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The Power of Circumstantial Evidence in Spanish Law: An Example of its Application

In a decision, the Supreme Court of Spain confirmed a conviction issued by the Civil and Criminal Division of the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia. In this ruling, the appeals filed by the accused against a prior judgment by the Presiding Judge of the Jury Court of the Provincial Court of A Coruña were dismissed. The prior judgment had sentenced two individuals to prison terms of 19 and 18 years for the consummated crime of murder.

What is interesting in this case is that, even though there was no direct evidence proving the crime, the jury considered the accused guilty and provided a series of concurrent and conclusive circumstantial indications as the basis for the conviction. This decision highlighted the significance of circumstantial evidence in the Spanish legal system and led to the confirmation of the conviction by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's ruling acknowledged the validity of circumstantial evidence in the absence of direct evidence. It established a set of rules and principles (20 in total) to determine when circumstantial evidence is sufficient to issue a conviction. These principles include:

  1. Distinguishing Indications from Suspicions: It is crucial to differentiate between proven indications and mere suspicions. To undermine the presumption of innocence, proven indications are required, not mere "probabilities" that the event occurred.

  2. Avoiding Subjective Conviction: Judges and courts cannot base their judgments on their mere subjective belief. The conviction must be based on the belief that the events occurred as described.

  3. Detailed Motivation: The judgment must provide adequate motivation regarding the concurrence of indications and their probative relevance.

  4. Elements and Requirements in Circumstantial Evidence: Circumstantial evidence must include a base statement or indication, a consequent statement, and a logical and rational link between them leading to the conviction.

Circumstantial evidence, as illustrated in this case, is especially powerful in situations where there is no compelling direct evidence. However, its application is subject to a strict set of rules and requirements to ensure a fair and equitable process.

Ultimately, the theory of circumstantial evidence is based on constructing a solid chain of indications that, when added and properly evaluated, lead to a judicial conviction. This form of inference relies on a logical and rational link between indications and conclusions, and its application is subject to scrutiny by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court to ensure it is reasonable and robust.

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