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Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon
How to turn from Innocent Bystander to fugitive in a second

"You know what this murder weapon needs? My fingerprints!"
Unskippable's commentary on The Getaway's use of this trope.

A subtrope of The Corpse Stops Here, wherein a person not only is the first to find the body, but takes that extra little bit of effort necessary to get their fingerprints all over the murder weapon lying right next to the bloody body. Preferably, of course, they do this while an unrelated person is walking by so they can see the innocent person with a bloody knife in his hand staring at a dead body with a giant knife wound in it. This behavior might be justified if the finder thinks the killer might still be in the vicinity and grabs the weapon for self-defense purposes, but no one ever seems to consider that explanation.

In a similar situation, if present DURING the murder, the killer will hand the dupe the murder weapon (while said killer is wearing gloves or made other precautions) to invoke this.

As a general rule, this trope only applies to the actual murder weapon. Characters who are just holding random implements for whatever reason more clearly fall under The Corpse Stops Here.

(Yes, this has happened in real life; we don't need the examples, please)

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Yoroiden Samurai Troopers (Ronin Warriors) OVA, which takes place in New York City, Touma Hashiba (Rowen) visits the apartment of a photographer, only to discover him dead. Being a smart cookie, he pulls out the bloody knife... and stands staring, as a secondary character sees this, and runs away, screaming bloody murder (couldn't resist).
    • Which is very unusual, considering Touma is said to have an IQ of 250... also, the witness is the victim's sister, Luna.
      • In a weird way though this makes sense, Touma has always been shown to be highly intelligent, but severely lacking in common sense.
  • In Getter Robo Armageddon, Ryouma ends up snatching the gun used to kill Professor Saotome in an attempt to kill his murderer, Hayato. When Genki discovers Ryouma with the gun over the professor's body, Ryouma tries to plead his innocence, but it doesn't work.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Keiichi heads off to the Furude Shrine with Satoko. Satoko goes to her house to find some clothes (given that she's only wearing a bath towel). Keiichi hears some crows cawing and walks up to the shrine... only to find Rika's dead body, surrounded by crows tearing at her insides. After proceeding to bat them away with the axe he was carrying, he drops it... into a pool of blood. He then picks it up while it's still covered in blood...right when Satoko shows up to witness him holding an axe over her best friends' dead body. Kinda subverted in the sense that it wasn't actually the murder weapon he was holding, he was carrying an axe at the time.

    Comics 
  • The very first Batman story ("The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" in Detective Comics #27) uses this trope. A son finds his father stabbed and dying, and reaches down and pulls the knife out of his back, ensuring he is found crouched over the body with the murder weapon in his hand.
  • Being a parody of Batman, it's fitting that Rat-Man does it in a Marvel crossover... twice. First by "securing" the weapon used to kill an old Punisher's relative, just in time for the latter to see him. After several pages of dodging bullets, he manages to escape only to "secure" a metal pipe used to beat a certain "Mrs May". Seconds before Spiderman enters the scene.

    Film 
  • Not shown on-screen, but in Scarlet Street, Johnny admits to picking up the icepick used to murder Kitty, explaining that he hadn't seen she was dead. He is executed.
  • Dates at least as far back as Intolerance in 1916, in which The Boy makes sure to pick up the gun after someone else shoots the crime boss in his apartment.
  • This occurs in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Conveniently, a photographer is present to take an incriminating photo at the exact moment the victim falls on Cary Grant; not getting what's happening, he pulls the knife out of the victim's back. The look on Grant's face doesn't help, either. Then his guilty-looking mug is plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the USA!
  • Libby Parsons falls into this one in Double Jeopardy, although at the time she hadn't seen the body yet, just a lot of blood.
  • In GoldenEye, after being outed as a traitor to the Russian Defense Minister, The Dragon Ourumov take out Bond's gun and shoots him dead along with the guard. He then empties the gun and throws it to Bond, while reciting the story he's going to say. Bond catches the gun out of the air and pockets it, knowing full well that it doesn't matter. After all, it's already his gun. Bond manages to get away before Ourumov can finish his gambit and shoot him for "killing the minister".
  • In Beverly Hills Cop III, Axel is meeting with Uncle Dave, when he's interrupted by the Big Bad, who shoots Dave (he gets better). He then hands the gun to Axel, who is initially reluctant to touch the weapon. The guy just shrugs and points out that the weapon belongs to Axel, so his prints are on it anyway. Axel manages to run away before he's shot.
  • Occurs briefly in the first Final Destination film where the protagonist witnesses his teacher with a knife in her chest and briefly tries to wrestle it out before leaving.

    Literature 
  • Happens twice with the same victim in one of the Cadfael novels: once when a young man sees his friend standing over the arrow-shot corpse with a bow in hand, and again when the young man's father catches him in the process of removing the arrows to conceal the evidence.
  • In book three of A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion is falsely accused of poisoning Joffrey at a wedding feast where hundreds of people witness that he happened to be the closest person in proximity to the victim at the time, and also happened to be the one pouring the wine in question. It is later used against him that he was seen directly afterwards picking up the goblet of poisoned wine and pouring the contents out onto the ground, as well.
  • Subverted in Agatha Christie's The Hollow, as part of a communal effort by the family involved to confuse Hercule Poirot (a member of the family not only takes the gun from the too-obvious suspect but drops it into a swimming pool, right in front of Poirot) and protect the actual killer who is the obvious person all along, of course.
  • In Bad Kitty, photographer Red Early is incriminated in the murder of Len Phillips when he is found with a bloody knife, refuses to answer questions, and later escapes after his arrest. He was actually cleaning the room to protect his wife Fiona, who he thought was responsible. However, as it turns out, both are innocent, each encouraged by the real murderer to believe that the other did it.

    Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Crossing Jordan had a man do this with a suicide victim, taking the knife out of her chest and putting it back. Needless to say, this complicated what would otherwise have been a simple case.
  • In Supernatural at least once Dean has picked up a bloody knife from a murder site. This may help explain why the FBI think they're serial killers. That, and they are very often actually killing people (vampires, shapeshifters, and demon-possessed "people", but still people to the law).
  • Heroes. When Hiro goes to meet Isaac the painter in the first episode, Isaac is already dead, and... Hiro picks up the pistol lying on the ground near the dead body. It's a bit more understandable in that he was afraid out of his mind that the murderer was still in the room and wanted some semblance of a means to defend himself.
  • Subverted in Burn Notice — the framee reaches down to pick up the murder weapon, only for Michael to yell at him not to do it. He takes Michael's advice.
    • Invoked in the pilot to frame a man. He places the man's fingerprints on the gun, but goes as far as to add prints to the clip and gun barrel since he knew that a good lawyer could get the prints just on the gun dismissed.
    • Later invoked when Michael comes across a fatally wounded Max, with a gun laying next to the body. Not only is the real killer still there, but he opens fire on Michael in order to get Michael to pick up the gun.
  • Happens to Inspector Morse when he's being framed by Hugo deVries in "Masonic Mysteries". Morse even lampshades the trope by mentioning that the first person to find the body is usually guilty (which has turned out to be the case in some previous Morse mysteries) and curses his own incredible stupidity in picking up the knife like some brainless civvie.
  • Happens to Rick Castle in the Castle episode "A Deadly Affair". Having found the body of the victim in her apartment, Castle picks up the gun to defend himself when he hears people approaching and thinks it might be the killer returning. Unfortunately it turns out to be Detective Beckett and her team.
  • This is how the suspect claims his prints got on the murder weapon in the Ellery Queen episode "The Adventure of the Wary Witness".
  • A different take occurs in the 1990's Australian mini-series Janus. A detective shoots dead an alleged copkiller and, in a state of shock, picks up the crook's gun to see if it's a replica firearm. Another detective sees what he's doing, takes the gun off him and puts it down where it was lying on the ground so the forensics people can photograph it. Unfortunately a civilian witness who didn't see the gun being picked up testifies that she saw police planting a gun on the scene.
  • In an episode of General Hospital, when a patron of his casino is stabbed in the back, Luke Spencer pulls the knife out of the guy's back, just as someone snaps a photo, making it appear that the picture was taken just prior to the stabbing.
  • In an episode of Psych Gus stumbles onto a murder scene and manages to get his fingerprints all over the evidence. Earlier in the day he had an argument with the victim so it makes him look very guilty. He calls Shawn for help and they try to fix the situation but through a series of pratfalls make things even worse and now it looks like they both killed the man. They are finally able to clean up the scene of the incriminating evidence but in the process pretty much destroy all the real evidence. They now have to find the real killer before the police find out what they did.
  • On All My Children, Brian rushes to ex-girlfriend Hayley's apartment after she frantically calls him for help (her husband Will was attacking her). Upon getting there, he find Will bludgeoned to death. Assuming that Hayley's responsible, he quickly picks up the crowbar in order to get his fingerprints on it and protect her from suspicion.
  • In the pilot of The Musketeers, D'Artagnan wakes up alone after a one-night-stand in an inn, with a bloody dagger pinned to his pillow. Dressing, he finds a commotion in the corridor as someone in a nearby room was murdered the night before. Since he was still holding the dagger, he is quickly blamed and he leaps out of a window to escape. (The murder victim was a foreign dignitary and the murderer was his escort, Milady de Winter, who had seduced D'Artagnan).

    Video Games 
  • From the Ace Attorney series:
    • Lana Skye pulled a knife out of a dead man's chest and was then seen putting a different knife in. Justifed, in that she actually had a strong reason for doing this.
    • In case 1-4, when the lawyer Robert Hammond is shot to death on the lake, Edgeworth, in shock, picks up the gun without thinking, which leads to his arrest as the primary suspect in the murder.
    • In Investigations, Kay picks up a murder weapon in a dark room, although partially justified that she indicates she didn't know what it was, and couldn't see the body.
  • An egregious example of the subtrope occurs in The Getaway. As the protagonist runs out into the street to find his wife shot, he drops his own gun only to paw the dropped murder weapon for a second.
  • Justified in A Tale Of Two Kingdoms. Early in the game, the protagonist, unarmed, walks into a room right after a murder. The assassin attacks him, and he has to find something to defend himself with quickly. Guess what the only weapon within reach is.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 video "Meet the Spy", when the BLU Sniper's body is thrust on the table, the BLU Scout does the logical thing and pull out the Butterfly Knife in his back and start messing with it. Of course, the BLU scout is actually the RED Spy in disguise, but the spirit of the meme is still there.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Venture Bros., this is part of Lance and Dale Hale's recollection of their father's murder. Lance can hardly restrain himself as he describes Dale instantly forgetting twenty years of detective training and picking up the shotgun with his bare hands. Lance claims he instinctively reached to stop him, which is why it bore both brothers' fingerprints. It's very heavily implied that this is a lie and that they killed him themselves, playing on this trope as part of their innocent act.

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