Magazine article Security Management

Evidence Makes the Case

Magazine article Security Management

Evidence Makes the Case

Article excerpt


TO SUCCESSFULLY INVESTIGATE and prosecute a criminal offender, a security manager must gather evidence of both the offense and the perpetrator so the matter can be properly dealt with both from an internal investigative standpoint and from a prosecutorial view.

Thus a security manager who wants to build a successful case must understand the legal concepts involved in the gathering of evidence. This article explains some of the various evidence precepts. While certain concepts of evidence procedures are common to all states and federal courts, variations do occur; therefore, readers should consult local statutes and court rules for specific guidance.

Evidence is that which tends to prove or disprove a fact in dispute. For example, if the issue in dispute is whether John Doe was at the ABC warehouse on the night of a burglary, it is up to the prosecution to produce evidence placing him at the scene of the crime, while Doe may produce evidence placing him someplace other than at the crime scene.

Evidence can generally be divided into two categories: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is that which can prove a fact without need for the fact finder (usually a jury in a criminal case) to make any inference. An example of direct evidence would be an eyewitness to a shooting who states that he or she clearly saw the accused shoot the victim.

Circumstantial evidence, also known as indirect evidence, is that which can prove a fact but which requires the fact finder to infer the fact from the evidence. Judges often explain such evidence by using the following story:

Before going to sleep at 11:00 pm

you look out your front door. You

notice the ground is clear and it is

not snowing. When you wake up

at 7:00 am you look

out the front door

and, although it is

not currently snowing,

you notice six

inches of snow on the

ground. Even though

you did not observe

it snowing, you can

clearly infer that it

snowed between

11:00 pm and 7:00

am. An example of circumstantial evidence in a criminal case is a fingerprint of the accused found inside a home that has been burglarized; no one may have seen the accused in the home, but it can be inferred from the fingerprint that the accused was in fact there.

Contrary to what television may lead us to believe, circumstantial evidence can be admissible in court. In fact, circumstantial evidence can be some of the most convincing evidence available to a security investigator.

Security investigators should make use of both direct and indirect evidence when it is available. When there is an eyewitness, circumstantial evidence should be gathered to support and verify the witness's testimony. An eyewitness who observes the accused fleeing from your warehouse in the middle of the night after a burglary has taken place may or may not be a good witness at trial. The jury will be asked to consider such factors as the lighting, the time of day, and the distance between the witness and the accused. These factors affect the witness's ability to positively identify the defendant.

However, if we add to that eyewitness's testimony circumstantial evidence such as fingerprints of the accused found inside the warehouse and warehouse property located inside the defendant's residence, the eyewitness's testimony is now bolstered.

To be admissible in a court of law, evidence must be relevant to the pending charges. Generally, evidence of prior crimes by the accused will not be admissible to show an individual's predisposition to having committed the pending charge. Relevancy relates to the charges at hand, not to other pending charges unrelated to the particular incident. For example, if the defendant is accused of embezzling funds from his or her employer, the evidence relating to an unrelated armed robbery charge is irrelevant in proving whether or not he or she committed the embezzlement. …

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