Anne Oldman: A man as unpopular as Aiden Hawkchurch, must be a million suspects.Someone has been murdered. The first step is simply to determine what sort of motivation someone might have had to kill them. There's just one problem: they were a complete and total asshole, so everyone wanted to kill them. This is a murder mystery trope, intended to increase the number of suspects and draw out the investigation. Expect the police to express the feeling at some point that maybe this guy deserved to die, and that his killer did a public service. Typically, at the end it's discovered that the murder was unrelated to the victim's being so thoroughly despised, or at least not directly related. It might also be used to make the audience sympathize with the murderer when s/he's finally discovered. Because of the morally challenging nature of this plot, it's best to send in a By-the-Book Cop or a Knight in Sour Armor to solve the crime, because they try to not become emotionally compromised. A common message in these kinds of stories is that two wrongs do not make a right. See also Asshole Victim (for victims the audience is not intended to sympathize with). As a Death Trope, obviously beware unmarked spoilers.
Radio presenter: ...Now I'm delighted to say we've just heard that the celebrity chef Aiden Hawkchurch has been murdered!
Jack Cloth: A million and one.
Radio presenter: ...Now I'm delighted to say we've just heard that the celebrity chef Aiden Hawkchurch has been murdered!
Jack Cloth: A million and one.
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Anime & Manga
- In the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, Emi St. Cloud is one, being a selfish Jerkass who puts on a good image for the public and plays the heroine in Othello Detectives. However, she was not killed by any of the people she wronged, but out of a belief that her death and her fiance, who is one of the male leads, being arrested for her murder would prevent Othello Detectives from being released.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Ace Attorney crossover Turnabout Storm, it's eventually revealed that the murder victim, Ace Swift, was a massive Jerkass who, among other things, threatened to take Cruise Control's injured little sister off of life support if he didn't keep intentionally losing to him, and attempted to murder his partner in blackmail, Sonata, when she started developing a conscience and wanted to walk out. However, this is later subverted in that while Ace Swift was indeed an asshole, he wasn't actually murdered. His death was a freak accident that he brought upon himself.
- In the Dangan Ronpa fanfic Dangan Ronpa Forever Despair, the Amoral Attorney, Ryo Nakahara, an abusive and overall Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk, is killed in the third chapter. While there was an extra motive, it's hard to tell who had any additional emotional reasoning to kill her; because she was by far the most disliked in the group.
- "Who Killed Elly Patterson?" is a Hate Fic of For Better or for Worse. In it, Elly was such an unpopular, domineering busybody that every citizen of her hometown starts as a suspect.
Films — Live-Action
- Gattaca has this as a subplot, though in this case, the murderer does turn out to be someone with a grudge against the victim. Complicating the investigation further is that one of the detectives believes the murderer to have been an "invalid" (person who has not been genetically engineered, the way everyone else at the institute has) and his motivation to have been the victim's finding this out about him. Moreover, the real culprit turns out to be one who was genetically engineered to have an even-tempered personality, despite having very brutally bludgeoned the victim to death.
- Gosford Park. Though the victim as we see him is portrayed relatively sympathetically, seeming to be a fairly nice old duffer with a horrible harpy of a wife (she tears chunks out of him at dinner in front of all their friends), his past is not so clear and when he is murdered it turns out everyone had a motive. Though in fact all the people with real, personal motives are ignored as they are only the servants.
- This trope is exaggerated with the victim in the various film adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express. See the Literature entry below.
- The murder victim in the movie Bully, which is based on a real homicide of a teen who bullied and abused his best friend, his best friend's girlfriend and all of his associates.
- Inverted in Don't Torture a Duckling: the townspeople use the string of murders as an excuse to accuse all the local outsiders and misfits of being murderers, including a witch and a mentally ill man.
- The film Drowning Mona centers around solving the murder of a cruel woman, found in her car at the bottom of a lake, who was hated by everyone in a small town, making almost everyone in the town a suspect. It turned out several characters were responsible for the murder, and none of them were working together or knew what the others were up to.
- Invoked by police Captain Dudley Smith when he kills his business partner Sid Hudgens in L.A. Confidential. Hudgens ran a tabloid where he routinely outed people in Hollywood as gay or Communists (both career killers in the early 1950s), covered (or created) celebrity scandals, and speculated on organized crime and political corruption in Los Angeles. So when Hudgens is found murdered, the natural thought is that after years of doing that he finally a ran a story or found dirt on the wrong person, not that he was part of an elaborate criminal conspiracy and became a loose end.
Detective: Somebody beat him to death and stole a bunch of his files. Must've dug up garbage on the wrong guy. Got it narrowed down to a thousand suspects.
- Isaac Asimov:
- Toyed with in The Naked Sun, where the murder victim was the perfect embodiment of the planet's social code ("a good Solarian")... and therefore qualifies, since the definition of a good Solarian is an antisocial asshole. As the detective brought in from Earth just to solve the case has to explain to his audience at the Summation Gathering, everyone had a motive to murder the man who reminded them all of their imperfections.
- Another story, called The Dust of Death, features a famous researcher who dies in a lab explosion. Foul play is suspected. The problem is, it turns out this "researcher" never did anything except steal the ideas and results of his employees. So, not only did everyone have a motive, everyone was openly discussing the best way to kill him.
- Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series occasionally plays this straight but often subverts it.
- For example, the victim in The Leper of Saint Giles was a smug Jerkass who treated everyone around him badly and was about to marry a child bride in love with someone else for her money... but his long-time mistress, a sympathetic character, was fond of him, and he treated her well even though she had aged and lost her looks, and she speaks of him with affection when she and Cadfael discuss him.
- Interestingly, one of the rare victims in the series who plays this completely straight is a morally upright Well-Intentioned Extremist priest who, through his rigid self-righteousness and lack of compassion, made enemies of everyone he had power over. It's implied later that divine will killed him, helped along by an unsympathetic observer who commits Murder by Inaction and is absolved for it.
- Scottish police detective Hamish Macbeth, in the mystery novels by M.C. Beaton, often finds himself investigating crimes in which the victim is someone who many people were glad to see go away. It's even right there in the titles — Death of a Snob, Death of an Outsider, Death of a Poison Pen, etc.
- Agatha Christie liked to do this as well.
- Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express is worth mentioning in particular, being doubly an Asshole Victim. He's portrayed as a total jackass from the minute he steps on board, so don't feel too guilty when he's splattered across a Pullman carriage for the watcher's entertainment. As more is learned about him after the murder, it becomes even clearer just how deserving he was of his fate. Poirot eventually lets his murderers go. A nice twist on the "everyone had a motive" reason for an asshole villain, given that it turns out that everyone did it.
- Mr. Shaitana in Cards on the Table, who has a collection of successful murderers — the ones he knows got away with it — and invites them to a party calculated to make them squirm. Christie plays with this one, as Poirot immediately points out that this is not a safe hobby. Much of the book is spent trying to find out what murders the suspects previously committed. As a further sign of Shaitana's arrogance, very late in the book, it is revealed that one of the so-called "murderers" was actually innocent of his original crime, and thus did not deserve to be put through Shaitana's mind game in the first place.
- Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot's Christmas is an selfish old millionaire, who plays sadistic mind games with his family. Here, however, the murder was actually personal revenge.
- The sadistic Lord Edgware in Lord Edgware Dies. However, as in Appointment with Death, the murder was committed for selfish motives.
- Colonel Protheroe of The Murder at the Vicarage is the most despised man in the village; even the local vicar says that killing him would be a service to the community. However, yet again, the murder turns out to have been committed for purely selfish motives.
- Mrs. Boynton in Appointment With Death is one of Christie's more extreme examples: she's an almost hypnotic 'mental sadist' who uses sheer force of personality to absolutely control her family and uses that power to psychologically torture them.
- The short story "The Under Dog" (1926) is another example by Christie. The victim was Sir Reuben Astwell, a wealthy businessman and a man of violent temper. He had poor relations with most of his family members and frequently quarreled with them, he managed to alienate his loving wife by threatening to get rid of her right-hand-woman, he was verbally abusive to all of his employees, and he owed part of his wealth to cheating business associates out of their share of the profits in business ventures. Almost everyone has a motive and nobody seems to mourn him. The murderer turns out to be Owen Trefusis, Reuben's loyal secretary for 9 years. He was noted throughout the story to be a particularly meek, patient, and soft-spoken man. It turns out that Reuben was systematically abusing Owen for years, using him as something of a punching bag for verbal abuse. Whenever anyone else got Reuben mad, he took out his anger on Owen. Because Owen, unlike the others, never talked back. During the last session of verbal abuse, Owen briefly snapped and killed his employer. The murder was not even premeditated, and Owen had nothing to gain from it.
- Nero Wolfe: Too Many Cooks opens, before the victim has even died, with a man ranting not only about how much he wants to kill the soon-to-be victim Philip Laszio, but also how every other person you are about to meet in the book has a motive to kill Laszio too. You almost expect Everybody Did It in this one.
- Sherlock Holmes: Exaggerated in The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, where the titular Milverton was such a terrible person, that Holmes not only flat-out refuses to investigate his murder, but he had personally witnessed it and chosen not to intervene.
- The Saint: In the short story "Nassau: The Arrow of God", Simon Templar investigates the murder of a man given to publicly announcing other people's sins for his own amusement. Templar "solves" the crime by determining that only one of the suspects has a prior felony (selling fraudulent stock) to conceal. Because nobody ever killed somebody for threatening to expose an extramarital affair or for claiming one's religion is fraudulent. Really, Simon's entire career consists of liberating a succession of asshole victims from (always) their money and (periodically) their lives.
- Ali, (actually Courtney) in Pretty Little Liars is pretty conniving and bitchy to her friends, and ends up going missing and being found dead in her backyard. On the other hand, a reader may be able to find a little more sympathy as she was only 14 at the time of her death.
- CC de Poitiers, the victim in Louise Penny's second Three Pines mystery A Fatal Grace, is self-obsessed, emotionally and verbally abusive to her husband and daughter, and universally loathed (even by the man she's having an affair with). Possible motives are not hard to come by.
- Stella Rodes, the seemingly angelic victim in John le Carré's second novel, A Murder of Quality. It turns out that she runs the gamut from taunting people to outright blackmailing them (which is what finally gets her killed).
- Ben Elton's Past Mortem, in which a series of grown-up school bullies are found murdered in ways similar to accounts of ways they used to bully their childhood victims. It's zig-zagged, however, in that while some of the bullies kept up being assholes in adulthood, others of them had clearly matured and, even if they didn't exactly regret what they had done, were at least not assholes worthy of death.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: King Joffrey I Baratheon's death leads to this. He was so deservedly hated and reviled that the characters who actually cared about finding the true killer said that practically all of Westeros had motive to kill him.
- In one of Kate Ross's Julian Kestrel books (Whom The Gods Love) the victim is revealed to have been a complete monster, so the book quickly goes from "Who could have done this horrible murder?" to "Is there a single character without a motive?"
- In Sage Adair Timber Beasts, an associate of the protagonist is for killing railroad bull Clancy Steele. Steele is known far and wide as a Jerkass, and Sage immediately learns about several other people with a grudge against him.
- One of the Nikki Heat novels centers around the murder of a highly unpopular critic. When Nikki asks who might want her dead, Jameson Rook suggests that she get a copy of the Manhattan phone book and start with the letter A.
- Lord Darcy: In The Eyes Have It, the first reaction to the discovery of the Count's corpse is "I knew someone would do you in sooner or later, my lord".
- Zane in Welcome To Temptation (by Jennifer Crusie) was essentially trying to blackmail and/or harass almost every prominent person in town, and annoyed the hell out of pretty much everyone else. Amusingly enough, despite his having been hit by a car, maced in the face, bundled up in a shower curtain and disposed of.... he died of a heart condition without actually having been murdered at all.
- Parodied in the Agatha Christie pastiche "Death on the Line" in the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue book Stovold's Mornington Crescent Almanac. Lady Violetta "Gnasher" Ickenham unleashes a stream of invective against everyone else at the dinner table and how much she's dedicated herself to making their lives hell, before adding that she's finally going to do something about the typing error in her will that names them all as beneficiaries...
- Several cases in the In Death series have a wealth of suspects thanks to the victim being a terrible person. One textbook example is Richard Draco in Witness in Death, who proves to have been such scum while he was alive that Eve for the first time in the series admits that she can't feel any sympathy for him nor condemn his murderer. Since the murder takes place during a stage production of Witness For the Prosecution, nods to Agatha Christie abound.
- In the Josh Lanyon gay murder mystery Somebody Killed His Editor, both of the victims were reprehensible jerks who habitually trod on and mistreated others. This has the effect of setting up the protagonist, writer Christopher Holmes, as a main suspect, since he'd been publicly humiliated by both and he had verbally shot back at each of them, just as publicly, in retaliation, in one case joking about how he'd poison the future victim if he had the chance.
- In Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton, no one in Finch particularly mourns when Prunella "Pruneface" Hooper, possibly the most obnoxious person in town, is found dead under mysterious circumstances (Aunt Dimity, the narrator's ghostly adviser and confidant, as good as states outright that Prunella has gone to Hell). Pretty much everyone but the narrator and her immediate family has a motive, and there's a very long chain of witnesses providing evidence pointing directly to someone else, who has evidence pointing directly to someone else, who has evidence pointing directly to someone else... The final witness actually reveals the truth: Pruneface died of an accidental head injury, and the witness assumed she'd only been knocked out and went about their day.
- All My Children:
- In 1992, Will Cortlandt was bludgeoned to death with a crowbar and had become such a pariah that there were no less than 15 suspects, including his own SISTER.
- Later, in 2004, after Michael Cambias raped Bianca, he earned the hatred of everyone in Pine Valley, especially after he gets Off on a Technicality because Bianca destroyed the physical evidence. After he turns up dead shortly after, all of Bianca's loved ones and friends attend his funeral just to give eulogies on how much they hate him, with Tad Martin himself stealing his body from the morgue and burying it in the city dump. When it is revealed that Bianca herself confronted Michael and shot him dead in self-defense when he tried to rape her again, the judge, who was sympathetic to Bianca and believed her from the start, leaned hard on the prosecution not to press any charges against Bianca.
- Probably happens with about the same 50/50 frequency as other crime shows. An example is a parody of The Office, where a hateful manager is dumped down an elevator. It turns out she had an aneurysm burst when one of the couple she busted for a forbidden affair — one of whom she was already blackmailing to sleep with her — threw a stapler at her head in frustration, and the two dumped her body in a panic.
- Perhaps the biggest example of the show is The Gravedigger a.k.a. Heather Taffet, a serial killer who buried her victims alive then demanded a ransom. After finally getting caught and convicted, she gets her head blown off while on the way to try and appeal her conviction. The killer turns out to be Booth's former mentor, who was in turn hired by the father of two of the Gravedigger's victims.
- City Homicide: The episode "Cut and Dried" has a convicted child molester murdered in prison, and few of the detectives are motivated to investigate too thoroughly. It's then subverted when it turns out he was genuinely repentant, was intending to give evidence against the pedophile ring he belonged to, and was in fact silenced by two of the prison guards.
- Most of the victims on this Game Show were straight-up ass-lacquers. Definitely helps for a show with a small, recurring cast of potential murderers.
- Similarly, the cast of the movie Clue was either the blackmailer, his accomplices, or the blackmailed suspects (who all survive the movie), except FBI agent Mr. Green.
- Columbo: Most of the victims in the first two seasons, allowing Columbo to have a cozy time with the murderer.
- The South Korean whodunnit game show Crime Scene frequently uses this trope, likely because the format requires there to be 6 suspects, and therefore 6 motives because the game would be too easy unless Everyone Is a Suspect.
- Subversion in one episode. The victim is an asshole to his four co-workers, all of whom were the only ones to have access to the room he died in. The audience is led to believe that a combination of two or more of the four are the ones who offed the jerkass (all of whom are pretty jerkassy themselves). Turns out it was the janitor cleaning the vents, who killed the man when his hammer fell out of the pocket and through the grate. He didn't know the guy and removed the hammer because he didn't want to go back to jail.
- It happens many, many times in the CSI franchise, usually coupled with a Sympathetic Murderer. Examples include:
- A clingy ex-wife who insisted on making life hell for her ex-husband and children. She tried to put a hit on herself to frame her ex-husband and when she couldn't do it, she tricked her own son into killing her for the same reason.
- An egomaniac Paris Hilton-esque reality show star.
- A convicted pedophile on parole. He was staying at his brother's house, and the stress of having him around plus the associated harassment by the neighbors caused said brother's pregnant wife to miscarry. The brother then catches the pedophile spying on a playground which turns out to be the last straw and kills him.
- A millionaire serial litigator. Murdered by a chef whose life she had completely destroyed and was getting ready to do the same on his new workplace.
- A horribly corrupt Deputy Mayor of NYC responsible for embezzling several million dollars out of various charities and refusing to raise policemen's salaries leading to a city-wide strike. Murdered by his 10 year old OCD son after he planned on sending him to a boarding school out of frustration for his condition.
- A young man who was poisoned by a cheerleader who he had mocked when she was overweight. After suffering a completely undeserved Humiliation Conga, the girl managed to lose weight and carry out a Gambit Roulette to get her revenge.
- A woman who trained dogs for underground dog fighting rings, and who had become a Villain with Good Publicity by having built a reputation as a big-time animal philanthropist (who focused in saving animals trained for underground fighting rings). The man who killed her? An FBI informant who was fed up with the Bureau having its hands tied even after he had given them truckloads of evidence.
- Three men, guilty of various crimes, who brutally beat the girl who had got them arrested — and wasn't even supposed to have to testify. They were killed by their attorneys, who didn't much care if their sleazy clients killed, intimidated, or beat up their (usually) equally sleazy accusers, but couldn't stand what the men had done to that girl. When one of the killers points out to Mac that they're likely to get away with it and asks, "Can you really say we shouldn't?", Mac doesn't look too happy — but doesn't say "no" either.
- A particularly vicious high school bully who had given at least one of his victims permanent physical damage. Murdered by the school guidance counselor, who had previously worked at a school where a copycat murder of Columbine took place and figured it was only a matter of time before someone shot up the school to deal with the bully.
- On one episode a contestant on a cooking show is found killed and cooked, and then later another one is found poisoned. Turns out the female producer of the show offed them both because she discovered that they were the ones who raped and murdered her sister years before, and had lied about the truth to her face while pretending to comfort her.
- On CSI: Miami, we had the example of an Alpha Bitch of such horrible caliber that she had driven a teenage boy into attempting suicide and had the boy's sister gang-raped to showcase that they were "losers", and none of the other students wanted to stop the bullying in fear of what she could do to them. The Papa Wolf and Mama Bear collective of every kid she bullied banded together to kidnap her, tie her to a touchdown pole and force her to hear their children's confessions to the school psychiatrist, and then stoned her to death when she had the stupid idea to not only not show any regret, but also tell the parents that the kids deserved everything that she did to them because they were losers.
- The episode Take My Life, Please of The Mothership had an unusual Victim of the Week in a dumped body that had been shot so many times and with so many different calibers that it was literally possible to see through him. The investigation eventually revealed that the man had bombed an abortion clinic (doing enormous collateral damage and hurting a lot of people) and then gone off the grid to avoid retaliation, eventually sneaking into an outdoors firing range to spend the night. The murderers were given much grief over trying to cover the murder, but nobody really lamented the man's death.
- Dallas: While he survived, J.R. Ewing, hence the "Who shot JR?" plotline.
- Death in Paradise: In "Dishing Up Murder", the Victim of the Week was an obnoxious celebrity chef who was loathed by his entire inner circle. He was cheating on his girlfriend and partner (both romantically and professionally), dominating and abusing his son, blackmailing his sous chef, having an affair with his pastry chef, and had allowed his brother to take the fall for a crime he had committed.
- Diagnosis: Murder: Subverted in one episode where the victim was a blackmailing, mean-spirited nurse with several personal enemies. Why is it a subversion? The only reason she was actually killed was because she walked in on another murder; the killer was one of the few people who didn't seem to hate her.
- Dickensian: The murder victim was Jacob Marley, who is portrayed as not just as mean and grasping a moneylender as his partner, but sadistic on top of it. Scrooge is quick to point out to Inspector Bucket that the difficulty will be finding someone who didn't want him dead.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "A Difficult Lie", the Victim of the Week is a disagreeable journalist who is later revealed to have been a blackmailer as well. The man seemed to create enemies wherever he went, with everyone from his caddie to the president of the golf club having a motive to kill him.
- The "Who Shot Phil?" storyline, though as with J.R. Ewing, Phil survived. The culprit turned out to be his ex-girlfriend Lisa, who was upset with his abusive treatment of her.
- The "Who Killed Archie?" storyline, in which Archie Mitchell is bludgeoned to death on Christmas Day by an unseen assailant. There were no less than ten suspects, all of whom rehearsed scenes in which they revealed themselves to be the killer, in order to keep the cast in the dark. The storyline culminated in a live episode on the show's 25th anniversary, in which prime suspect Bradley Branning (whose wife Stacey had been raped by Archie) falls from a roof to his death while being chased by the police. The murderer then turns out to be Stacey herself.
- The "Who Killed Lucy Beale?" storyline took this Up to 11. Lucy was murdered in April 2014, and the premise was that every single character on the show was a potential suspect. It wasn't until New Years' Day 2015 that this was finally whittled down to a paltry fourteen; a live episode in February 2015, the show's 30th anniversary, revealed that the culprit was none of them. It was Lucy's kid brother , Bobby Beale. The story wasn't properly wrapped up until June 2016, two years after it had begun, but even then it led to another storyline in which Max Branning, who'd been falsely arrested for the murder, returned to carry out a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- In the episode "Poison Pen", where the victim's wife's alibi is that at the time of his poisoning she was buying the same poison that the actual murderer, their son, used. Both had the same idea of framing their nanny, since she had killed her own father that way twenty years before.
- In "You Do It to Yourself", Trent Annunzio is a sadistic wife beater, so his wife Jun starts seeing another man. When Trent learns he's terminally ill, he has himself murdered and frames Jun's lover for it so she can be deported as an act of posthumous revenge. Fortunately, Holmes and Watson discover the truth before it's too late.
- Ellery Queen: Every Victim of the Week. This was to maximise the number of suspects by giving everyone a motive to want the victim dead.
- Emmerdale: When Cain Dingle was beaten up and stabbed, there were no shortage of suspects, seeing how he'd antagonised nearly have the village by that point with his general Jerkass scumbaggery.
- Game of Thrones: Joffrey's death leads to this. He was so hated and reviled that the characters who actually cared about finding the true killer said that practically all of Westeros had motive to kill him.
- iZombie: In "Virtual Reality Bites", Liv tries to find the killer of a hacker called Sin Reaper. Thing is Sin has hundreds of enemies taking credit for his death, with a website popping up just to celebrate it.
- The L Word: Jenny Schecter in the final season. Each teaser seems to end with yet another person having a reason to hate her.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has the episode with the little girl who Has Two Mommies and went to catholic school, who had a bully who relentlessly harassed her, who was practically encouraged by his parents and the school itself. The girl stabs him in the spine with scissors and paralyzes him after he assaulted her and cut off a lock of her hair... remind us why the kid isn't dealt with in court.
- Law & Order has an episode where a notorious paparazzo is murdered just outside a high-end restaurant. It turns out that essentially all of the customers and staff had at one time or another been a subject of his sleazy behavior, or who had friends and family who were, and they break out in applause when they find out whose body is lying dead in the street. The detectives realize it might be difficult to narrow down the suspect pool.
- Midsomer Murders:
- One character, played by Orlando Bloom, who was sleeping with at least three different women (one of whom was paying him for it) until he got pitchforked through the chest in the first five minutes. He was also a petty thief and a vandal with a serious attitude problem.
- In "Down Among the Dead Men", DC Ben Jones openly wonders why they're working so hard to solve the murder of known blackmailer Martin Barrett when "everyone's glad he's dead!"
- In Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the Victim of the Week from "The Green Mill Murder" turns out to have been a blackmailer who had a string of people who wanted him dead for entirely understandable reasons.
- Mock the Week: As a recurring topic on "Scenes We'd Like to See" is "Lines you wouldn't hear in a TV detective show", this trope gets played for comedy:
It's the TV presenter Noel Edmonds!
Any idea why he was killed?
It's the TV presenter Noel Edmonds!
- One episode has the title character investigate the deaths of a bunch of violent mobsters. It turns out that they died because they pulled guns on another criminal, making it difficult to determine to what extent their deaths count as acts of self-defense. The killer tries to excuse himself by pointing out that his victims were assholes.
- Also, in the episode "Mr. Monk and the Red Headed Stranger", Sonny Cross, the murder victim, was a person who embezzled a lot of money (embezzling $400,000 from Willie Nelson, and it is implied that this is not the first time he has done so later on in the episode), and he also did time for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. In regards to the latter incident, he also received a very lenient punishment, spending only 18 months in prison. Also, the murderer was a blind woman (well, half-blind, she regained the sight of one of her eyes from slipping on the floor at a Supermarket) who was the sole survivor of her family, the family who was killed by Cross's drunk driving, and it was because of his manslaughter that she was even blind in the first place.
- Murder, She Wrote: Almost to the level of Once per Episode. However, there are actually some exceptions scattered throughout the show's long run of some perfectly nice people getting killed, but one in particular stands out as a very deliberate subversion of this trope. It centers around this Smug Snake Corrupt Corporate Executive where everything about him just seems to scream Asshole Victim... until you get to the halfway point and the murder victim is the exec's much nicer brother.
- Rather frequent on Murdoch Mysteries.
- The victim in "Me, Myself, and Murdoch". The prime suspect for his murder is his daughter, who has multiple personalities that resulted from her seeing her father hack up her mother with an axe, when she was a child. The man got another woman to marry him and pose as his original wife, and throughout the years he's been abusing his daughter and locking her up in the basement where he dismembered her mom. The murderer is his stepson from his first wife, who ran away as a kid and came back years later disguised as a farmhand, who was suspicious of why another woman was posing as his mother, and axed his stepfather to death. Inspector Brackenreid even said he would do his best to avert the death penalty for the stepson, saying about his stepfather, "Bastard bloody deserved it."
- In season 4, the victims of "All Tattered and Torn" are three men that were guilty or accomplice of raping a young woman and escaped justice years ago. The murderer is a former cop who was obsessed by the case and executed them.
- In season 6, three young women are beaten and murdered by drowning. You feel less sympathetic when it is discovered that they accidentally killed another girl by repeatedly submerging her in cold water to "cleanse" her of her love for her Persian teacher, and that one of them was also blackmailing her employer with threats of publishing news of his marriage to a Native woman in the newspaper.
- Many episodes of this show contain these certainly, however the episode "Smoked" has an interesting twist. Because of evidence found during the autopsy, the entire team, and the viewer, believes their victim is a serial killer who murdered dozens of women who look like his wife. Gibbs and Fornell believe the wife to have found out and killed the husband, and they are sympathetic during the interview. Then, in the last five minutes, due to some more forensic magic, it is determined that the husband was completely innocent and SHE is the serial killer.
- NCIS also did this in the backstory with Gibbs's murder of Pedro Hernandez (in cold blood and premeditated), who had murdered Gibbs's wife and daughter earlier. At first this is only sporadically brought up in flashbacks (particularly during the "Hiatus" arc while Gibbs recovers from trauma and memory loss). It later comes back to haunt him in the "Rule 51" arc concluding season 7, where the idea of vengeance is also heavily deconstructed.
- Another example is the episode "Caged", where a guard in a women's prison gets stabbed to death, and the team must find out who killed the guard. The guard is blackmailing an inmate's high school daughter for sex. It's implied that said inmate (who had less than one year left on her sentence, and wants to be a mother to her kids) stabbed the guard, but another inmate (on a 175 year sentence), who McGee was sent to get a confession from, confesses to the murder. The team agrees that they won't lose any sleep over that.
- Two men are killed in very gruesome ways, by Ducky's girlfriend to attract his attention. She points out that they were unpleasant adulterers and deserved to die. Then this is subverted as Ducky proceeds to point out that they didn't deserve to die any more than she deserves to be their judge jury and executioner.
- Even though the murderer isn't a sympathetic one, few are sorry when Eli David is shot. Said man is the one who twisted Ari (his own son) into a murderer and a terrorist, and treated Zira more like a tool for his own goals than like a daughter. One of his last actions is murdering a journalist to keep his own return to the USA secret.
- Even the birth of NCIS came about with one of these. The two-parter JAG episode "Ice Queen"/"Meltdown" that served as the NCIS pilot introduced Gibbs and DiNozzo investigating the death of Lt. Singer and her five month fetus, the token "Evil Witch" on JAG.
- Psych has featured its share of these. One notable example is the fashion mogul couple from "Black And Tan: A Crime of Fashion". The husband is revealed to have stolen some of his recent designs from their assistant and is having an affair with one of their models. The wife is incredibly mean to everyone, including the aforementioned assistant. In an interesting twist, it turns out they killed each other. The husband poisoned his wife, but it took longer than it should have due to her bulimia. By the time it did kill her, she'd already killed him through electrocution.
- To Catch The Uncatchable: In this Hong Kong comedy detective show, a majority of the victims are often Jerk Ass and should had it coming to them. The female protagonist's previous boss had several affairs and tried to rape the protagonist as well. Turns out his jilted lover was the one to kill him. Another man was a cult leader who put drugs into his believers' drinks so they would follow his orders and would later force the drugs down a believer's throat for disobeying him and also going out with his son. His wife tried to stop him from killing the girl and accidentally pushed him too hard, causing him to fall off the building. There was a woman who was a model who chased after men, then dumped them after she had exploited them for all they were worth. She was pushed off the stairs by a fan of hers, after she insulted him for being worthless.
- A Touch of Cloth: Parodied with the first episode's second murder victim, 'sushi despot' Aiden Hawkchurck. This walking turd was so despised that his featured magazine covers had headlines like "Enemymaker" and "Someone kill him already!". Even random radio broadcasters celebrate his death right after the protagonists muse that there must be a million suspects.
- The Unusuals: In the pilot, the late Detective Kowalski is revealed to have been a Corrupt Cop, an adulterer, a blackmailer and an all-around Jerkass for the purpose of making everyone a suspect. However, his widow is shown to love him and genuinely mourn him.
- Victorious: In the episode "Who Did It To Trina," Trina's harness at a stage show is sabotaged, causing her to end up in a crazy accident. She survives, but the central characters are all each suspected of doing it not only because they were there when it happened, but because Trina was such a jerk to each of them earlier on in the episode and each flashback about each character's potential motive (those mostly blown wide out of proportion) does not make any effort to make her likable in any way to the point that viewers probably wished she'd died.
- Whodunnit? (UK): Most victims. In the most extreme case, every suspect tried to claim credit for killing the victim (a South American dictator) and the mystery was to work out who was telling the truth rather than who was lying.
- An episode of the old Superior Court courtroom procedural had an episode where the town bully ended up dead. Queue no less than six different witnesses other than the defendant killing the guy, motives ranging from the guy raping a couple of the women, to revenge for the bully burning down houses and shops, to self defense.
- Consul Karl Baumer in Margin for Error is a Nazi of the least likable sort. When Adolf Hitler is making a speech, he turns up the volume on the radio so loud that nobody hears the gunshot that kills him.
- Walter Breckenridge in Ayn Rand's Think Twice is a wealthy philanthropist who uses his power to keep people dependent on him, so he can run their lives. When he's murdered, nearly everyone is happy for it.
- The victim in the Murder Mystery Visual Novel Jisei was working with her company to steal information from a rival corporation, but decided to doublecross her employer in favor of a third party that offered her more money.
- Super Dangan Ronpa 2 has Hiyoko Saionji, a massive brat who treated her classmates like garbage (especially Tsumiki) and had a habit of abusing small animals. However, even though Tsumiki was the one who killed her, this turns out not to be the case; Hiyoko wasn't targeted, she just walked in on a murder already underway and had to be silenced.
- Batman Beyond: A non-lethal version comes up in "Golem" when the car of the school's Jerk Jock is found crushed like a soda can. Bruce asks Terry whether anyone might be holding some kind of grudge or otherwise seeking revenge against said jock. Terry promptly admits "The line starts with me and goes around the block, twice."
- In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns survives the events of "Who Shot Mr. Burns" after being shot by an unseen gunman. The whole idea of the Cliffhanger is that practically everyone in Springfield wanted to kill him, and in many cases, few would have blamed them. However, not only does he survive, the shooting was an accident (presumably) making it a subversion twice-over.