SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES, LANGUAGES, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
Constructing Guilt & Innocence
Are criminal cases won or lost on the evidence, or on the stories that are told.
Word Count: 2500
The aim of this essay is to define the concepts of evidence and story telling by way answering the question of, are cases won or lost on the evidence or the stories told. To place the assignment in the correct context for the discussion, it will use illustrations from the cases discussed in lecture to describe the difference between actual criminal evidence and the stories inferred from them. Furthermore, to demonstrate how story telling and evidence may benefit or hinder the outcome of criminal cases.
The English legal system is an adversary system in which cases are presented before the court. There are two opposing sides the defense and the prosecution. Both sides have an equal and fair oppurtunity to argue their cases, before a neutral panel, which can also include a jury and a judge. The judge and jury are expected to remain impartial and are chosen in part using criteria that is designed to discard people who might have a bias in the case
In turn, both sides present the evidence and witnesses to support their positions. The opposing side is able cross examine witnesses, analyze the evidence independently, and challenge arguments made before the court. The jury’s role is to determine the facts of the case and if any action needs to be taken. Adversarial systems are widely criticized for encouraging a system where each side is competing against the other.
The definition of the concept of evidence given by Collin (2007) describes evidence as ‘ Facts that help to prove or disprove something at a trial’ (Collin, 2007). Collins (2007) definition refers to the facts, this gives a misunderstanding as to what facts are, if in fact they are objective bits of evidence which one may decide are particles of the truth. It is important to note that those agreements can change over time the facts can also change. It is clear from research on patterns in opening and closing statements that both sides find difficulty in re defining facts consistently in the direction that best establishes their competeting claims about the incident (Bennet & Feldman, 1984:5) A sociological perspective on this suggests that the idea of fact is not as clear-cut as initially presumed. Sociologists should only consider facts as objective “evidence” and what they themselves can directly observe (Durkhiem, 2013). In more detail it can be understood as the varied sources of information such as witnesses, documents, concrete objects which are submitted to a court “for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or the jury (Upshur, 2001:6).
There are different classifications of evidence such as testimonial evidence, opinion, witnesses or something spoken or wrote down (Hails, 2009). Secondly, there is physical evidence that being photographs, tapes, recordings, CCTV, mobile phones, or other forensic objects such as DNA & fingerprints.
The classifications of evidence will be either direct or circumstantial evidence, direct evidence supports Bennet and Feldmans (1984) argument about requisites for direct proof that a crime has been committed. In terms of establishing the credibility of evidence, validation tactics suggest that either (a) and (b) be validated by other information and explanations, or if can they be invalidated by showing plausible alternative definitions and connections between the elements of the story (Bennet & Feldman, 1984). So for example, a confession is direct evidence such as is eyewitness accounts. This is evidence that proves the criminal was at scene of crime or committing the crime, some physical evidence can back this up such as CCTV which shows them...
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