I got home last night only to hear that the NFL had identified a “person of interest” in the deflategate controversy. I’m familiar with the term “person of interest.” It’s a term used by law enforcement to identify a person involved in a criminal investigation who has yet to be arrested or formally accused. Why is anyone using that term in this controversy? It seems silly to me.
Then, this morning I read the Boston Globe. It informs me that the NFL has “zeroed in” on a Patriots locker room attendant who allegedly took the game balls from the officials’ locker room to another area in Gillette Stadium on the way to the field. So let me get this straight – the person charged with the responsibility for taking the balls from the officials’ locker room to the field actually took the balls to the field and in doing that, he walked through the facility to get to
Deflategate gives me an opportunity to introduce readers to the concept of circumstantial evidence. In New Hampshire, there are two kinds of evidence in a criminal case – direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is direct proof of a fact. This occurs when someone testifies about what a person saw, heard or did. Apparently, there is no direct evidence available in deflategate (unless surveillance cameras show a person putting a needle inside a football). Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence. It involves a chain of facts from which you could
find that another fact exists, although it has not been proved directly. In other words, when using circumstantial evidence, you are allowed to draw reasonable and rational inferences from two separate facts.
Example – if, when you went to sleep, there was no snow on the ground (fact 1), but when you woke up, there was snow on the ground (fact 3), you can reasonably and rationally conclude that it snowed while you were sleeping. You didn’t see it snow, but what else can you conclude?
Here is the problem with the NFL’s person of interest and the Boston Globe’s circumstantial evidence – there are two reasonable and rational conclusions you can draw from the facts. Fact one – the ball attendant got the balls from the officials’ locker room.
Fact two – he took them to the field. Fact three – to get to the field, he passed through a certain area. What are the reasonable and rational inferences that can be drawn from these three facts? I submit there
isn’t enough to point toward guilt. You need more. Regardless, the facts point as much toward innocence as they do guilt.
Under New Hampshire criminal law, you would be free to reach reasonable conclusions from proven facts. However, to be sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, circumstantial evidence must exclude all other rational conclusions. This means that if, from the circumstantial evidence, it is rational to arrive at two conclusions, one consistent with guilt and one consistent with innocence, then you must choose the rational conclusion consistent with innocence.
My conclusion is that the locker room attendant went to the field by walking through the stadium to get there. Is that a reasonable and rational conclusion?
If so, leave the Patriots alone!