Since following the Cooper trial and seeing so many factors that contributed to a very unfair trial, I’ve been trying to understand how the jury arrived at their verdict with so little concrete evidence. I’ve taken a look at several other cases that also appear to be wrongful convictions and I’m noticing a pattern. In many instances I’m seeing nothing more than weak circumstantial evidence combined with character assassination. And in many cases the purported circumstantial evidence holds no weight. It is merely a compilation of theories thrown out there by the prosecutors with nothing to back them up. They often list several of these items and suggest that “there are too many coincidences. The person must be guilty“, but one must look at each individual claim and determine if it has merit. That isn’t happening.
First, a definition of exactly what circumstantial evidence is supposed to be –
Circumstantial evidence is best explained by saying what it is not – it is not direct evidence from a witness who saw or heard something. Circumstantial evidence is a fact that can be used to infer another fact.
Indirect evidence that implies something occurred but doesn’t directly prove it; proof of one or more facts from which one can find another fact; proof of a chain of facts and circumstances indicating that the person is either guilty or not guilty.
The emphasis is the word “fact”. A good example would be –
Someone hears a shot fired and runs to the location to see what happened. A person is standing over a body holding a smoking gun. No one else is in the area. One may infer that the person holding the gun did the shooting. It is a FACT that the person is holding the gun. This is circumstantial evidence because there isn’t proof that the person did the shooting, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that they did. This type of circumstantial evidence can rightfully be used to convict a person.
Now, an example of what is NOT circumstantial evidence –
From the Cooper case – Evidence exists that a phone call was placed from the Cooper residence to Brad’s cell phone the morning that Nancy disappeared. Brad told police it was Nancy. If this is true, she is alive at 6:40 AM and he did not commit the murder. The prosecutors tried to make the case that Brad could have somehow spoofed the phone call. They spent days of the court’s time demonstrating all the ways one could do this, but they didn’t prove that Brad did, and therefore it is not a fact. It is not a fact that one can use to infer something and therefore it should be dismissed. It is NOT circumstantial evidence.
If they had proof that Brad spoofed a phone call such as a log file or a phone record, then it would be circumstantial evidence because one could infer that he did this to create an alibi. It still doesn’t prove that he committed the murder, but it would fulfill the definition of circumstantial evidence. As it stands, it does not and therefore the jury should have voted “not guilty” since this piece of evidence was Brad’s alibi and was corroborated by the 16 witnesses who believed they saw Nancy Cooper that morning. Do you see how the prosecutors were able to manipulate the jurors?
Another example –
In the Jason Young case, prosecutors allege that a witness saw Jason at a gas station the morning that his wife was murdered. There is no video recording of this. There is no receipt of a purchase verifying this. There is no corroboration that it was in fact Jason Young. Therefore, it is NOT circumstantial evidence and should not be considered evidence when deciding the verdict. It is not a FACT. It is one person’s statement and it’s clear now that eyewitness testimony over the years has wrongly convicted many innocent people.
If, on the other hand, there was clear video footage of him walking into the store at that time or a gas receipt with the time and date stamped on it indicating he was there, THEN it may be considered circumstantial evidence.
Why are juries convicting people with so little evidence? How are prosecutors convincing people that unproven pieces of evidence ARE circumstantial and should hold weight? At the Cooper trial, prosecutors stated in closing that the alleged (but unproven) spoofed phone call is circumstantial evidence. They explained to jurors how circumstantial evidence holds the same weight as direct evidence. This is true, but only if it meets the requirement of circumstantial evidence and that is a fact used to infer that the defendant committed the crime. They clearly are not meeting that requirement. Jurors are being manipulated, likely because they believe the person MUST be guilty or the case wouldn’t have been brought to trial. The jurors want to do the right thing. They sympathize with family members of the victim but they are failing to force the State to meet the burden of proof. They are determining guilt based on fake circumstantial evidence.
In many cases it is difficult to prove a person is responsible for murder and other crimes. Police feel pressured to solve the case. They want evidence to display at trial. They want it so badly that they have resorted to fabricating evidence and throwing theories out there to suggest that the defendant likely committed the crime. But one must be careful to remain objective when evaluating the evidence and if it’s not factual, it must be discarded. Bringing weak cases to trial and then cooking up a bunch of so called “circumstantial evidence” shouldn’t be tolerated.