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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Gun Crimes > Can a Jury Convict You Without Any Physical Evidence or Eyewitness Testimony?

Can a Jury Convict You Without Any Physical Evidence or Eyewitness Testimony?


Decades of television crime dramas like CSI, Law & Order, and NCIS have perhaps left many people with the incorrect impression that police and prosecutors always have overwhelming evidence of a criminal defendant’s guilt. The harsh reality is that many criminal convictions are based on purely circumstantial evidence only suggesting the defendant’s guilt. Indeed, it is possible for a jury to convict a person of a serious crime–even murder–even when there is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony directly connecting the defendant to what happened.

Georgia Man Convicted of Felony Murder Based on Nickname

A recent Georgia Supreme Court decision, Hooks v. State, offers a useful illustration. This case involved the shooting death of a man outside an apartment complex. A witness who lived in one of the apartments testified that she heard a gunshot. When she went outside a few minutes later, she saw one of her neighbors–the victim–lying on the ground.

The victim was still alive when his neighbor called 911. The victim told the neighbor that “Buddha” shot him. The neighbor did not personally know anyone who went by that nickname. A police officer who attended the scene, however, believed “Buddha” to be one of his own former neighbors. He also knew the defendant’s sister lived in the apartment building near where the victim was shot.

The victim eventually died as a result of his injuries, so he was never able to give a more detailed identification of his assailant. But police knew the defendant’s sister lived in the building next to where the victim was shot. The defendant was present in the apartment that evening. And the police found a shell casing near the building.

While this may not sound like much evidence, it was enough to convince a jury to find the defendant guilty of both felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. (Keep in mind, the actual gun was never recovered.) The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, largely based on witness testimony that suggested the defendant was the only person the defendant could have possibly meant when he referred to “Buddha” as the shooter. At trial, the defense argued there was “some other person with the same nickname” who shot the victim. But the Court of Appeals said the jury was free to reject that alternate theory of the crime and convict the defendant.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

You should never assume that just because the police do not “catch you in the act” or that nobody saw you commit a crime that you can escape conviction. Even a weak, circumstantial case is often enough to persuade a jury. That is why if you are accused of any serious crime you need to work with an experienced Atlanta gun crime lawyer who will zealously defend your rights in court. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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