Sep 22

Theodore Boone Explains Circumstantial Evidence


Today’s short lesson of Legal English vocabulary is inspired by the most popular author of legal thrillers John Grisham and his children’s book series based around the character of a 13-year old boy called Theodore Boone.

Theodore or Theo is a unique boy in that there is nothing he likes more than hanging around the court all day. A son of two lawyers, he dreams about becoming a great trial lawyer or a judge himself one day. Even at 13, Theo has a great deal of legal experience under his belt. He provides the residents of his hometown with legal advice almost on a daily basis. He has also represented a few distraught pet owners in Animal Court.

a trial lawyer – adwokat (a lawyer who specializes in defending clients before a court of law)

to have something under your belt – mieć coś na swoim koncie (to have learned or succeeded in something which might be an advantage in the future)

distraught – zrozpaczeni (extremely worried, nervous or upset)

If you want to find out more about Theo and his adventures make sure you visit

So far, there have been four books published in the Theodore Boone series:

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Theodore Boone: The Accused

Theodore Boone: The Activist

On to circumstantial evidence:

“For those of you who watch a lot of television, don’t expect fireworks. A real trial is very different, and not nearly as exciting. There are no surprise witnesses, no dramatic confessions, no fistfights between the lawyers. And, in this trial, there are no eyewitnesses to the murder. This means that all of the evidence from the State will be circumstantial. You’ll hear this word a lot, especially from Mr. Clifford Nance, the defense lawyer. He’ll make a big deal out of the fact that the State has no direct proof, that everything is circumstantial.”

“I’m not sure what it means,” someone said. “It means that the evidence is indirect, not direct. For example, did you ride your bike to school?”


“And did you chain it to the rack by the flagpole?


“So, when you leave school this afternoon, and you go to the rack, and your bike is gone and the chain has been cut, then you have indirect evidence that someone stole your bike. No one saw the thief, so there’s no direct evidence. And let’s say that tomorrow the police find your bike in a pawnshop on Raleigh Street, a place known to deal in stolen bikes, the owner gives the police a name, they investigate and find some dude with a history of stealing bikes. You can then make a strong case, through indirect evidence, that this guy is your thief. No direct evidence, but circumstantial.”

 a confession – przyznanie się do winy (when you admit that you have done something wrong or illegal)

a fistfight – walka na pięści (a fight between people using their hands but no) weapons

to make a big deal out of– wyolbrzymiać (to make something seem more important/serious than it is)

a (bicycle/bike) rack –  stojak na rowery (a place where you park and chain bicycles)

a flagpole – maszt flagowy (a long pole which a flag is fastened to)

a pawnshop – lombard (a business that offers secured loans to people, with items of personal property used as collateral.

a secured loan – pożyczka pod zastaw                                   

collateral – zabezpieczenie

to deal in – handlować (to buy and sell)

to make a (strong) case that – przedstawić mocne argumenty na to, że (to explain that something is true)


dowód poszlakowy

  • also called indirect evidence
  • evidence in a trial which is not directly from an eyewitness
  • evidence that relies on an inference
  • such inference indirectly establishes the existence/nonexistence of a fact

an inference – konkluzja (guessing that something is true)

examples of circumstantial evidence:

  • the accused’s resistance to arrest
  • the presence of a motive or opportunity to commit the crime
  • the accused’s presence at the time and place of the crime
  • any denials, evasions or contradictions on the part of the accused
  • forensic evidence (it requires a jury to make a connection between the circumstance (the fingerprints) and the fact (someone being guilty or not guilty of a crime).

A collection of circumstantial evidence is called corroborating evidence.

a denial – zaprzeczenie (a statement that something is not true)

an evasion – uchylanie się (the avoiding of an accusation, question, etc.)

a contradiction – sprzeczność (when facts presented are in conflict, inconsistent, etc.)

forensic evidence – dowód na podstawie zeznania biegłego medycyny sądowej (evidence obtained by the use of science, for example DNA evidence)