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Thomas Jefferson wrote:
Y'all, I'm teetering 50/50 on whether or not Maura ever left Amherst. Knowing if there is indeed a recipe of her at store or ATM, and what is on that recipe could really help in solving this case. AND if LE has recipe, and recipe does exist, and Maura isn't on it, why hasn't an arrest been made. Would the evidence be too circumstantial to hold up in court? Mason?
Everyone who visits this site often enough to know what we know and don't know is in as good a position as I am to answer your question, including you. I'll provide the definitions that are given to jurors in every case and let y'all decide.
Direct evidence is evidence perceived by one or more of the five senses. Circumstantial evidence is evidence inferred from direct evidence such as it must have snowed last night because there was no snow on the ground before I went to bed and there was snow on the ground when I got up this morning.
The law does not assign more value to direct evidence than circumstantial evidence. One is not necessarily more valuable than the other. Jurors get to decide how much weight to assign to the evidence.
The prosecution has the burden of proof in a criminal case and must prove each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements of a crime are defined by statute. For example, the crime of Murder in the First degree consists of the following elements:
1. On or about the 9th day of February, 2004;
2. The defendant;
3. Caused the death of Maura Murray, a human being;
4. With premeditated intent to cause her death; and
5. The act or acts that caused her death occurred within the State of New Hampshire in Grafton County.
The defendant must be presumed innocent and must be found not guilty unless the prosecution overcomes the presumption of innocence by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to testify or present any evidence. The defendant has a constitutional right to remain silent and no presumption of guilt may be drawn from his silence.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not proof beyond all doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt for which a reason exists and it may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence.
To reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty, the jury must be unanimous. If the jury cannot unanimously agree that the defendant is guilty, or not guilty, the judge must declare a mistrial after which the prosecution must decide whether to retry the defendant or dismiss the case.
I hope this message has been helpful to readers in understanding the intellectual process that a prosecutor must go through in deciding whether to charge someone or seek a grand jury indictment charging someone in this case. I've used the standard definition of first degree murder as an illustrative example. The New Hampshire statute may be different, but I'm sure it will include causation and premeditation elements.
Okay, we don't have any direct evidence, such as her body, that Maura Murray is dead. We don't necessarily need any direct evidence because death can be proven by circumstantial evidence alone. There is quite a lot of circumstantial evidence that she is dead, but is there enough to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that she is dead. If you doubt Maura is dead, is your doubt supported by a reason, or is it just wishful thinking?
I believe all of us would like to know what the vote will be on the death element. I'm going to pose the question as follows:
Are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Maura Murray is dead?
For the time being let's leave out the identity of the defendant, intent, cause of death, and location of death issues.