A question that often occurs to me is this : can many different “suspicious” facts be combined to arrive at proof beyond a reasonable doubt?
My answer would be “Yes”, but it can be very dangerous, and can easily lead to wrongful convictions.
The reason I say yes, is that DNA evidence actually does just that. DNA is sampled at many different locations, each individual location is only weak evidence, when combined together, strong identification evidence is produced.
It’s impossible to be certain about almost anything. You will have wrongful convictions in any system of justice, because occasionally circumstantial evidence will lead you astray.
However, if you are going to convict on circumstantial evidence, I would say it’s very important to check first whether there is evidence the OTHER way ( evidence inconsistent with the prosecution case ).
Some examples would be:
- Lack of motive,
- Facts that don’t fit,
- Things that don’t make sense
- Contradictions and Inconsistencies
- Disagreements, battling experts.
These should all be red flags that create reasonable doubt in the mind of a juror.
Distressingly, jurors quite often fail to notice the red flags, resulting in a wrongful conviction.
See also Broken on the Wheel “Voltaire became steeped in the country’s rules of criminal procedure, a labyrinth he found appalling”
The evidence was mostly rubbish – but there was a lot of the rubbish, and in France at the time, even evidence deemed “half-complete” or “imperfect” could convict, by adding fractions of a proof to make a whole.