Understanding the difference between exculpatory and inculpatory evidence can be challenging. Try to remember that exculpatory means the suspect is excluded from consideration, while inculpatory means they are included. In other words, exculpatory evidence shows a person’s innocence. Inculpatory findings point toward an individual’s guilt. Here are five different types of evidence that can prove guiltiness.
A good investigation will uncover any possible witnesses to a crime. These witnesses may be deposed, or asked to give statements for later use. Depositions are kept for many years; for example, a 10-year-old deposition against Bill Cosby was published by the New York Times after his legal troubles. Some witnesses are also asked or compelled via subpoena to testify in person during a court case. Their testimony can be inculpatory if they state they saw the defendant at the scene of the crime or heard the defendant’s voice during the crime.
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Expert Witness Testimony
In some cases, attorneys will call on expert witnesses to present evidence to the court. These experts typically have advanced educational training, decades of experience and highly specialized skills. Physicians, forensic scientists and psychologists are frequent expert witnesses. Testimony from skilled professionals can sometimes be used to establish a defendant’s guilt, but it can often be circumstantial. For example, if a forensic expert testifies that a victim’s wounds indicate the murdered was left handed, that inculpates the defendant if the defendant is also left handed. However, there are many left-handed people, so the witness’s testimony doesn’t prove the defendant’s guild.
Confessions and Admissions
A common form of evidence that proves a defendant’s guilt is the defendant’s own words. Many crime suspects talk freely to the police, admitting their location or actions and providing ample proof of their involvement with criminal activity. Police investigators also talk criminals into confessing during interview sessions. Skillful prosecutors can even solicit admissions of guilt on the courtroom stand. All of these examples are inculpatory evidence because they show that the defendant did commit the crime they are accused of.
Finding the murder weapon, running DNA tests and analyzing fingerprints are important steps in gathering evidence of a crime. Police and forensic scientists can use this data to draw a connection between illegal activity and suspects. Physical evidence is especially valuable because it can be easily seen and understood by juries. Sometimes, this type of evidence is actually exculpatory. If fingerprints from someone other than the suspect are found on a gun that was used to commit a crime, that could mean the suspect didn’t pull the trigger. Because this discovery would demonstrate the suspect probably wasn’t guilty, it’s considered exculpatory rather than inculpatory.
Inadmissible Forms of Inculpating Evidence
Not all evidence is allowed in all court jurisdictions, even if it could help prove the innocence or guilt of a defendant. Hearsay, or sharing what a third party stated, is rarely allowed in criminal trials. Judges want the third party to come and testify. Circumstantial forms of evidence are permitted, but they can be challenged by defense lawyers. Smart prosecutors will use circumstantial evidence as part of their case and present more clearly inculpating evidence later. Some privileged evidence, such as conversations between two spouses or a physician and patient, cannot be used.
Different rules apply to bringing inculpatory and exculpatory findings into a court case. That’s why it’s important to understand what counts as inculpatory evidence.