I worked homicide before I went federal. This is what we call an orgy of evidence. You know how many orgies I had as a homicide cop? Officer Fletcher:
How many? Danny Witwer:
A common tactic for fictional criminals (especially murderers) is to plant false clues at the scene of their crime: either to deliberately frame someone else or merely to throw suspicion away from themselves. Sometimes, however, they take things too far and the sheer amount of clues they plant has the opposite effect. No detective will believe that any criminal could be so careless as to leave that much incriminating evidence behind. He may also be suspicious because his investigation seems to be turning up all this evidence far more quickly and easily than is usual for this kind of case
In Real Life
, of course, this is unlikely to work as it does in fictionnote
. Any defense made in court that, "I wouldn't be that stupid", is an Epic Fail
. Even if you prove to the court that you have an IQ of 200, so many other criminals have done stupid things
that you would not be believed. The reason in fiction that the detective doesn't
believe the evidence is generally that the detective is Genre Savvy
; the amount of evidence they find is so
disproportional to the norm that it not only strikes them as unusual but implausible
. That's why they start to suspect that it was planted deliberately. A Signature Item Clue
may be what is used in these.
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- In the Minority Report, Danny Witwer outlines the basics of this trope:
[viewing the crime scene of Leo Crow's murder] Danny Witwer
: I worked homicide before I went federal. This is what we call an orgy of evidence
. You know how many orgies I had as a homicide cop? Officer Fletcher
: How many? Danny Witwer
[crouches down and looks back up] Danny Witwer
: This was all arranged.
- The Trope Namer has more logical reasoning than most entries on the page: Witwer is looking at dozens of photos that suggest the victim killed multiple children. One of the pictures includes the supposed murderer's child. Witwer is immediately baffled as to why, according to the scene, the victim had all these pictures lying on his bed before the murderer arrived. Even if the murderer had found the pictures somewhere else in the apartment, he would have no reason to carefully set up where they were dramatically placed. Its this knowledge that finally gets Witwer to investigate other possibilities.
- Esteban tries to point out this trope in Fresh when the police find a gun just used in a murder and a huge bag of heroin under his mattress. It doesn't help his case that both the drugs and the gun were really Esteban's, Fresh just made sure they could be found.
- Jack Reacher: The case against a former Army sniper for killing several random people seems airtight, since there was so much evidence found at the shooting site, including fingerprints on the quarter used to pay for the parking meter, bullet ballistics and license plate identification. The amount of evidence is not what makes Reacher realize the situation is a set-up, but rather wondering why the lead detective would even think to look for the parking meter quarter in the first place. Such a thought goes beyond due diligence into almost obsessiveness, and Reacher ultimately deduces that the lead detective was in on the frame from the beginning.
- Murder on the Orient Express: A bewildering array of clues, much of them contradictory, serve to alert Hercule Poirot that someone is making massive attempts to muddy the waters. The clues include a dropped handkerchief, a dropped pipe cleaner, a dented watch showing the time of the murder, a lost button, someone pretending to be the victim (and speaking a language he did not speak) after he was supposedly dead, an abandoned conductor's uniform, and a sighting of a mysterious woman in a scarlet kimono.
- It happens again (though not to the same extent) in The Hollow, which involves several people diverting attention away from the real killer by planting false clues and generally acting as suspicious as possible.
- Deliberately invoked in the Discworld novel Jingo where a vast amount of stereoypical evidence implicating Klatch in a murder is planted, as the Klatchian ambassador realizes this will cause Sam Vimes to look everywhere except Klatch for the killers. It works flawlessly on Vimes because he's (justifiably) cynical about his own people; it fails to work on his Klatchian opposite number, as he's (justifiably) cynical about his own people...
- Also lampshaded in Feet of Clay. Vimes states that he instinctively distrusts clues because "you could walk around with a pocketful of the things."
- In one Five Finder-Outers book by Enid Blyton, the kids do this deliberately to confuse the policeman. He seems to be fooled only for a while, though.
- In the Jack Reacher novel One Shot, this is what the case against James Barr becomes. However, what makes Reacher suspicious is not the amount of evidence, but that the investigative team thought to look for a clue that they had no reason to believe existed.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, there is already considerable evidence incriminating the suspect in the eyes of the police, but the clincher is a bloody thumbprint of the suspect on the wall. Holmes finds this suspicious, especially as he had carefully searched that hall the day before, and there had been no bloody thumbprint there, making the clue proof in his eyes that it was a setup.
- In The Clue of the Screaming Woman by Erle Stanley Gardner, the killer attempts to frame a local recluse for a murder. However, believing Sheriff Eldon to be a doddering old fool, he badly overplays his hand.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe X-Wing Series of books, Tycho Celchu is accused of being a sleeper agent, as well as for murdering Corran Horn. His lawyer is quick to point out to the military tribunal that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves Tycho's guilt, but that someone has been actively destroying anything that could exonerate Tycho. In the end, Tycho is let go when other clues come up, like the fact that Corran himself walks into the room and declares that Tycho didn't kill him.
- Lampshaded in Anthony Boucher's The Case Of The Baker Street Irregulars. When someone questions why Harrison Ridgely is so ready to call attention to anything that makes him look guilty, the police officer sighs "It's an old trick to make the case against yourself so black an investigator will automatically disregard it. Trouble is, it so seldom works."
- Played with in Black Man. The main court-admissible evidence of someone's presence at the crime scene is "genetic trace", which is unique for every person. Merrin's rampage across the US countryside leaves one orgy after another. The trick is, if it's a genetically engineered supersoldier that just happened to have an identical twin in a freak development of the already-modified egg, they would leave identical traces...
- The Continental Op story "The Tenth Clew"note — the eponymous clue being that the other nine are bogus.
Live Action TV
- Parodied in The Goodies episode "Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express" where the clues they find include a a Union Jack waistcoat, a pair of glasses, and a beard...
- CSI: New York: In "Prey", the CSI team investigate a murder with a large amount of strange evidence, all of it designed to simulate evidence encountered at early crime scenes.
- An episode of The Avengers, "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues", had John Steed go up against a killer who planted clues over each of his hits, and then posed as a detective attempting to "solve" each of the murders he himself committed.
- Glee, or specifically Sue Sylvester, did this with her leaking of the New Directions set list to the opposing glee clubs.
Sue, the directors, both from the Jane Addams Academy and Haverbrook School for the Deaf, have informed me that you gave them the New Directions' set list. Sue:
You have no proof. Figgins:
The set lists were on Cheerios' letterhead. Sue: I didn't do it
They say, "From the desk of Sue Sylvester." Sue:
Circumstantial evidence. Figgins:
They're written in your handwriting! Sue:
Sue, there is an Orgy of Evidence
stacked against you! Sue:
Well, you've clearly made up your mind not to be impartial in this case.
- Burkes Law: In "Who Killed Marty Kelso?", the murderer plants a cufflink at the scene to implicate an innocent man. After the police fail to find it, she plants its mate. When Burke finds both of them, he figures that one cufflink is a clue and two is an obvious frameup.
- Once Upon a Time: In "The Cricket Game", there's so much reason to believe that Regina killed Archie that Emma, quite possibly the person in Storybrooke most familiar with this world's law enforcement and crime, finds it difficult to believe that Regina's actually guilty.
- In Elementary Sherlock believes that Detective Bell is being framed because the suspect is an experienced police officer who would know better than to make so many basic mistakes. He might get sloppy on one or two things but would not do something as stupid as hide the murder weapon in his own home in a place where the police were bound to search.
- Andromeda has a variation on this, where Tyr is in a locked room alone with a planetary president he blames for killing tens of thousands of Tyr's people, when two shots are fired from Tyr's weapon, killing the man instantly. Tyr's defense is essentially that if he had actually planned to assassinate the president, he wouldn't have gotten caught. "And I have... some small experience in these matters." He then starts listing off virtually untraceable means of assassination with discussion of their pros and cons until Dylan stops him.
- Legend of the Seeker: The plot of the episode "Confession", after Kahlan finds a man she had confessed to killing resistance members somehow was not really guilty. Richard, along with another woman, also suffer this before it's over.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Fit for Murder", Barnaby and Jones find a large amount of incriminating evidence when they search the house and vehicle of a pair of suspects. Barnaby points out the murders were methodical and carefully premeditated, and scarcely the work of someone who leave incriminating evidence (that they had no reason to keep) where any search would reveal it.
- In the first season finale of Hannibal, Will Graham is able to deduce that he is being framed because while he might believe he was capable of murdering Abigail Hobbs, he couldn't possibly accept that he also murdered the victims of the copycat killer (a.k.a Hannibal Lecter).
- Will Graham actually uses the trope name in the second season premiere, but in something of a subversion since he's telling Jack Crawford that Hannibal Lecter's frame-up was successful because it averted this trope, avoiding a glut of incriminating evidence in favour of just enough to convince Crawford.
- In a series 3 episode of Death in Paradise, the Victim of the Week has been poisoned, and nobody has been able to find the poison or work out how it has been administered. The killer then plants the poison at the scene of the crime to try and frame somebody else, but this inadvertently gives the police the information they need to solve the case.
- In the Ace Attorney games, this happens a few times. For instance, in the fourth case of the second game, a character has been murdered and is found with your defendant's knife in his chest while one of the bloodied buttons on his costume was found in your defendant's pants. This is considered too incriminating and casts suspicion upon another character with a motive to frame your defendant. As it turns out, she did plant that evidence to frame him, but the defendant actually is the murderer after all.
- Double Subversion in Knights of the Old Republic - In the Sunry case, his medal was quite obviously planted at the scene, put into the hands of the victim. However, that was the Sith's counterattack to the Republic's coverup of what really happened.