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Accuse The Witness
aka: Accusing The Witness
Judge: Mr. Wright, are you indicting the witness as the real murderer?
Of course! That is precisely what I am doing!
A Courtroom Antic
which involves accusing an unlikely or controversial witness of being the perpetrator of the crime—particularly the accused's spouse or other close family member. Whether or not this accusation is true is immaterial. The point is to cloud the issue and raise reasonable doubt.
An unscrupulous cousin to The Perry Mason Method
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Anime and Manga
- Variant: Kurt Godel in Mahou Sensei Negima! claimed himself to be behind the attack on Negi's village. But he was lying. It really was apparently the senate.
- One story arc in Astro City is about a lawyer who defends an obviously-guilty murderer by invoking superhero tropes. He suggests that his client was being mind-controlled, that the murderer was a shapeshifter or an evil twin from another dimension, even that the victim was still alive before the coroner cut her open. Because these things do really happen in Astro City, it works. In the epilogue it's established that if anyone tried that today the prosecution could tear them to pieces any number of ways, like demanding evidence that there's anything strange going on, but he got a pass because he was the first to do it. Also, the jury was terrified of convicting an innocent person because the state had recently executed an innocent superhero who was framed in exactly the sort of super-sciencey way the defense attorney was suggesting.
- In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix Wright, as a last ditch effort to save Rainbow Dash from a sure guilty veridict, raises suspicion on Fluttershy of the murder in order to buy more time to investigate. Neither Twilight nor Phoenix himself are amused.
- A similar thing happens in Phoenix Wright Devils Attorney as well, although it isn't as heavy on the Tear Jerker part. Mostly because Flonne is capable of looking after herself and understands why Phoenix had to do it, the new laws in the Netherworld of 'guilty until someone else is proven guilty' forcing him to do this to extend the trial less Laharl would convicted on the first day. However, she did say it stung a little, and Laharl is none too happy about it either.
- The last witness is the real perpetrator in four of the four cases in Aya Shameimaru: Touhou Attorney, a fangame based on the Ace Attorney games.
- In the climactic trial scene of New Jack City, Nino Brown stands up and dramatically accuses one of his lieutenants of being the real head of the gang, Cash Money Brothers. This works and he gets a ludicrously small sentence in exchange for testimony - despite every piece of evidence, including eyewitness testimony from an undercover cop - saying Nino was the boss. Or at least, it worked for a few minutes. (As a side note, the real-life drug lord Nino Brown was modeled on tried the exact same stunt and failed)
- In Legally Blonde, the climax of the movie involves Elle Woods getting the murder victim's daughter to incriminate herself on the stand, by using a clever line of questioning that seems unrelated, thereby proving the innocence of Elle's client (the deceased's ex-wife).
- The climax of Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer. Rumple, having established that the witness was the last man to be seen with the murder weapon, had a motive, and could have shot the men, accuses him. He does not confess, but his denial is kind of weak — and before the prosecution can examine the witness again, he bolted. The judge's summation is very favorable to the possibility, and reminds them that if they think it's a real possibility, they can't be sure the guy on trial did it.
Live Action TV
- Done often in cases in Ace Attorney. Overlaps with The Perry Mason Method in that in a lot of cases the witness Phoenix or Apollo accuses is the real killer (or an accomplice, or tampered with the crime scene, or is withholding crucial testimony), but there's also a lot of subverts.
- In the third case of the first game, Phoenix actually does intentionally accuse a completely innocent party purely to buy another day of investigation. In the process, she reveals that Global Studios Executives which includes the real killer were at the studios that day, purely to save herself, and this enables Phoenix to get closer to uncovering the truth. Given that the innocent party in that case was Windy...er, Wendy Oldbag, that example was kind of funny.
- A distinctly less amusing instance comes in the fourth case of the second game, where you are forced to accuse Adrian Andrews, who by this point is woobie-tastic, just to buy time.
- It gets pretty confusing by case 5 of game 3, where Phoenix doesn't even know who to accuse, and in the end isn't even sure what crime has been committed (homicide or justifiable homicide). For fully three days, he doesn't accuse anyone.
- Used in the last case of Investigations (where it's technically a police investigation rather than a court trial but the procedure is identical) by Shi-Long Lang on Franziska von Karma. His reasoning is that there is no reason. He knows she's innocent and he knows Edgeworth will easily prove her innocent, but in order to prove it Alba would have to let them back into the embassy to investigate—which is where they wanted to be in the first place.
- In the fifth episode of Umineko: When They Cry, Battler accuses himself of the crimes to prove that Natsuhi needn't necessarily be the culprit. Of course, everyone know's he's lying, but Erika has to accept the possibility because her own rules have eliminated all the evidence exonerating him.
- This was spoofed on The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa accuse, during Sideshow Bob's trial, obvious Rush Limbaugh stand-in Birchibald Barlowe of being the true mastermind behind rigging the mayoral election. Bob will not stand for this. He immediately produces every piece of detailed evidence proving that he and only he could have effected such a triumph, including monogrammed leather files entitled "Bob's Fraud Log", volumes I-VI.
- Little Lulu: Annie was accused of breaking Eggy's guitar and Lulu managed to prove Tubby, who was testifying against Annie, was the real culprit.
- Rarely, if ever, done as blatantly as in fiction, but there certainly are cases of one suspect testifying against another. The Troy Davis case is an excellent example of this, as one of the key witnesses (and one of only two to maintain his testimony up until Davis' execution), Sylvestor "Red" Coles, was himself a suspect.
- Direct accusation is against the rules of practice in some jurisdictions. However, a competent lawyer should be able to pick enough holes in a genuine murderer-witness's story for what really happened to become obvious to all concerned, or at the very least secure an acquittal.
- In the retrial of Nat Fraser (his first conviction was ruled unsound by the Supreme Court of the UK), one of the suspects of the murder of the defendant's wife, Hector Dick, was accused on the stand of doing the murder himself. This was not successful, though it did convince the daughter of the victim, though not the rest of her family, that Dick was the murderer.