[[quoteright:350: [[Film/TheGreenMile http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/green-mile_8933.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:It's NotWhatItLooksLike]]

->''Anyone else may be the murderer. The Grand Lama of Tibet, maybe, or the lady principal of a girls' seminary three thousand miles away. But not--trust the novelist!--not the man with the gun in his hand, who is leaning over the still quivering corpse.''
-->-- '''Edmund Pearson''', ''Murders That Baffled the Experts''

Pretty much any PoliceProcedural will at some point note that the person who "finds" a body is usually a pretty good first suspect. However, this is simply a starting point for the investigation, and the evidence will usually lead to someone else - if it didn't, [[SpoiledByTheFormat there wouldn't be much of a story]].

In other genres, though, the first suspect is the prime suspect. End of.

Here's the scene: Our hero, usually someone WalkingTheEarth, arrives in the [[AdventureTowns Adventure Town]] late at night when some intrigue is going on. Suddenly, he hears cries of alarm, and, being a hero, rushes off to see what's happened. He finds a hapless RedShirt, recently killed by this week's murderer/monster/freakish otherworldly phenomenon. He stoops down to check the body and see if there's anything he can do to help.

Approximately two seconds later, the authorities arrive on the scene. [[DetectivePatsy Often, they will be led, unknown to everyone, by the Real Killer]]. Since the hero was found hunched over the body, he is instantly assumed to be the murderer, and it will be damned hard for him to [[ClearMyName convince anyone otherwise]].

In SpeculativeFiction, it will usually turn out that on this PlanetOfHats, the local justice system is [[AllCrimesAreEqual sufficiently ill-conceived]] that being found hunched over a dead body is considered [[KangarooCourt absolute legal proof of guilt]], unless the suspect can produce the actual killer himself.

This trope is often (and cheaply) accompanied by a sub-trope: ''"Don't pick up the knife!"'' The person standing over the corpse feels inexplicably compelled to pick up the bloody knife, smoking gun, or gory fireplace poker lying next to the victim. This makes it easier for the writer to justify the police ignoring all other evidence and possible suspects, but is counter-intuitive: what instinct or rationale could cause a normal human being to touch such a horrible object, let alone pick it up? With embedded knives, this is worse as removing a knife from a stabbing victim can actually cause more harm by unplugging the wound. And of course, see BetterManhandleTheMurderWeapon.

In some instances, this can be justified as racism: in works taking place in a racist society, a black or foreign person will automatically be considered the murderer, because these people are corrupt, white/local/superior race people are obviously righteous and no person of that kind would murder someone.

A special case of WronglyAccused. Compare RedHerring.

!!'''As a DeathTrope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.'''

----
!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In the ''Manga/{{Cyborg 009}}'''s '79 series, this was G.B./007's {{backstory}}. He regularly went hiking with his best friend; during one trip, equipment failure led to his friend's death. Since his friend had recently been chosen for a lead role over him, everyone suspected foul play was involved, and he wound up blacklisted, spiraling into depression until he was picked up in a bar by Black Ghost.
* Played ridiculously straight in ''Manga/DeadmanWonderland''; Ganta is the only one left after a man with superpowers murders everyone else in his class and is blamed for it. While his conviction was clearly the result of a conspiracy, the public at large seem ready to accept that a shrimpy teenager like Ganta could kill and tear apart the bodies of 29 people at once, even before the fake footage of him confessing gets out.
* In ''Manga/{{Parasyte}}'', Kabuto was arrested when he was found bending over a massacre perpetrated by the man-eating parasites. Though in this case, Kabuto really is crazed serial killer responsible for many murders, just [[NotMeThisTime not these ones]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fanworks]]
* In [[http://archiveofourown.org/works/227352 this]] ''{{Glee}}/{{NCIS}}'' CrossOver, Dave Karofsky stumbles over the mutilated body of his best friend and fellow Navy SEAL, Kimberly. Team Gibbs thinks he killed her because he knew her, he found her body, and she just so happened to be killed the one day Dave didn't go with her on her [[JoggersFindDeath morning run]]. And no, he didn't do it, he was framed. He tells Team Gibbs he didn't go with Kim on the morning run because he'd had a bad bout of hay fever the night before, but they don't believe him because it's not allergy season. Turns out he was deliberately doused in pollen to make sure he'd stay in, thus giving the real murderer opportunity to kill Kim and pin it on Dave.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/StarTrekVITheUndiscoveredCountry.'' In this case, it was at least plausible that Kirk and [=McCoy=] were responsible for killing the Klingon chancellor, since Kirk was a known Klingon-hater; also, the assumption was that he had ordered the assassination, not that he had killed him directly. During their trial, the prosecution against [=McCoy=] shifts away from suggesting that he was one of the assassins, and instead focuses on the idea that he was criminally (or possibly willfully) incompetent in his attempts to save the victim.
** Nevertheless, Kirk and [=McCoy=] were arrested under authority of "Interstellar Law," which seems to say something like, "If your ship has been attacked and boarded by unknown parties, you may arrest and prosecute the very next people who voluntarily beam aboard."
** Not only the Enterprise was the only vessel in transporter range, the Klingon scanners and even their own data confirmed that the torpedoes were fired by them. Adding that the assassins wore Starfleet equipment, and there appeared to be no other ships in transporter range, it is quite understandable that no-one gave "unknown party" much thought. (It turns out that there ''were'' Enterprise crew members involved.)
** Besides, the Klingons have a habit of subjecting Starfleet captains to [[KangarooCourt show trials]], they did the same thing in ''[[Series/StarTrekEnterprise Enterprise]]''.
* ''Film/TheNegotiator''.
* Major point of the setup in the FridgeLogic-prone ''DoubleJeopardy''. The wife is found on the boat her husband just purchased, the boat is covered in blood, and the Coast Guard discovers her holding the knife. No body is found. The evidence at trial includes a radio message that her husband sent, saying his wife was trying to kill him. There is no mention as to whether the blood found on the boat was tested. To convict her, the jury would have to believe that she went crazy, stabbed her husband multiple times, let him radio for help, kept stabbing him, dumped him overboard and then stood around holding the murder weapon. Well, people seldom act calmly and rationally when they commit bloody domestic murders.
* In ''Film/TheGreenMile'' around the 1930's a huge, seemingly retarded, black man is found holding the bloodied and raped bodies of two little (white) girls. The reason was that he tried to magically heal them back to life. Yeah, he'd probably gotten the death penalty even if he hadn't gotten stuck with a racist attorney.
* Shortly after a card sharp swindles one of the protagonists in ''Film/{{Life}}'', he stumbles upon both protagonists after being brutally beaten -- by the [[CorruptHick racist hick sheriff]] and his cronies, naturally -- just in time to kick the bucket, leading to the arrest of both protagonists.
* ''Film/AngelHeart'': Harry Angel becomes the prime suspect for several murders which he didn't commit. Turns out he actually did.
* ''Film/TheHurricane'': Rubin Carter was at the Lafayette bar, when two armed criminals broke in and spread gunfire all over the place. Two white delinquents said they saw Carter running away from the scene, and because white people are obviously better than black people, Carter was declared guilty and fast-tracked into jail with three life sentences. After 19 years of legal struggle, the court finally declared Carter free on account of racism having been the driving force behind his conviction.
** Though in real life, if one cuts away all the agendas on BOTH sides, the actual evidence is a little more oblique on whether or not Carter had NOTHING to do with it.
* ''Film/BeverlyHillsNinja'': Haru has this happen to him ''twice'', always because he's spying on the BigBad and winds up with the corpse landing next to him. Once in Hong Kong, where the corpse lands in his little raft at the wharf, and once in Beverley Hills with a pair of freshly shot Yakuza landing in front of him on a pile of garbage.
* In ''Film/NorthByNorthwest'', a man gets stabbed and falls into the hero's arms, turning him into the prime suspect.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''Literature/HarryPotter''
** In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets'' (although the body wasn't actually dead).
** Bizarre subversion: In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire''. Harry teleports into a humongous crowd along with Cedric Diggory. The crowd stops cheering and gasps when they notice that Harry is clutching his ''dead body''. Even though no-one saw how Cedric died and the first anyone knew of his death was Harry appearing in front of everyone with his corpse, and even though the government later denied the true cause of Cedric's death and denounced both Harry and his story, no-one accuses Harry (or anyone else) of killing him. Instead, it's claimed Cedric died in an accident. Although it is mentioned that all the other students avoided Harry for the rest of the term, and that "Perhaps they were formulating their own theories about how Cedric had died." That was probably because Dumbledore later tells the entire school that Cedric was murdered by Voldemort.
*** Although the fifth book ''does'' hint at the fact that people might think that Harry did kill Cedric. As Hermione put it, nobody knows what went on during the third task and all of a sudden, Harry teleports in front of everybody, clutching Cedric's dead body. It helped that the Prophet and rest of the Wizarding World was basically calling him a liar.
** On the other hand, Harry ''is'' blamed for Dumbledore's death since he was the only one up there the entire time when it happened. By this time, however, Voldemort's people are in full control of the Press and the justice system, and the accusation comes as no surprise.
* The ''ConanTheBarbarian'' story "Literature/TheGodInTheBowl" by Creator/RobertEHoward opens with this situation: Arus the watchman, who is the first on the scene of the murder of Kallian Publico, immediately jumps to the conclusion that Conan was the killer when he revealed himself, kicking off an investigation when his fellows come by. (It doesn't exactly help that Conan broke into the place to steal.)
* Sculptor turned sleuth Sam Jones invokes this trope to intimidate some suspects by leading them to suspect she's just really good at getting away with murder.
* Patricia Highsmith's psychological-suspense novel ''Cry of the Owl'' is based largely on this trope and the "don't touch the knife" subtrope. In fact, the book ends with "...don't touch it".
* Lampooned in one ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' novel:
-->''"When you find someone standing over a corpse with a smashed-in skull while holding a bent fireplace poker and saying 'He shouldn't have said that about our Neville!', it's kind of hard to make it stretch much past lunchtime."''
* Played with to ludicrous extents in "The Tale of the Hunchback" from the ''Literature/ArabianNights''. Everyone in the story in turn assumes that if they're found with the hunchback's body they'll be accused of his murder, so they find some way of disposing of it in secret, only for the next person to find it. In the end, it turns out that he's not really dead.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:LiveActionTV]]
* A good two thirds of all ''Series/DoctorWho'' stories. All the way back to "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E5TheKeysOfMarinus Keys of Marinus]]".
** Justified on some occasions, though - for example, in ''Earthshock'', the person who finds the Doctor and his companion is an agent of the Cybermen and has been ordered to use them as a scapegoat.
* A regular recipe for getting ''Franchise/PerryMason'' a client.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', "Becoming, Part 1".
** Heck, this trope generally defines Buffy's high school experience. She's constantly fighting the undead and whatnot, and gets labeled a troublemaker because she's missing so many classes and being near unfortunate events (due to, you know, stopping them from being worse.)
* This happens to Willie Nelson, of all people, in an episode of ''Series/{{Monk}}''.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'': When Hiro goes to meet Isaac the painter in the first episode, Isaac is already dead and Hiro is arrested -- by a police force that conveniently storms the room at just that moment.
** Hiro even [[IdiotBall picks up the gun next to the body.]] In his CharacterBlog, Hiro explains that [[WrongGenreSavvy FPS games]] had taught him to [[KleptomaniacHero pick up any guns he finds.]]
* Happens in ''Cane''. Alex Vega is in the house of his hated enemy Joe Samuels, when several gunshots from outside kill Samuels. The cops arrive shortly afterwards. The twist: Alex did have every intention of killing Samuels himself; the other shooter just beat him to it. The cops find the gun he was planning to use in his pocket. He's GenreSavvy enough to point out that if they test it, they'll find that it hasn't been fired. The well-known feud between the two men, along with other evidence, leads to him being the prime suspect anyway, even to his own family.
* This happens in ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' enough that the main characters were pretty high on the FBI wanted list and considered serial killers. Of course, in their case, the problem is exacerbated by their tendency to commit crimes like credit card fraud and corpse desecration, and by many of the monsters and demons they kill leaving corpses indistinguishable from human corpses.
** One episode has Dean get arrested because of this. One of the detectives lets him go free (and reports that he "escaped") when it's revealed that [[DirtyCop her partner]]/boyfriend was committing the murders.
* Ned's discovery of a corpse in the Balsam's Bittersweets taffy vat in ''Series/PushingDaisies''.
** And narrowly avoided earlier in the series, when a corpse is planted in Ned's fridge to frame him and he only just manages to dump the body before the police arrive.
* At the start of the [[Series/KamenRiderRyuki Ryuki's World]] arc in ''Series/KamenRiderDecade'', [[TheChick Natsumi]] is meeting with the publisher of a magazine when the woman grabs the back of her neck and keels over, dead. People rush into the room and, because Natsumi is standing there holding a fork (which she was using to eat cake), she's assumed to be the murderer. Admittedly, the murder WAS the result of a supernatural assassin, but it's still hard to mistake a cut caused by a monster throwing an energy sickle from the nearby cafe through the window and into the publisher's neck for '''any''' kind of wound a standard fork would have inflicted.
* Happened in an episode of ''Series/SpecialUnit2'' when a detective was accused of killing a rival. The rival was actually killed by the MonsterOfTheWeek.
* In one episode of ''InspectorMorse'', Morse gets into exactly this situation, and is promptly told by [[DaChief his boss]] that he's [[TurnInYourBadge not going to be on the investigation]], and [[TheWatson Lewis]] has to report to a SmugSnake. When Morse points out that he was on the scene, his boss points out that whilst he ''was'' at the scene, he was also [[CaptainObvious holding the murder weapon]].
* In season 5 of ''Series/BurnNotice'', this is how Michael is framed for Max's murder. And he was [[StatusQuoIsGod just about to get his old job back]], too...
* The ''Series/{{Highlander}}'' episode "The Innocent Man" was based on this trope.
** "Prodigal Son" is also based on it, with an Immortal framing Richie for murder.
* The ''{{Series/CSI}}'' episode "Alter Boys", where a man in bloody clothes is found by the police trying to bury two bodies in the desert. As it turns out, the real killer is his (literal) EvilTwin, who had talked him into hiding the bodies to protect him. Unlike most examples, the main characters can't prove that he wasn't the real perp, since every little bit of evidence point to him (twins sharing the same DNA and all), so he is sentenced to [[RealityEnsues life in prison]], and while in there he commits suicide.
** An episode of ''CSINewYork'' has a woman found standing by, and stained with blood from, a man who'd been acquitted of raping her. She was a nurse who, even though the man ''had'' raped her, was actually trying to see whether he could be saved. The stabbing had been done by a vigilante.
* In the 90s live-action ''{{Zorro}}'', a laborer drives away the man who killed his employer with his musket shortly before the Alcalde arrives. Seeing a man killed by a gunshot wound and a man with a recently fired gun (And with the only other witness to the actual incident unconscious and unable to testify), the Alcalde decides that the laborer killed his employer and [[KangarooCourt does his best to railroad him to a prompt hanging]].
* One episode of ''{{NCIS}}'' had Director Vance's black sheep brother-in-law being the person to report the death of a sailor, with the local police suspecting him because he has a criminal record and was covered in blood while standing next to a corpse. It ultimately turned out that he was the killer, though it wasn't murder: The in-law was working as a shill in a con job, and the sailor attacked the man who he saw as responsible for him losing all his money, resulting in an accidental killing in self-defense.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio]]
* The show ''Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar'' once had the PI interrupt a murder. The murderer locked him in a closet with the murder weapon and then called the police. Naturally, the police had a hard time believing the story.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:VideoGames]]
* Happens to Paul Luther, the Franciscan monk in ''VideoGame/EternalDarkness: Sanity's Requiem''. Unusually for this trope, he immediately screams for help; then again, since the murder "weapon" was a BodyHorror forcing its way out of the victim's chest, he probably couldn't have picked it up. Unfortunately, since [[PuppeteerParasite the whole church]] is in on an AncientConspiracy, it doesn't help him avoid the frame-up.
* The first ''VideoGame/PaperMario'', where he stumbles on a dead [[EverythingsBetterWithPenguins penguin]] and the penguin police arrive moments after. He wasn't really dead.
* Happens to our HeroicMime in ''VideoGame/SuikodenIV''. His commander dies because of his BlessedWithSuck rune, and after which his "best friend" finds the two and immediately accuses the hero of being the murderer. His best friend than goes on to later try to kill him at least twice in the game. Then again he does eventually realize that hes being an idiot and joins you as the last needed star, that is if you didn't decide to [[FinalDeath kill him before that can happen]].
* Taken to ludicrous extremes in ''VideoGame/DiscworldNoir''. Lewton finally finds the guy he's looking for when he's knocked unconscious from behind. When he comes to, the guy's dead and Vimes and Nobby are standing over him and telling him he's the prime suspect. Other characters are impressed by the way he knocked himself out to allay suspicion.
* This happens several times in the ''VideoGame/LauraBow'' series. Laura never gets directly accused, though, but the detective in the second game does point out how suspicious it is that she's always the first one to find the bodies. [[spoiler:Of course, ''he's'' the actual killer.]]
* This is what happens to Corvo at the beginning of ''{{Dishonored}}''; you fight off some assassins, TheDragon turns up and stabs the Empress in the chest (and kidnaps her daughter), there's a bit of cradling her as she dies and a group of dignitaries and guards turn up to point the finger at you. Justified by the fact that the (important) witnesses to the attack were in on it. Corvo returned home from a diplomatic mission early, so framing him was just an unfortunate addition.
* Happens twice in ''VideoGame/JackOrlando'' to the titular private detective. At the start of the game, a drunken Orlando sees a shooting in an alley, and is then knocked out himself. When the police find him and the corpse, their assumption is that he's the killer. It then happens again when someone attacks Orlando and Bellinger in a drive-by shooting. Bellinger dies, while Orlando fires back... just in time for someone to come out of a nearby building and see him standing over Bellinger's corpse with a gun.
* In the backstory of ''[[SoulSeries Soulcalibur V]]'', Pyrrha Alexandra was falsely accused of murdering her fiancÚ Jurgis, though he was actually killed by Tira.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:VisualNovels]]
* In ''VisualNovel/HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi'', Keiichi stumbles upon the disemboweled corpse of Rika while bringing Satoko to get some clothes. He realizes that crows are feeding on the body and waves his axe (brought along for an entirely separate reason) to scare them away. While waving it around, he drops it in the blood and picks it up. Predictably, Satoko comes back and freaks out. The best part? When she runs away, Keiichi chases after her, insisting he's not the killer while ''carrying the same blood soaked axe''. To be fair, neither Keiichi nor Satoko is in the right mind at that point.
* In ''VisualNovel/UminekoNoNakuKoroNi'' Erika takes this attitude towards Natsuhi when she's found in the same room as Hideyoshi's dead body. Natsuhi didn't kill him, but Erika continues to insist that she's the culprit, and the rest of the arc ends up being one long TraumaCongaLine for her.
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'': At least a third of Phoenix Wright's clients are victims of this, but they are almost always subverted in some way. There are many borderline examples and variations of this trope in the series.
** In case 1 of ''Apollo Justice'', Phoenix is accused of being the murderer, partially based on being the only person in the room with the victim, who wasn't a witness. Justified in that, this reason isn't why he's on trial for the murder, but was simply something brought up in a argument.
** Case 2 of ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations'' has Edgeworth being accused of murder, ''literally seconds'' after he found the body. Subverted and justified however, in that the main accusation is based upon a witness's misinterpretation that the juice stained wallet Edgeworth was holding was a item covered in blood.
** For the most part in ''Ace Attorney'', whenever a defendant was the first person to find the body, or are in the room with the victim, that's usually not the actual reason why they're suspected, with other, more hard evidence also being used to prove their guilt. Thus this series as a whole subverts this trope.
** Lampshaded in the last case of ''Investigations'', in which if you press Lang's statement that he was the first to find [=DeMasque=] II's body, Edgeworth will point out that Kay was suspected of killing Manny Coachen based on being the first to find the body. Lang responds that Kay was cleared of suspicion, then goes on to explain why Larry is the suspect.
** Also lampshaded in the same way in ''Investigations'' when, upon Edgeworth's accusation that Shih-na is the killer based on her being the only one in the room, Lang states that "accusing someone based on being alone in a murder room is a stupid sick way of putting the guilt onto innocent people". Edgeworth, however, points out that Shih-na had used such a argument to put the blame of the murder onto Kay, to which Lang and Shi-na both unwillingly apologize for their rashness. [[spoiler:Of course, Shih-na was trying to frame Kay]].
* In the MurderMystery VisualNovel ''VisualNovel/{{Jisei}}'', the protagonist is seen as the prime suspect because he was next to the murder victim when the body was discovered.
* Makoto Naegi ends up on the uncomfortable end of this in ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'', having been deliberately set up as a fall guy... by the victim. The victim had convinced him to swap rooms with her, in the hopes of inviting someone to his room, and placing the blame on Naegi by killing her target there. The next morning, Naegi is the first to discover her corpse, and becomes the first suspect.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:{{Webcomics}}]]
* The above ''Literature/HarryPotter'' example is lampooned in ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'' during the Torg Potter and the Giblets with Fiber storyline when Torg returns with the horribly mutilated body of his fellow competitor and brandishing a shotgun, and eventually being sentenced to the universe-equivalent Azkaban by the horrified crowd who decide he's the murderer.
* ''Webcomic/MitadakeSaga'': Daichi is found by a fresh heart attack victim and is assumed to have killed her. Before he can argue his case, he finds an axe in his neck and dies. Of course, later it's found out that the Death Note manipulated the events...
[[/folder]]

[[folder:RealLife]]
* During the early days of the Norman reign of England, the Normans instituted a policy where, if a Norman was killed in a (usually Saxon) village, the villagers would all be fined a large sum on the presumption of guilt. This almost immediately led to a DeadMansChest situation where, upon finding the body of anyone they didn't know, people would pack it up and proceed to dump it in the next village, making it their problem. Occasionally those villagers would find the body and HilarityEnsues as a game of "Pass the Corpse" starts between villages until either the Norman authorities find the body or someone comes up with the bright idea of, you know, burying the body.
** Preferably near another village, one assumes.
* Whenever kids are playing and one starts crying expectantly, the kid who comes closer to see what happened will be usually accused of causing it.
* Story told from the stereotypical"Irish Cop" days in New York City was the time a beat cop found a body on Kościuszko Street. After several attempts to pronounce the name on the phone, he dragged the body around the corner to 3rd street.
[[/folder]]

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