Friday, July 19, 2019

Espinoza: Circumstantial evidence?

Free Zone

THE level of public indignation was so high against the suspect in the gruesome murder of Christine Lee Silawan, 16, after her mutilated body was found in an empty lot in Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City, last week.

There were even nasty suggestions from radio commentators on what to do with the suspect once arrested. But after the arrest of the primary suspect, the girl’s 17-year-old former boyfriend, the public rage just died down.

Jonas Bueno, the first person of interest for the girl’s death that the police identified and arrested on the basis of a warrant of arrest for the murder of a farmer in Danao City, turned out to be not the culprit. Bueno denied he killed the girl and added that he is not a monster.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 on the basis of the circumstantial evidence found on the gadgets of the suspect and the girl led them to arrest Christine’s ex-boyfriend, a 17-year-old boy. He was the last person seen together with Christine before she was brutally murdered.

The NBI applied the open source intelligence (OSINT) tool on the Facebook account of the girl that helped them identify the primary suspect behind her murder. OSINT is the data collected from publicly available sources that includes social media networking sites like Facebook.

The NBI investigators, though, were careful in not right away declaring the case as closed. In the media briefing, after the filing of the murder charges against the accused (whose name is withheld for being a minor), the NBI said it will still look for the cohorts of the accused. A key witness said she saw three persons when the girl was murdered.

The Lapu-Lapu City prosecutors would have to rely on the circumstantial evidence in prosecuting the 17-year-old accused.

To non-legal minds, circumstantial evidence is the opposite of direct evidence, which is evidence based on the account of an eyewitness or in layman’s term “star witness.”

The NBI only has circumstantial evidence because nobody actually saw or witnessed the killing of the girl unless one soul would come out and volunteer to testify.

I wish the circumstantial evidence is air-tight enough that it would point to the accused as the principal culprit so that justice would be served and the girl’s grieving family could heave a sigh of relief.

It’s heartrending to think that a dejected lover would do such a dreadful act. I thought this kind of story was only found in fiction or love story novels. Of course, I’m not judging the accused guilty because under our judicial system the accused is still presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

There are a few cases I know that an accused was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and whose defense was only alibi.

With only circumstantial evidence on hand, the prosecutor should use his/her skill and art in successfully sending the accused to prison.


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