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Framing the Guilty Party

When one comes across a frameup, the usual assumption is that the victim of the frame is innocent. Sometimes, however, this is not the case.

Framing the Guilty Party usually takes one of three forms:

  • Framing a Known Guilty Party: You know who the bad guy is, but there's not quite enough evidence to prove it, so the cops/prosecutors either create the evidence or allow someone else to create it and/or perjure themselves in order to convict them. If the Good Guys get away with it because the Bad Guy deserves it, it's Pay Evil unto Evil.

  • Framing an Unknown Guilty Party: Person A frames Person B to cover their own ass...and it turns out that Person B actually was the bad guy who really did commit the crime, or is secretly guilty of similar crimes that he or she isn't suspected of.

  • Framing Yourself: The guilty party plants enough evidence to make themselves a suspect, and either does the frame-up so incompetently that it's obviously a frame-up, or later somehow exposes the "frame-up." The goal of this maneuver is that the guilty party will be put beyond suspicion, on the basis that the real culprit tried to frame someone innocent. This may lead genuine evidence incriminating the guilty party to be disregarded, on the assumption that it was also planted.

Unsurprisingly, while the first form can be considered Truth in Television (how true it is obviously depends on how corrupt your local police force and prosecuting counsel are), the second one is almost always pure fiction, often something of a Contrived Coincidence. If someone trying to frame themselves pulls it off, the character is typically on the way to Magnificent Bastard status, although there's always the risk that if the investigators don't fall for the fake frame-up (either by not realizing it's a frame in the first place, or realizing the frame was faked), the perp has provided evidence proving their own guilt, in which case it's more of What an Idiot.

Compare Bluffing the Murderer/Engineered Public Confession, in which the evidence to convict the guilty party is created by somehow tricking them into doing something revealing rather than via a frame. See also: Frameup, for implicating the innocent with false evidence. Framing Yourself can also overlap with Sarcastic Confession. Someone who takes the frame at face value, and therefore suspects the guilty party, is Right for the Wrong Reasons.

Examples

Framing a Known Guilty Party

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the manga Cannon God Exaxxion the invading aliens launch a propaganda campaign to make the human hero seem like a monster using doctored video... which the hero's support squad then counters using doctored video of the aliens making the doctored video.

    Comic Books 
  • In a variant on the theme in Justice Society of America, Wildcat reveals he once framed a man for the murder of his own family, because the man had, in retribution, killed the actual murderer and his innocent family, but there wasn't a way to get (or apparently plant) the evidence linking him to the crime of killing the other family. It's still played as being an act of Moral Dissonance for Wildcat, and he pays for it with all but the last of his supernatural nine lives.
  • Judge Dredd of all people does this. He knows the Mechanismo project is incredibly risky and has seen first hand the danger of robot judges to the city. When tracking a rogue Mark I robojudge, Dredd is beaten to it by one of the new Mark II models. After the Mark II ignores Dredd's order to hold its fire, Dredd destroys the Mark II and persuades the only witness to say that the Mark I destroyed the Mark II and that Dredd destroyed the Mark I. It was noted as a rare Out-of-Character Moment for Dredd, though his fears were later justified.
  • A variant happened in Diabolik. A rich man had ended paralyzed and unable to do more than blink after his wife and her lover attempted to murder him. When Diabolik steals a collection of jewels from him, they meet and the man manage to ask him to euthanize and avenge him by blinking in morse code (Diabolik caught on this only because he once did the same thing to give Eva a message while standing trial). Diabolik decided to do so, and, after stealing the jewels, waits for the wife and her lover to be out of the house to enter masked as the lover and with Eva masked as the wife to murder him on camera and declaring they were doing it to complete the attempted murder that had left him paralyzed. Then, as the wife and her lover are arrested, Altea, the fiancee of Inspector Ginko and a childhood friend of that man, finds evidence they couldn't have done the murder, but, knowing they had attempted to kill her friend and unable to prove it, destroys the evidence.
  • In From Hell, fraudulent psychic Robert Lees, in retaliation for a personal slight, leads Inspector Fred Abberline to Sir William Gull's home, claiming he's had visions of Gull committing the Whitechapel murders. He is shocked speechless when Gull confesses to the crimes. Years later, still shaken, he admits to Abberline, "I made it all up, and it all came true anyway. That's the funny part."

    Fan Fiction 
  • Kyon Big Damn Hero uses a variation of this trope: after too many attempts of kidnap Sasaki from esper leader Takahashi, the SOS Brigade manages to frame the latter for the inexistent kidnapping of Kyon's sister, making evidence by disguising themselves to get caught on camera.
  • From All You Need Is Love:
    Near's Agent: I can't just leave without [the notebook]!
    L: Certainly you can, just say Light Yagami gave you the run around and that his soldiers were undyingly loyal. Also tell him that we just don't trust you. Near will buy that.
    Near's Agent: Are you framing one of your employees?
    L: It'd be framing if there was any way to convince Near that Light was not in fact Kira and somehow not giving you the run around. You don't have to tell him that Light wasn't actually here and never actually met with you.
  • In Those Who Stand For Nothing Fall For Anything B has indeed been stalking and spying on L and Light and threatening Light. Light just sets matters up so that it becomes obvious to L by drilling a hole in B's floor and into their ceiling so it looks like B has been or was planning to film them in bed together.

    Film 
  • The film Guilty As Sin where a lawyer discovers that her client really DID commit the murder - not for gain, but simply to see if he could pull it off. And so he did, without leaving a shred of evidence behind. She uses the details of the murder that he told her, to fabricate bits of evidence that COULD have existed (if he hadn't disposed of it), and then anonymously arranges for the prosecution to find it.
  • Used to great effect in Touch of Evil, where this is the main strategy of corrupt cop Hank Quinlan. "How many did you frame?" "Nobody that wasn't guilty!"
  • Mentioned in L.A. Confidential. Captain Smith tells Lt. Exley that Exley won't be able to handle being a detective precisely because he wouldn't be willing to frame a suspect he knew to be guilty. After murdering a gangbanger in cold blood for kidnapping and raping a girl, Bud White actually plants a gun on him to make the execution look like self-defense.
  • The 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Manchurian Agent Major Marko is programmed to murder the president-elect, but kills the vice president-elect and his mother instead (her son was also programmed to do as the Manchurian Global Corp. wanted, at her instigation, the idea being he would become president when his running mate was killed). Her son maneuvered them into Marko's sights so they would be killed instead and stop the plot. The FBI knew he wasn't responsible, and had to get the plotters. So they erased video of Marko coming in through security and put the footage of a presumed dead agent for Manchurian Global there instead to frame them, along with getting another employee arrested in London.
  • Insomnia.
    • It's Det. Dormer's past sin. In Los Angeles he investigated a child murderer whom he was absolutely sure was the guy he was looking for, and fabricated some evidence to put him behind bars. When he arrives in Alaska, internal affairs is looking into the case and threatening to undo his life's work by creating a precedent for more of Dormer's previous cases getting overturned or re-investigated.
    • A rather twisted example with Kay's actual killer in the film giving this reason for framing Kay's girlfriend for the crime (he has leverage on Dormer to cooperate with him), arguing that he beat her and "would have killed her someday anyway". Nevermind that he is the one who violently beat her to death over the course of 15 minutes.
  • At the end of Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans, the protagonist goes into business with the drug kingpin whom he knows (but can't prove) committed the quintuple murder he's investigating, tricks him into taking a hit off of a crack pipe, then plants the pipe (with the kingpin's DNA on it) at the crime scene and suggests the other cops re-search it.
  • The premise of Fritz Lang's noir classic Beyond A Reasonable Doubt is an innocent man framing himself for a capital crime, with the intent of proving his own innocence at the last second in order to make a dramatic case against the death penalty. Things don't quite go as planned.
  • In She Devil, Ruth Patchett has a former secretary get her into her ex-husband's office after the young lady tells her that he has been stealing money from his clients. In order to get him caught, they transfer several times more money to his bank account than he was skimming off. Ruth, describes in narration that she "wasn't framing Bob, just making his thievery more obvious."

    Literature 
  • In The Judge and His Hangman, Comissar Bärlach comes up with a complicated scheme for disposing of the criminal he's been trying to convict for his entire career; it's a variant on framing the guilty.
  • Happens in Val McDermid's A Place of Execution, where the man being framed for murder actually hasn't killed anyone, but is a multiple child rapist. In fact, not only hasn't he killed anyone, the girl he's hanged for murdering isn't even dead. She was one of his victims, he got her pregnant, and everyone in the village old enough to be trusted with the secret came together to whisk her away to relatives, then planted her torn underwear and enough of her blood to make it look like she was dead.
  • Moist von Lipwig in Going Postal frames Reacher Gilt for the various murders and other crimes associated with his mismanagement on the Grand Trunk by sending a message claiming to be from the ghosts of the dead line workers. It should be noted that this in and of itself isn't treated as "proof" of wrongdoing; however, nobody catches Moist in the act, and the event triggers an investigation which leads to the gathering of proper evidence.
  • In the X-Wing Series, a thoroughly unpleasant Imperial scientist is captured by the New Republic. She strikes a deal with them - if she tells them what she knows, she gets amnesty, a new identity, and half a million credits, and since the New Republic is the good guys, they keep the deal. She's to be set free on Coruscant with that last after swearing that she wouldn't just head back to the Empire and resume her work, but everyone knows that's exactly what she'll do. However, she also insists on being paid in Imperial credits - and when the customs official finds them she's arrested, because carrying that much enemy currency is not only illegal smuggling, but sedition. She's then locked away.
  • Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries end like this all the time. It helps that main character (and professional thief) Bernie has Corrupt Cop Ray Kirschmann as a close personal friend.
  • In one of Andrew Vaachss's "Cross" stories - Cross's crew discover a man plotting to abduct and sexually torture a young girl. They can't reveal their evidence, or their involvement. So they fake a letter in the pervert's name, threatening Chelsea Clinton. When the Secret Service scoop this guy up, he claims he did not send the letters - but can't explain why his cabin in the woods is filled with bondage equipment.
  • The Rifter: How Kahlil disposes of a conspiracy against Jath’ibaye. He has proof that Ourath is a traitor to the aristocracy, stirring up war between them and Jath’ibaye for purposes of his own; but Nivoun, the member of the aristocracy who’d be directly in charge of an investigation, is in on the conspiracy too, and he doesn’t have proof of that. So he arranges to have Nivoun shot with Ourath’s pistol, and Ourath plus the incriminating documents discovered on the scene. It works.
  • In Pact, Officer Duncan Behaim of the Toronto PD arranges for Blake Thorburn to be found in the presence of the year-old preserved corpse of a pre-teen boy in order to frame him for the boy's murder. Blake isn't guilty of that, of course-he's just a diabolist and Valkyrie there to deal with the boy's spirit.
  • This is what Cersei thinks she's doing to Tyrion in his trial for murder in A Song of Ice and Fire. She is utterly convinced of his guilt but fears the evidence isn't strong enough, so she gets her witnesses against him to exaggerate or just flat-out lie.

    Live Action TV 
  • Frequently seen on Law & Order when the prosecutors are tempted to put someone on the stand who they know (or believe) will commit perjury in order to implicate the accused.
    • In one case, a woman hired a convict to kidnap her daughter just to make her ex-husband squirm. Something went wrong and the girl wound up dead, forcing the woman to cover her tracks by killing her accomplice. With everyone thinking her the real victim, she walked on the murder charge with no jail time. McCoy managed to get her on her own daughter's murder instead, by coaxing information he knew to be false out of the dead convict's mother. Since the con's mother never took the stand, it wasn't perjury.
    • An interesting twist in one episode had a cop charged with a crime threaten to claim to have planted evidence in a large number of cases (thereby opening them up for appeal) unless the prosecutors let him off.
      • Two attorneys, one an old friend of Jamie Ross's and the other an old flame of Connie Rubirosa's, have also tried this by saying that their convictions would allow everyone they ever charged to appeal ("Your Honor, the lawyer who convicted me just went to jail for shooting witnesses that threatened his cases.") McCoy managed to get Ross's friend to plead guilty and not lie about misconduct by threatening to go after his wife, but Rubirosa's ex managed to bury the prosecutors in paperwork when his 100+ convictions all appealed.
    • 'Double Down', a Law and Order episode, and 'Immune', a Law and Order UK episode, also do a variant of this. Both feature a criminal who gets a reduced sentence and/or immunity in exchange for information on the whereabouts of a missing man he claims is in mortal danger. When police find the missing man, he's dead, and it's clear that the criminal knew this in advance (and may have killed the guy himself). McCoy is able to lie in court to get around the guilty plea he negotiated; Steele just has to have a detective perjure himself.
  • In The Wire, due to The Mob Boss Is Scarier, virtually no one is willing to testify against members of the fearsome Barksdale drug empire, and that goes double after vicious enforcer Bird murders a State's Witness in broad daylight, even though said witness' testimony hadn't been enough to get a conviction. In order to convict Bird, McNulty and his partner Bunk have to put Omar Little, a Gayngster whose lover Brandon was tortured and murdered by the Barksdales (including Bird) on the stand as an eyewitness. Omar has extensive knowledge of Bird's crime due to his street connections, but didn't actually see it happen. When it's time for the trial, everyone on both sides of the case knows Omar is lying - everyone except the jury.
    Stringer Bell: (Bird's boss) Word on the street is Omar ain't nowhere near them rises when the shit popped. The street says the little cocksucker was over on the east side, sticking up some Ashland Avenue niggas.
    Detective McNulty: That the word on the street, huh? (Starts smirking) Trouble is, String, we ain't on the street. We're in a court of law.
  • Sam does this on at least two occasions in Life On Mars to prevent future crimes, and in both cases, his initial sense of rightness is subverted when in a Prophecy Twist, the events of the future end up happening because of his actions. However if Gene Hunt tries this Sam argues that it's highly unethical. Of course, on at least one occasion Hunt — who is taking the By-the-Book Cop role for a change — notes the blatant hypocrisy at work.
  • The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed: Zheglov frames known thief Brick to get valuable information from him.
  • Alex does this in Ashes to Ashes again to prevent a future crime. Ray also does this and unlike Life On Mars no one criticizes it, but then this time they'd actually caught the guy red handed.
  • An odd partial example occurs in the made-for-TV A Slight Case of Murder. Partial because the detective a) is concerned, not with justice, but with revenge for an unrelated slight and b) is wrong about it being murder — Terry's first killing was accidental.
  • Sort of happened in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Genius," as Patrick Kloster has practically admitted to killing his own wife, and the alleged poison matched that which could be extracted from oleander flowers in Patrick's garden. Unable to find adequate evidence and driven to his wits' end, Monk steals some of the flowers, extracts the poison, breaks into Patrick's house to leave it in plain sight on a shelf, and only gets caught when he went back to retrieve the planted vial after his conscience got the better of him, as Patrick had apparently anticipated to try this move.
  • A version is present in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There's no denying that the Dominion is a threat, but the Romulans have a non-aggression pact with them. Sisko, at Garak's urging and with his help, at first tries to convince a Pro-Dominion Romulan senator to join the cause with fake evidence that the Dominion will be coming for the Romulans soon rather than trying to make peace. Found out, he braces for the Romulans rejecting an alliance or even joining the Dominion...and then a bomb destroys the Senator's shuttle with him aboard, apparently Dominion-made after meeting with the Dominion and providing imperfections to the evidence that would explain their seeming falsity. Garak, knowing it would eventually come to that (and apparently also knowing that the shuttle wouldn't immediately send a message to Romulus contradicting the frameup), had planted the bomb in order to frame the Dominion for assassinating a prominent Romulan. This mirrors the Real Life Reichstag fire, which fully galvanized the German populace into accepting the Nazi party over the German Communist Party.
  • In the two part tv movie Secret Smile, Miranda, played by Kat Ashfield is haunted by her psychotic ex-boyfriend. After she dumps him, he gets engaged to her sister, manipulates her teenage brother into commiting suicide, dumps her sister at the altar to marry Miranda's best friend instead, and then murders the best friend and gets away with it. At her wits end, she enlists the help of his current abused girlfriend and manages to frame him with her own murder, then assumes her dead friend's identity and moves to Australia as he's incarcerated.
  • Shark did this to a Serial Killer. Small subversion in that the supposed victim in this case actually committed suicide (but the killer had killed many women and continued to get away with it.)
  • One of the Strike Team's favorite moves on The Shield. One egregious example is when they kidnap a Los Angeles serial killer and take him to Mexico to frame him on a gun charge, then burn his driver's license so he can't come back. Then, it is subverted when a fanatical IAD Detective plants evidence on Mackey, but has a crisis of conscience and turns himself in.
  • Dark Angel: A gangster commits murder by throwing his victim out of a window, thus making it look like suicide. Logan conspires with the coroner to put a cap in the corpse's head, then has Max plant the gun on the gangster as he attempts to board an international flight.
  • Used on an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation when Catherine, Liev Schreiber's character, Brass and McKeen fake the murder of a snitch so the forensics will point at a suspected murderer. The goal is get murderer to unwittingly reveal evidence for the murders he actually did commit. Their own team members (who initially think that Internal Affairs is just messing with them) eventually discover the conspiracy. It only falls apart because McKeen was supposed to let the judge and D.A. in on the scheme but neglected to do so which may be Fridge Brilliance as much later he turns out to be The Mole. They still get the bad guy though because he really was stupid enough to fall for it, as it turned out he was the killer of the B-plot as well, and they had stronger evidence pinning him for that crime.
    • Another episode has Catherine reopening the cold case of a man her detective mentor got put in jail for murder, after the man, terminally ill, confesses to a different murder but protests his innocence of the one he was convicted of, that of Catherine's best friend Stephanie. It turns out Tadero, the detective, planted evidence because the DA had released the suspect even though he boasted to Tadero of having roughed her up. Catherine calls him out in a big way and is forced to have Tadero arrested for it, pointing out the flaw in his justification: Even though the guy was guilty, Stephanie's real murderer still got away.
    • Yet another episode had a badly burnt body being found inside the chimney of a guy previously found suspect of the murder of a teenage girl years earlier. The body is initially identified as belonging to the man's son and during the course of the investigation, the corpse of the teenager is also found. However, the son turns up alive prompting the question as to who the burned corpse was. Turns out the teenager's father stole the corpse from a morgue in order to get the house investigated so that his daughter's body would be found and her killer brought to justice.
  • The hero does this almost every episode in Burn Notice. He's probably committed more crimes than many of the villains, but it's all for a good cause.
    • In one episode, a criminal steals a car full of drugs from his boss, and tries to frame someone for it by planting the car on their property. Michael figures it out in time, and sneaks the car back onto the criminal's property just in time for his boss to see it.
  • In CSI: NY, Aiden Burn breaks the seal on a piece of evidence intending to plant it to incriminate a serial rapist after the victim who could have identified him backed down. Her conscience prevents her from going through with it and she confesses to her boss, Mac Taylor - but because she's already contaminated the evidence, he has to fire her.
  • Done in The Thin Blue Line episode "Court In The Act": Inspector Grim is desperate to convict a drug dealer; his subordinate Boyle suggests that evidence can be found — "found", in inverted commas. Inspector Fowler found out about the frame up and, unable to prove the drug dealer had been framed, he told the criminal's barrister that Constable Kevin Goody, who found (he didn't know about the frameup) the planted evidence, was wearing a new uniform that wasn't an official police uniform, thus invalidating any incriminating evidence found during the search and allowing the drug dealer to get Off on a Technicality.
  • Felicia Tillman pulls this in Desperate Housewives; she knows Paul Young murdered her sister, but can't prove it without exposing her sister as the blackmailer who drove Mary Alice Young to suicide and revealing Zach Young's true identity. Instead, she tries to threaten him and scare him into skipping town (leaving Zach behind with her), then tries to have him killed, but both of these plans fail, so she spends several weeks draining her own blood bit by bit, sprays it around Paul's house and car, then chops off two of her own fingers and leaves them in his trunk before tipping off the cops. Needless to say, he's arrested and charged with her murder.
  • One episode of CSI: Miami features a cop who is so convinced of a person's guilt in a series of murders that he murders someone else (Santana from Glee!) in order to provide the evidence needed to implicate them. Except the suspect turned out to be innocent.
  • Terriers: In the pilot, the PI heroes figure out that a local developer had two people killed to get hold of an incriminating video. He's well-connected and the police are reluctant to go after him, so they plant the murder weapon in his desk drawer to get him arrested. The trouble really starts when the developer starts trying to prove the gun was planted...
    • And again in "Change Partners": Ray, a fellow thief from Britt's past, wants Britt to work with him again. He's recently robbed a bar, so Britt and Hank stage a second robbery and this time leave evidence pointing to Ray.
  • One of the standard tactics played by the Impossible Missions Force was to set up the target so the people the target worked for or with was convinced they were being betrayed or conned by the target, and letting them do the dirty work of the actual elimination.
  • This is done by Columbo in nearly every case, though usually as a Bluffing the Murderer tactic.
  • When the Leverage team can't prove the mark's guilt, they resort to this.
  • Out-of-court example in House: A patient with Munchausen's (an disorder where the patient takes meds to fake illnesses) is discharged, but House thinks she has an underlying condition that doesn't show up enough, and gives her a drug to make it more obvious. Eventually subverted as it turns out that he was wrong with that diagnosis.
  • Subverted in the Australian mini-series Blue Murder. Detectives arrest a criminal and after he's cuffed plant a gun in his car as a parole violation. He responds that they don't need that as he's already carrying one for real.
  • In Oz, Jason Cramer was convicted of decapitating his gay lover, but the case against him starts to unravel two years later when a jury member admits to him that although she thinks he's guilty, she didn't think justice had been served, as one of her fellow jurors let his homophobia cloud his judgement. When Cramer is granted a new trial, the detective who arrested him, who is dying and wants to clear his conscience, confesses to have planted fingerprints on a knife. This and the fact that the only witness had since died results in Cramer being acquitted and released.
  • Carter pulls off a serious of Magnificent Bastard level frames in Person of Interest episode "Endgame". She, in sequence, frames HR for stealing a load of Russian mob drugs, then frames the Russians for trying to kill the head of HR in revenge, and finally frames them both by tipping off the FBI that HR was going to massacre the Russians, who are caught as they are about to do it, and about the Russians' drugs she stole and then planted in an HR vehicle while they had her under surveillance. Reese is very impressed.
  • Done in Trailer Park Boys when Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, Cory and Trevor are all arrested and tried for stealing gasoline. Ricky manages to trick the court into thinking that Cory and Trevor were the only ones who committed any theft. They end up being the only ones punished.

    Theatre 
  • In the play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace, the protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, must trick his sweet old aunts into committing themselves to a mental institution to prevent them from being arrested for the multiple murders they have committed and buried in their basement. The situation gets even more complicated when his Ax-Crazy brother Jonathan shows up and tries to drop off one of his dead bodies.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's thief guild mission had you framing the one behind a theft that they set up a false commission for. You plant it in the traitor's house and then sic the guards on them.
    • The traitor to the Dark Brotherhood, on the other hand, is quite successful at framing Lucien Lachance for the murder of the majority of the Black Hand. It's this trope because Lucien's job is to murder people, he was just accused of murdering the wrong people.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • A case in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series shows the possible consequences of this trope. Adrian Andrews planted evidence to frame Matt Engarde for the murder of his rival, because she suspected that he had something to do with it. Indeed, he was the man who hired the assassin. But Phoenix manages to expose the contradictions and prove that she framed him... and suddenly she's the prime suspect in a murder she never committed!
    • The first case of the fourth game, Apollo Justice, plays it straight: Phoenix is accused of a murder he didn't commit. The evidence has been destroyed, but Phoenix forges it to convict the real killer. Apollo is less than happy when he finds out about it.
    • Also played straight in Trials and Tribulations, in which Phoenix claims that the bottle of ear medicine - which he claims to be the poison bottle - ties the killer to the crime. The killer then points out that the real poison bottle, which had been introduced into evidence — then later removed — looked completely different...the problem is, it had been introduced into evidence without his presence, and so he implicated himself by stating he knew what the poison bottle looked like.
    • It turns up another time as well, with the Joe Darke case, in which the corrupt police chief committed a murder himself then set things up to look like an innocent was the unintentional culprit, so that said innocent's sister would frame the aforementioned Mr. Darke, a serial murderer against whom there would otherwise have been insufficient evidence.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, your investigation reveals that a key piece of evidence was planted by the Sith. However, if you dig deep enough, you learn that the Republic stole a video recording showing that Sunry is guilty as charged.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, the S.T.A.G. Initiative is sent to put a stop to the gang violence by declaring martial law in the city. To be fair, the player-character is pretty much somewhere between Sociopathic Hero, Psycho for Hire, and Axe Crazy. However, in the penultimate mission, Kia tries to fake a terrorist attack by the Saints, and whether it succeeds or not is up to the player.

    Webcomics 


Framing an Unknown Guilty Party

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In one of the episodes of Detective Conan, the killer is a woman named Tina. Her boyfriend found the crime scene and saw that the victim wrote "Tina" in his own blood as he lay dying, so the boyfriend changed the message to "Ringo", hoping to deflect all suspicion onto an innocent person who probably wouldn't have an alibi. Then Ringo found the crime scene and changed the message again to point to... you guessed it.

    Comic Books 
  • In Alan Moore's From Hell, the Queen's personal psychic attempts to frame her official doctor for the Ripper murders because he insulted him. It turns out that the doctor really is Jack the Ripper.

    Film 
  • The protagonist of Kind Hearts and Coronets spends most of the film coldly and methodically killing off the entire aristocratic D'Ascoyne family. In the end, his jealous girlfriend tips off the police that he is the murderer... of her husband, who in fact committed suicide on a completely unrelated note. Evolves into a Category 3 in the end. Almost. Probably.
  • No Way Out
    • Commander Farrell's girlfriend is killed accidentally by the Secretary of Defense, who blames a Soviet spy, setting off a Pentagon Witch Hunt. Farrell has to find proof who the real killer was before evidence turns up showing he had slept with her, and thus be accused...not only because he didn't commit the crime but because he is a Soviet spy.
    • The man who ends up being blamed for the killing (the politician's aide) was not actually guilty of that (or of being a mole), but had committed multiple illegal acts in the course of the coverup including at least one actual murder, and is the primary villain of the movie.
  • A slight variant of Category 2 is in the film Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. A crusading newspaper editor (John McIntire) wants to prove that the death penalty can cause an innocent man to be executed. He hatches a bizarre plot with his star reporter (Dana Andrews): the editor will plant false evidence indicating that the reporter is guilty of a recent unsolved sex murder. After the reporter is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death, the editor will come forward with proof that the evidence was falsified, forcing the authorities to release the reporter. Amazingly enough, the reporter agrees to this. The first twist comes when the editor is killed in an accident, and the evidence destroyed, before he can clear the reporter. The second twist comes when it develops that the reporter is the actual murderer.
  • An example of this being done to a good guy happens in The Dukes of Hazzard film. To get the Dukes out of the way, the cops plant a still at their home. As the Dukes are known moonshine smugglers, it's questioned why the cops had to frame them in the first place. Daisy explains that the cops are just too stupid to find the real one.
  • An interesting example of the criminal himself suggesting the framing. In Hannibal, the titular character is escaping from Big Bad Mason Verger's farm where he was going to be killed, when Mason shows up with his personal physician. He orders his doctor to go into a pit filled with man-eating pigs to get a gun and shoot Hannibal. When the doctor refuses, Mason threatens to expose the doctor's role in his crimes. Hannibal says, "Hey Cordell! Why don't you push him in[the pit]. You can always say it was me." He then proceeds to do so.

    Literature 
  • In Martha Wells's The Death of the Necromancer, one of the villains framed an innocent man for murder and necromancy. As a consequence, the heronote  spends the novel trying to frame him, so that he too will be executed for a crime he didn't commit. The hero finally tricks him into shooting a magically animated corpse.
  • Donald Westlake wrote a novella called A Travesty that has the murderer (also the narrator) being framed for the murder he committed by the detective because the murderer has been having an affair with the detective's wife.

    Live Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica
    • Baltar, desperate to get any hint of involvement in the Cylon attack off himself, randomly picks someone who was standing on the bridge as being a Cylon. Guess what?
    • Later in the first season, a Cylon agent gives the fleet doctored photos of Baltar tampering with the Colonial defense mainframe, thereby facilitating the genocide of mankind. When the frame-up is discovered, Baltar's actual indirect role in providing the Cylons access to the defense network remained unknown until the late third season. And even then no-one can prove it, so very few people know about it in the first place (they find other things he has done to go after him). No one actually has hard, non drug based vision evidence of his wrongdoing until he confesses to someone halfway through the final season.
    • Eventually, Baltar is put on trial for the Cylons' disastrous occupation of New Caprica. It really was his fault, but not for the reason they think. The witnesses have to resort to perjury to make the case against him, as none of the prosecutors know what he's actually guilty of, and he's ultimately acquitted.
  • In Spooks it's revealed that Adam Carter once infiltrated Syrian intelligence. A Syrian officer was close to exposing him, so Adam fabricated evidence that the officer was an Israeli mole. As it turned out, he was one. Oops.
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, Michael tries to get into a villain's good graces by convincing him that his Dragon is actually an undercover cop. He finds it surprisingly easy since, as he later learns, the guy is an undercover cop. Being good guys, Michael and the gang take it upon themselves to both save his life and complete the job.
  • In Downton Abbey, Barrow takes a disliking to the nanny and lies about seeing her neglecting her duties. When Lady Grantham checks in on her, she discovers the nanny has in fact been abusing one of the children under her care. Lady Grantham gives all credit to Barrow for uncovering the nanny's abuse.

    Video Games 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney had this in case 4 of "Justice for All". Phoenix at first believes that Adrian Andrews must be the killer because she purposely tried to pin the blame of the crime onto someone else by planting evidence and lying on the stand. She is not the killer, but instead does this to HELP the police arrest the acual murderer. Said murderer turns out to be the one that she was trying to frame, aka your client Matt Engarde.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lots of frameups in the roleplaying game Paranoia (which specifically encourages frameups) wind up being Category 2, just because everyone is guilty of something.

    Webcomics 
  • A variant occurred in a Something Positive story arc. Kharisma had been trying to kill a very rich, very evil, and very old man because he made a bet with her: if she managed to kill him within a certain time period, she would inherit all his money. He survives all of her murder attempts because he's just that evil, only to die of natural causes just before the time limit expired. However, she is arrested and convicted of his murder anyway. And she doesn't help herself by bragging about the bet every chance she got...
  • In Kevin & Kell, Angelique and Kevin's father try to frame each other for killing Sid, and both are convinced the other did it. It turns out that Danielle was on a mission to assassinate Sid, and he accidentallly shot himself with her gun when she couldn't bring herself to do it. Her father then decides to take the blame in her place, since his frame-up was the one that was more accepted.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer:
    • In the premiere episode, there is a double-whammy example of this trope. The eponymous secret agent wants to erase the fact that he's been misappropriating government funds to fuel his playboy lifestyle, so he hastily contrives a reason that might convince others to let him secretly access the mainframe: "I'm on a mole-hunt!" It doesn't work as intended. Instead, this causes the real mole to make a run for it, pay for his getaway using Archer's account and ultimately get blamed for all of Archer's financial discrepancies.
    • Our "hero" is accused of fathering an illegitimate son with a prostitute. His blood is drawn for the paternity test, but he secretly swaps the sample with blood from his co-worker so that the sample won't match the child's DNA. It turns out that his co-worker was the real father, making the samples match and everyone believe that Archer is the father.

    Real Life 
  • May have happened in the real-life murder of Sunny von Bulow. The legal team, desperate to find out that the man they were representing (Sunny's husband Claus) was not a hopelessly amoral killer, were pleased to discover persuasive logic that a key piece of evidence against Claus had been fabricated - most likely planted by Sunny's family, who hated Claus and were convinced of his guilt. The piece of evidence in question was a needle used for an insulin shot - but the trouble was, the insulin was found on the outside of the needle. If the shot had been administered, there would not be insulin on the outside of it, meaning that the needle must have been dipped into insulin but not used. Testimony from one of the maids was also brought into question due to her interactions with the family's attorney. However, this didn't mean he didn't do it; the family may well have simply framed a guilty man. In the end, Claus was found not guilty, partially due to the rejection of hearsay evidence and the fact that the coma could not be proved to have been caused by insulin, and partially because Sunny herself had overdosed on asprin not three weeks earlier, leading to questions about her state of mind.
  • Mob hit man (and later informant) Donald Frankos claims that he was convicted of a murder he didn't really commit on the basis of perjured eyewitness testimony. According to him, he always wore a disguise when committing contract killings. In his memoir, he dryly notes that "if I had done it, he wouldn't have been able to identify me" would not have made a good defense in court.


Framing Yourself

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Detective Conan, one murderer drew a letter on the wall pointing towards herself in the victims blood, but the victim was killed instantly and thus couldn't possibly have drawn it. This also allowed her to use her own skeet shooting gun without worrying about fingerprints (since anyone in the club could have accessed it) or gun powder residue (since she had used it earlier anyway).
    • Another made it look like he had killed the victim (a fairly accomplished swordsman) in a swordfight by cutting up the room (cutting way to much and too random while purposefully leaving a certain statue intact to implicate another suspect) and leaving a sword clenched (the wrong way) in the victims hands. This was also done in an attempt to hide the dying message left by the victim while his back was turned.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • This trope makes up the twist ending to Fritz Lang's last American film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
  • The Life Of David Gale has an alternate motive for this: the eponymous character planted evidence to frame himself specifically so that additional evidence created to exonerate him would only be found after he was found guilty and given the death penalty, thus turning public opinion against capital punishment by being an example of a wrongfully-executed man. He, the victim, and an accomplice staged the whole thing from the start.
  • The Spanish film Killing Words is about a professor who makes it look like his ex-wife has framed him for her murder and skipped town, when in reality he murdered her.

    Literature 
  • Pretty much the central premise of Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, where the murderer goes to elaborate lengths to frame himself for the murder of his wife, acting shifty, having public tiffs with her, being seen purchasing the poison, openly enjoying his newfound wealth etc... albeit keeping a rock solid alibi up his sleeve. The plan was to get speedily tried on a wave of public outcry, whip out the alibi at the last second, be found innocent on that shocking revelation alone, then be forevermore protected by the Double Jeopardy rule (in Anglo-Saxon law, one can't be tried for the same crime twice). Hercule Poirot foils this plan by refusing to allow the man's arrest until he has true evidence of his guilt.
    • Also, in Towards Zero, culminating in a complex double set of framing: first the real killer framed himself, clumsily, and then put together a much more professional set of planted evidence pointing at someone else. The desired end result was that the second suspect would be hanged for murder; the actual murder victim was only a means to an end.
    • A variation is used in the short-story (and later film version) Witness for the Prosecution, where a witness frames herself so her testimony against the defendant is later exposed as false, to help free him instead.
  • The Klatchian agents in Jingo plant sand and Klatchian coins at a crime scene to convince Vimes they weren't involved. Sure enough, when Vimes reads Colon's report, he sarcastically comments "All that's missing is the box of dates and the camel under the pillow!"
  • In John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the hero is sent by MI6 to East Germany to frame East German spycatcher Mundt as a British mole. Except the British have actually discredited his "evidence" deliberately because Mundt really is The Mole for them, meaning that if Mundt is accused of being The Mole in the future no one will believe it.
  • In The Krytos Trap, Tycho stands trial for Corran's murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, but both sides suspect that much of it was manufactured by Imperial Intelligence. The question is whether he is innocent and made to look guilty by a frame, or guilty and made to look innocent by a "clumsy" frame. In the end, the victim was alive the whole time (The Imperials faked his death and took him prisoner) and General Cracken, a member of the tribunal, knew that Tycho was innocent (of this particular crime) and held the trial to give New Republic Intelligence time to locate the real spy.
  • In At All Costs, Havenite politician Arnold Giancola plants obviously manufactured evidence that (correctly) names him as the one responsible for altering diplomatic correspondence which started the war all over again. Fortunately, the Pritchart administration picks up on this fact and never makes the evidence public.
  • Subverted in Jade Dragon, where The Shadow investigates a frame-up so obvious the authorities will likely conclude the man is innocent, but a sleuth who goes a step further soon realizes that's exactly how a clever enough criminal could get away with murder. The real crook, though, went a step further than that, adding increasingly subtle evidence against the guy...

    Live Action TV 
  • The episode "The Mind of Stefan Miklos" of Mission: Impossible had a two-for-one variation: the Americans have been using a foreign spy (Townsend) by feeding him bad information, but another spy (Carnaby) in the ring is a rival and discovers proof the information is bad, accusing Townsend of being a double-agent. The investigator, Miklos, who the enemy is sending to ferret out the truth is believed to be far too competent to fall for an attempt to frame Carnaby, so instead the team frames Townsend, depending on Miklos to see through their con, and come to the conclusion that the only reason the Americans would go to so much trouble was to discredit the information he had passed on. As a bonus, the failed frame-up implicates Carnaby as having been involved, leading to a Category 1 variation since Miklos concludes that he must be a double agent and was assisting the Americans in the attempted frame.
  • In the early Monk episode "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale", the titular Dale the Whale arranges for his physician Dr. Christiaan Vezza to murder a judge named Catherine Lavinio who issued a costly antitrust ruling against Dale, then stage the scene to make it look like Dale did it, including a 911 call fingering him as the murderer and a neighborhood girl seeing a morbidly obese man disconnecting a smoke alarm in the house. This is completely impossible, because not only is Dale too fat to move, he couldn't even fit through the victim's door if he could, because he's basically like a ship in a bottle.
  • Category three is utilized in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Eosphoros" (fittingly, since the show is more psychological and frequently deals with self-styled Magnificent Bastards and Chessmasters). The killer intentionally plants evidence against him,(his fingerprints on a packet of ketchup that was at the crime scene) then gives the detectives a prepared explanation for it. This almost succeeds in getting him off the hook too.
  • This may or may not have happened in an episode of The Practice. A man confesses to being a serial killer and gives the police information on the killings that was known to the public, including incorrect details the police had leaked to the press in order to weed out nut jobs. The defense points to this as proof of his innocence, whereas the prosecution argues that he was forced to rush his last murder, barely got away and hit upon the idea of making a false-sounding confession before the police started looking in his direction. He's acquitted and we never find out whether or not he really was the killer.
    • There was an episode in which a white cop alleged that a black man walked up to him and confessed to being in possession of cocaine. The prosecution unsuccessfully argues that it's a self-framing job. The cop's partner asks the judge why he would make up such a ridiculous story, to which she replies that perhaps he did it precisely to open up that line of reasoning. Unlike the above example, it's revealed that the man was in fact guilty; he tells his lawyer that he did it in order to stop the cop from brutalizing another black man, correctly figuring that no jury would believe it happened that way.
  • In season 4 of Breaking Bad, Walt gives Jesse a rare poison known as Ricin in hopes that he will use it to kill Gus Fring. When it later appears that Jesse's girlfriend's son has been poisoned with the Ricin, Jesse immediately assumes Walt is responsible due to nobody else knowing about it. However, Walt points out to him that he has nothing to gain by poisoning the boy. He then reasons that since the only thing keeping Gus from killing Walt is that Jesse refuses to cook meth for him if he does, Gus must have somehow found out about the Ricin and poisoned Brock with it in hopes of turning Jesse and Walt against each other. This convinces Jesse to side with Walt again, but the final scene of the season heavily implies Walt was responsible for poisoning Brock after all.

    Video Games 
  • An example can be found in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All case number 2. After her sister died in a car crash, Mimi Miney made it look like she was the one who died and used plastic surgery to assume her sister's identity. When she kills someone a year later, she makes it look as though the murder was carried out by the vengeful dead spirit of Mimi Miney. This is plausible in a game world where spirit channeling is real. This draws suspicion away from that innocent-seeming girl who claims to be Mimi's sister but is actually Mimi.
  • Danganronpa has a strange non-murder example in the second case. Byakuya Togami isn't the murderer, however, he did rearrange the crime scene to frame someone else (a Serial Killer... who actually didn't do it this time), but he made sure to leave just enough evidence to frame himself for the framing. Turns out he did this to scout out who was most likely to catch him if he ever did decide to murder someone. And for the lols.


Other

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    Film 
  • In Chicago, one application of this trope gets two murderesses off the hook. Sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn creates a fake diary that supposedly belongs to Villain Protagonist Roxie Hart, talking about how she killed the man she was having an affair with and how she was glad she did it. Co-conspirator Velma Kelly then presents it to the prosecutors of both cases, using it as a bargaining chip to get the charges against her dropped. When the diary is presented as evidence, however, Flynn points out that the diary is full of legal jargon - as though it had been written by a lawyer...

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch, Jr. and the Lestranges are sentenced to Azkaban in an obvious show trial. While the Lestranges are obviously guilty (Bellatrix boasts that Voldemort will free them someday as she's dragged away), the reader is led to believe that Crouch, Jr. was innocent. Later we find out that he actually was a Death Eater after all. It's unclear whether Barty Crouch, Sr. knew that his son was guilty (in which case this is category 1) or if he was just covering his own political ass (in which case this is category 2). Basically, it comes down to your own interpretation of how huge a Jerkass you think Crouch, Sr. was.
  • In Isaac Asimov's story "Mirror Image" (set between The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn), there is a dispute between two Spacer mathematicians about who stole the other's idea. The only witnesses are Three-Laws Compliant Robotic Butlers, one of whom was ordered to lie. So, Baley questions both robots (the mathematicians refuse to be questioned by a mere Earth policeman), and, suddenly, one of the robots shuts down. Baley explains how it means the robot was given orders to lie by his owner, thus producing a strain severe enough to shut it down. The owner promptly confesses. The catch is, both robots were under a strain, and Baley didn't know enough about robots to know that the lying one will have a harder time because of it. He had already formed an opinion on other grounds, and interpreted the evidence to support his conclusion and pressure the perpetrator into confessing.
  • In Feet of Clay, Vimes is investigating an arsenic poisoning, when he finds a packet of powdered arsenic in his office just as authorities suddenly arrive in response to a tip-off. Vimes' response is to hide the arsenic and "plant" some coffee sweetener on himself, then eat it theatrically in front of the authorities to make the frame-up look like a clumsy frame-up. That's right, he framed his framers for framing him.

    Live Action TV 
  • Averted in Justified: Raylan finds a witness to one of Boyd's crimes (who had previously refused to give evidence) and intimidates him into testifying, but stops cold when the witness asks for a picture so he knows who he's supposed to implicate. Turns out he didn't give a vague description because he was scared; he genuinely didn't get a good look. When he offers to commit perjury to help Raylan put Boyd back in jail, Raylan immediately turns him down.
  • In one episode of Hustle, a crooked DI tried to extort 10 grand off a friend of the team, so they gave her the perfect opportunity to extort them - that she would get the proceeds of their con, or she'd call the cops on them. Except, of course, they rigged it so all the evidence would point to her pulling off the con by herself, and then called the cops on her. Her original wrongdoing is never brought up.
  • This was used and then averted in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit called "Repression." An 18 year old girl recovered memories of her father molesting her when she was young and planted images of child pornography in her youngest sister's room, in the hopes that it would be enough to get him in prison. However, the investigation later learns that the memory that was recovered wasn't a real memory, that her father never molested her or her two sisters. The typical SVU sadness kicks in because this was learned after her younger sister killed their father.
  • An unusual case of this in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Critic": Thanks to work from Monk and Natalie, the police suspect theater critic John Hannigan of murdering his girlfriend Callie Esterhaus. So Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher confront Hannigan at his office to question him about drugging and raping an underaged girl - specifically Natalie's daughter Julie. Hannigan denies the accusation and claims he has never seen Julie before. This gives him away because Julie was performing in the play Hannigan was using as his alibi for the murder, and at one point in the show she has a solo, where she looks exactly like she does right now. The fact that Hannigan says he doesn't recognize Julie proves he wasn't at the theater at all, and was committing the murder. Goodbye, alibi.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: During the modern day portions of the game, you play as an Animus researcher working for Abstergo who is coerced by a mysterious voice in IT to hack into various computers and deliver information to the Assassins. Later in the game, Abstergo gets wise to this and imprisons you and your co-workers while they investigate to find out who did it. During this time, however, your IT contact reveals himself to be a lunatic who's trying to get you possessed by a virtual ghost; when he fails at this, he tries to kill you and is shot dead by security. The evidence found in his files is more than enough to divert all suspicion from you. So, in the course of trying to eliminate you, he frames himself for the crimes you actually committed.

    Webcomics 
  • In one Schlock Mercenary arc, the good guys blew up a reality TV network, and planted evidence to frame its CEO for the disaster. They would have gotten away with it, but someone else planted even more evidence, framing them for being in cahoots with the (actually innocent) CEO. They had a lot of trouble defending themselves against the false charges, because if they gave their real alibi they would have revealed their real crimes.

    Western Animation 
  • Sort of used on American Dad!!, when a series of improbable events happened to make Stan look like a wife-beating child molester. Stan's solution was to find somebody who, while innocent, deserved the punishment anyway. They wound up framing it on a co-worker of Roger's who had screwed him over. The fact that the police found (legal) neo-Nazi apparel—and that the detective in charge of the case was a Holocaust survivor—was a rather handy bonus.
    • Another bonus: Stan specifically describes his plan in a way that seems to point to the U.S. overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who likewise deserved to get overthrown even though he was innocent of the specific crime he was accused of.

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