death penalty wasn't handed down by the jury was because of the circumstantial nature of the case. Saying that someone is guilty and putting them in jail is much different than saying they are guilty and executing them. Perhaps one of the future posts will deal with the jury. We'll find out together.