Vanderbilt Law Review

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Since the purpose of this article is to analyze evidence in functional terms, it may be helpful at the outset to state the basic ideas which underlie the discussion.

1. Evidence consists of propositions of fact which are related to another proposition, a proposed conclusion. Evidence is thus to be distinguished from the fact or facts which are its basis. 2. The essential relationship of propositions which are evidence to the proposition which is the proposed conclusion is relevancy. 3. The relevancy of evidence to the proposed conclusion is determined by the inference drawn from the evidence. If the evidence will support an inference which coincides with the proposed conclusion it is relevant. Otherwise it is not. 4. There are two basic types of evidence, direct and circumstantial, which, for purposes of analysis, are best defined in functional terms, by relating the propositions which are evidence to the proposed conclusion. 5. Real evidence and demeanor evidence are facts presented to the senses of the trier of fact and as such should not be thought of as evidence, but only as exhibits which are bases of evidence. 6. Proving in a trial is a process which involves two basic steps by the trier: a determination of the reliability of the evidence, and the drawing of inferences therefrom. The first step is the credibility step, requiring a credibility inference; the second step is the probative step, requiring a probative inference. 7. Proof is the inference drawn from the evidence. Although evidence is generally called proof, it is in fact only the basis of proof.

To develop these ideas, this article first states the meaning of evidence. It then analyzes direct and circumstantial evidence in functional terms, and compares the resulting meanings with the traditional meanings of direct, circumstantial, real, and demeanor evidence. Finally, it discusses the significance of the analysis in relation to the rules of evidence and proving in a trial.

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