anything presented in support of an assertion

Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either (a) presumed to be true, or (b) were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth. Evidence is the currency by which one fulfills the burden of proof.


  • When the afflicted do mean and intend only the appearance and shape of such an one, say G. Proctor, yet they positively swear that G. Proctor did afflict them; and they were allowed to do so; as though there was no real difference between G. Proctor and the shape of G. Proctor.
  • Thomas Brattle, (October 8, 1692), "Shadow of Doubt; Specter Evidence in Hawthorn's "In Young Goodman Brown"", by David Levin, Stanford University (@JSTOR)
  • The S.G. [Salem Gentlemen] will by no means allow, that any are brought in guilty, and condemned, by virtue of spectre Evidence... but whether it is not purely by virtue of these spectre evidences, that these persons are found guilty, (considering what before has been said,) I leave you, and any man of sense, to judge and determine.
  • Burr, George Lincoln. Narrative of Witchcraft Cases 1648–1706. University of Virginia Library: Electronic Text Center.
  • The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.
  • Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while the courts will go a long way in admitting experimental testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.
  • A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence", and "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.
    • David Hume (1748). An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, chap. 10.4.
  • The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.
  • No possibility, however seemingly fantastic, should revolt the truly skeptical mind. It all depends on the evidence. The evidence decides everything.
  • The fact is that science itself must change, as it discovers that its net of evidence is equipped only to catch certain kinds of fish, and that it is constructed of webs of assumptions that can only hold certain varieties of reality, while others escape its bet entirely.
    • Jane Roberts in The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, p. 137.
  • The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or vice versa.
  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
    • Carl Sagan (writer/host) (December 14, 1980). "Encyclopaedia Galactica". Cosmos. Episode 12. 01:24 minutes in. PBS
  • Cotton Mather never in any public writing 'denounced the admission' of it, never advised its absolute exclusion; but on the contrary recognized it as a ground of 'presumption' ... [and once admitted] nothing could stand against it. Character, reason, common sense, were swept away.
  • Upham, Charles (1859), Salem Witchcraft, New York: Frederick Ungar
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 86-91.
  • There is no difference, in point of evidence, whether the case be a criminal or civil case; the same rules must apply to both.
    • Beaumont Hotham, 2nd Baron Hotham, B., King v. Cator (1802), 14 Esp. 143.
  • Sitting in a Court of law, I can receive no evidence but what comes under the sanction of an oath.
  • The witness swears more generally on his senses, the juror by collection and inference, by the act and force of his understanding.
    • Vaughan, L.C.J., Bushel's Case (1670), Jones' (Sir Thoe.) Rep. 16.
  • Some instances of strength of memory are very surprising.
    • Buller, J., Coleman v. Wathen (1793), 5 T. R. 245.
  • It is difficult to say what is or is not evidence in itself, because it all depends upon the chain and connection it has—if there are two or three links in the chain, they must go to one first and then to another, and see whether they amount to evidence.
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Tooke's Case (1794), 25 How. St. Tr. 76.
  • To my mind the taking some expression of a Judge used in deciding a question of fact as to his own view of some one fact being material on a particular occasion, as laying down a rule of conduct for other Judges in considering a similar state of facts in another case, is a false mode of treating authority. It appears to me that the view of a learned Judge in a particular case as to the value of a particular piece of evidence is of no use to other Judges who have to determine a similar question of fact in other cases where there may be many different circumstances to be taken into consideration.
    • Brett, L.J., Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England v. Kino (1880), L. R. 14 C. D. 225.
  • I cannot go upon suspicion; I can only look at the evidence.
    • Lord Selborne, L.C., Nobel's Explosives Co. v. Jones (1882), L. R. 8 Ap. Cas. 9.
  • A fair suspicion may be well worthy of further investigation, and it may well be worth the expense and trouble of examining witnesses to see whether it is well founded.
    • Jessel, M.R., In re Gold Co. (1879), L. R. 12 C. D. 84.
  • Suspecting is not believing; saying he suspects would not be well; but swearing according to his estimation is sufficient.
    • Lord Harduncke, C.J., Smith v. Boucher and others (1734), 7 Mod. Rep. 178.
  • .... A good corroborating chain, if they fail in the last link, the whole will fall to the ground.
  • Certainly, no evidence will be received but what is legal evidence— at least, none but what the Judge thinks is legal; you may take that for granted.
    • Holroyd, J., Redford v. Birley and others (1822), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 1174.
  • It is the duty of the Judge in criminal trials to take care that the verdict of the jury is not founded upon any evidence except that which the law allows.
  • I wish that objections to questions as leading, might be a little better considered before they are made. It is necessary, to a certain extent, to lead the mind of the witness to the subject of inquiry. If questions are asked, to which the answer "Yes" or "No" would be conclusive, they would certainly be objectionable, but in general no objections are more frivolous than those which are made to questions as leading ones.
  • You must answer any questions that are not ensnaring questions.
    • Wright, L.C.J., Trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), 12 How. St. Tr. 310.
  • There is no fixed rule which binds the counsel calling a witness to a particular mode of examining him. If a witness, by his conduct in the box, shows himself decidedly adverse, it is always in the discretion of the Judge to allow a cross-examination.
    • Best, C.J., Clarke v. Safety (1824), By. & M. 126.
  • The wisdom and goodness of our law appear in nothing more remarkably, than in the perspicuity, certainty, and clearness of the evidence it requires to fix a crime upon any man, whereby his life, his liberty, or his property may be concerned : herein we glory and pride ourselves, and are justly the envy of all our neighbour nations. Our law, in such cases, requires evidence so clear and convincing, that every by-stander, the instant he hears it, must be fully satisfied of the truth of it; it admits of no surmises, innuendos, forced consequences, or harsh constructions, nor anything else to be offered as evidence, but what is real and substantial, according to the rules of natural justice and equity.
    • Lord Cowper, 8 New Pari. Hist. 338; Proceedings against Bishop Atterbury (1723), 16 How. St. Tr. 323; id. Vol. 29, p. 1328.
  • The objection in principle applies only to those cases where the question propounded involves an answer immediately concluding the merits of the case, and indicating to the witness an answer which will best accord with the interests of the party.
    • Stark. Evid. (4th ed.), 166. 2 Pothier, referred to by Evans, 265.
  • I mean to decide this, and no further. That in each particular case there must be some discretion in the presiding Judge, as to the mode in which the examination shall be conducted, in order best to answer the purposes of justice.
    • Abbott, L.C.J., Bastin v. Carew (1824), Ry. & M. 127.
  • There are cases where examinations are admitted, namely, before the coroner, and before magistrates in cases of felony. That appears to me to go rather in support of the general rule than in destruction of it. Every exception that can be accounted for is so much a confirmation of the rule that it has become a maxim, Exceptio probat regulam.
    • Lord Kenyon, The King v. Inhabitants of Eriswell (1790), 3 T. R. 722.
  • I apprehend that you may put a leading question to an unwilling witness on the examination in chief at the discretion of the Judge; but you may always put a leading question in cross-examination, whether a witness be unwilling or not.
  • Try if you can trap him in any question.
    • Dolben, J., Rex v. Green and others (1679), 7 How. St. Tr. 176.
  • A general fishing cross-examination ought not to be permitted.
    • Lord Ether, M.R., Coulson v. Disborough (1894), L. R. 2 Q. B. D. [1894], p. 318.
  • It appears to us contrary to all rules of evidence, and opposed to natural justice, that the evidence of one party should be received as evidence against another party, without the latter having an opportunity of testing its truthfulness by cross-examination.
    • Lopes, L.J. Allen v. Allen (1894), L. R. P. D. (C. A.) [1894], p. 253.
  • There are hundreds of actions tried every year in which the evidence is irreconcilably conflicting, and must be on one side or other wilfully and corruptly perjured.
    • James, L.J., Flower v. Lloyd (1879), L. R. 10 C. D. 333.
  • I think that reading parts of evidence given in a former case is not a legal course.
    • Erie, J., Queen v. Dowling (1848), 7 St. Tr. (N. S.) 440.
  • I can only recommend to you not to break in upon parts of the evidence.
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Tooke's Case (1794), 25 How. St. Tr. 76.
  • A hostile witness is a witness who, from the manner in which he gives his evidence, shows that he is not desirous of telling the truth to the Court.
    • Sir J. P. Wilde, Coles v. Coles and Brown (1866), L. R. 1 P. & D. 71.
  • I think that the situation in which this witness stands towards either party, does not give the party calling the witness a right to cross-examine her, unless her evidence was of itself of such a nature as to make it appear that she was an unwilling witness.
    • Erskine, J., R. v. Ball and others (1839), 8 C. & P. 745.
  • Artificial rules upon matters of evidence are better avoided as far as possible.
    • Wills, J., Hennessy v. Wright (1888), L. R. 21 Q. B. 518.
  • I think it is impossible to give credit to testimony that would prove infinitely more than can be brought within the bounds of probability.
    • Lord Westbury, Neilson v. Betts (1871), L. R. 5 Eng. & Ir. Ap. Ca. 20.
  • We are obliged to hear all that witnesses have to say; but it is a canticle of Courts of justice that witnesses non numerentur sed ponderentur: they are not to be numbered but weighed. It is the nature of the human mind, it is the perfection of the human heart, to serve a friend in distress; but in doing so, a man should not transgress the higher calls of religion and morality, the obligations of an oath. We are not monks and recluses, as was said in another place,1 but come from a class in society that I hope and believe gives us opportunities of seeing as much of the world, and that has as much virtue amongst its members as any other, however elevated.
    • Lord Kenyon, Rex v. Rusby (1800), Peake's N. P. Ca. 193.
  • Do you imagine that the law supposed that anybody should produce four score witnesses? Two witnesses are enough to prove any fact, if it be a good one, for by the mouth of two witnesses shall a thing be established; and 200 will not prove any fact, if it be a bad one.
    • Marlay, L.C.J. (Ir.), Trial of May Heath (1744), 18 How. St. Tr. 49.
  • The statement of a living man is not to be disbelieved because there is no corroboration, although in the necessary absence through death of one of the parties to the transaction it is natural that, in considering the statement of the survivor, we should look for corroboration in support of it; but, if the evidence given by the living man brings conviction to the tribunal which has to try the question, then there is no rule of law which prevents that conviction being acted upon.
    • Sir J. Hannen, Re Hodgson; Beckett v. Ramsdale (1886), 54 L. T. Rep. (N. S.) 224; L. R. 31 C. D. 177.
  • Hearsay evidence is always to be received with caution.
    • Graham, B., Berkeley Peerage Case (1811), 4 Camp. 408.
  • Concessions made for the purpose of settling the business for which the action is brought, cannot be given in evidence; but facts admitted I have always received.
  • Testis oculatus unus plus valet quam auriti decem: One eye-witness is worth more than ten ear-witnesses.
    • 4 Inst. 279.
  • Evidence of concessions made for the purpose of settling matters in dispute, I shall never admit; but facts admitted before arbitrators I always shall.
    • Lord Kenyan, Gregory v. Howard (1800), 3 Esp. 113.

See also

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