What is an inference?
A permissible deduction accepted as believable is an inference. In other words, inferences are little steps in reasoning in which a person takes some known information, applies his or her experience in life to it, and then draws a conclusion.
An inference may be drawn even if NOT necessary or inescapable, so long as it is reasonable and warranted by the evidence, and all the evidence and reasonable inferences in the case together prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
What are some examples of inferences?
It is easier to explain the concept of an inference by turning to concrete examples.
Imagine Person A checks his or her mailbox in the morning before leaving for the day and finds it empty. Then imagine that Person A returns to their home in the evening and finds the mailbox full of mail. In this scenario, it would be reasonable to infer that the mailman delivered the mail while Person A was out for the day. Obviously Person A did not see the mailman deliver the mail, but from the fact that the mailbox was empty in the morning and filled in the evening, anybody can properly infer that in the interim, the mailman came and delivered the mail.
As another example, imagine Person B’s young son leaves home in the morning with an umbrella, without saying anything. A reasonable person would be able to conclude TWO things from this situation:
- The son thinks its raining outside
- The son intends to go out in the rain
These two conclusions are inferences about the son’s knowledge and his intent. They are reasonable because this is what this behavior indicates.
What happens when there are multiple inferences?
If the admissible evidence is susceptible to two or more reasonable interpretations, the jury must adopt the defendant's.
Note that the judge may not put forward on request that if the evidence sustains either of two inconsistent propositions (i.e. “interpretations”), neither establishes.
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