Main Conviction By Contradiction Discussion

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04:54:56 AM Jan 3rd 2013
"Two precious ivory bookends belonging to a former circus owner are stolen when two of the man's friends are visiting. Encyclopedia and his father find strange handprints in the beach near the circus owner's house, and so suspicion falls on one of the visitors, a crippled acrobat, because the only way he could have walked was on his hands. Encyclopedia, however, insists that the thief is in fact the other visitor, a former bareback rider, because she said her leather gloves were missing, and "no one brings leather gloves to a seaside town in the summer." (Because she couldn't possibly have brought the gloves for a legitimate reason like playing golf, as driving gloves, or even riding a horse. And she certainly couldn't have packed them by accident.)"

Other mysteries in the series indicate an eastern seaboard city with a warm to semi-tropical climate. That doesn't excuse it from this trope, though: the original stories were written back before the current strict luggage weight limits and charges, and no one in-story seems to think of the simple premise that the lady brought the gloves simply because she liked them.

Donald J. Sobol wrote the 'Two-Minute Mysteries' series as well as the Encyclopedia Brown, and there are a lot of plots that cross over -including the errors. Although the Brown ones will often be 'lighter and softer'; people don't die nearly as often on Encyclopedia's watch as on Dr. Haledjian's.
10:38:56 AM Mar 22nd 2011
The manservant example from Encyclopedia Brown:

"A manservant is identified as being an impostor casing the house for a robbery, because he presents the man of the house, a night-owl who sleeps all day, with bacon and eggs for his morning meal. (Because people with unusual sleep schedules only eat breakfast foods when they first wake up.) "

In either this one or the 2-minute variation, the servant brings food that's specifically contrary to the time-of-day: ham and sandwich in the morning or breakfast food in the afternoon. The servant was introduced as a new hire that just arrived and, when asked to fix up a meal, made something that corresponded to the owner's new sleep schedule. There's no real reason for them to make breakfast at night or ham/soup in the morning unless they knew about the owner and were planning to rob him.

01:25:16 AM Aug 3rd 2015
There's a weird thing in the Express Lane Limit example:

"the fact that the perp counted on both the victim and grocery staff to obey the letter of the express lane rules and for the express lane line to be open and available at the same time he was at the store"

What's that with the second part? Did the plan depend on the victim using normal checkout or did it depend on them attempting to use the express lane first, and get shunted to the normal checkout?
07:23:30 AM Mar 2nd 2011
Kindichai Case Files, a manga series that depends on this trope. I think. The stories get kind of confusing. I remember one focused on how a painting had a right armed man holding something in his left arm and how the doors were durable enough to swing on; apparently this meant no footprints. God, I don't know. I read all of those damned things and I remember so very little. Kindichai was kind of a moron. Stop going on those camping trips; people keep dying!
06:45:57 PM Mar 16th 2010
This trope was considered for renaming. Please feel free to check the discussion and vote
06:47:15 PM Mar 16th 2010
edited by SomeSortOfTroper

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Medinoc: That "minor grammatical error" reminds me of the infamous real-life "Omar m'a tuer"...

Andrew Leprich: Moving those huge-ass Wall Of Text examples down to the examples section. The examples in the main body are intended to demonstrate the trope and should be quick and easy.

Kilyle: That last example, is that Two-Minute Mysteries? I love that series! Also, I quibble with the idea that every case of Encyclopedia Brown falls under this trope... it's been a while, so I can't say with certainly, but I found many to be reasonable evidence. And there's always the "Your son attacked me and we fell into the mud"/"Dad, take a look at his perfectly clean pants."

  • Yeah, I'm pretty sure Two-Minute Mysteries is what it was called.

Azreal: How is the Firefly example part of this? Monty specifically says "I never did get around to mentioning his name", there is no valid reason I can think of that Yo Saff Bridge would know it that would be acceptable to Monty, and there's a cut, which to me implies a scene (not seen) where Mal explains everything. Or am I trying too hard?

  • Honore DB: Because it was already clear that they knew each other: Monty even said "So, you two have met" before the alleged slip. The fact that she knew his name doesn't say anything about who's in the wrong, unless you're Monty and you're looking for any excuse possible to put bros before serial monogamists.

"Perhaps the world of Encyclopedia Brown is an alternate universe in which the justice system does work on the basis of guilty until proven innocent."

Curtmack: This should be reconsidered, as many justice systems in the real world do operate under guilty-until-proven-innocent, including (unless it's changed since I've last heard) Great Britain.

Danel: You what? When did you last hear? The fourteenth century?

Cephalus: While obviously the UK is not part of this group, civil law countries once had a system (and some may still) where the accused was presumed guilty; this is due to a much higher standard of evidence necessary to indict someone. In Europe, at least, human rights laws mean all accused persons are presumed innocent.

"After all, people forget things they ought to remember all the time, and often contradict themselves because they simply made a mistake."

SpiriTsunami: Good luck convincing my father of this fact.

Ununnilium: C'mon, we can't not have the Encyclopedia Brown examples first.


  • Truth in Fiction here. Abraham Lincoln really did get an acquittal because a witness claimed to have seen something by moonlight on a moonless night.
o Abraham Lincoln also died twenty years before the lightbulb was invented. He didn't exactly live in a place where there were lights to be mistaken for moonlight. o Moreover, as noted in the trope description, reasonable-doubt means different standards apply to defense and prosecution.
  • Because as she lay dying she'd be thinking 'I'd better get this grammatically correct before I bleed to death or the wrong man will be convicted...'
  • Though it would be logical for her to use the easiest way to write, which happens to be the correct term (admittedly this troper hasn't grown up with the language, so this may be different for native speakers).
  • Also, he could have meant "back here" in the sense of not being "over there". A description of relative position, in other words, rather then whether or not he'd been there before. Depending on the location it might have been an odd turn of phrase, but certainly not an indication of guilt.
Possibly not an example of this trope, as one is a full-sized tree, and the other is a shrub. People in an agricultural society ought to recognize trees better than we would anyway it'd be like mistaking a motorcycle for a scooter.
  • They were shepherds, so it isn't that big a problem. I do wonder how the heck you "copulate" under a shrub, though. Seems like lower branches would, um, participate.

Conversation In The Main Page.

  • The perp claims to have been outside on a hot day, yet has an un-melted chocolate bar in his possession. (Because it's impossible that he recently purchased it or had a way of keeping it cool.)
o In this case, the perp claims to have spent hours by the side of the road on a hot day, so maybe the call wasn't that far off.
  • The perp claims to have found a breath-inflated balloon lodged in a tree on a windless day. (Oh come on, are you sure there wasn't a single breeze the entire day?)
o That's not quite an example, as that was used to prove a balloon seller was not guilty of a kidnapping. Reasonable doubt and all. o IIRC, the fact in question was that the balloon lodged in the tree was the distinctive kind used by the clown that was the custody-less father of the kidnapped girl. However, the balloon was helium-filled whereas the clown was well-known for breath inflating the balloons he gave away, suggesting that it had been planted. o The perp claims to have never visited a certain doctor in question, yet knows right off the bat that he's a male (despite said doctor's first name being Evelyn) and a dentist. (Because, clearly, it would have been impossible for him to have a friend or relative that once visited the doctor and subsequently mentioned him.)
  • If you're talking of "The Case of the Dentist's Patient" in Two-Minute Mysteries by Donald J. Sobol, the question wasn't "Did you visit Dr. Evelyn Williams?" but "Ever hear of Dr. Evelyn Williams?" (emphasis added)
  • Personally, I'd be more interested in investigating the doctor. A man named Evelyn? Now there's someone with a lifetime of pent-up rage and suffering who is quite possibly capable of any dastardly deed, if it avenges his pain by punishing the cruel world that has mocked him since birth.
  • Well, yes. He became a dentist.
  • What makes this even more interesting is that there is an well-known brain teaser based around the notion that a person will, until expicitly told otherwise, almost always assume anyone addressed as "Doctor" is male. One could have equally well had the perp convicted on the basis of knowing that "Doctor Pat Williams" was a woman.

These seem to be reasonable enough evidence that they don't really belong here.

  • It's possible, yes, but it's so awkward to do that the frame-up theory looks more plausible. If it were a court of law, and there was evidence of bad blood between the "witness" and the boy, this would presumably meet the "reasonable doubt" bar (the "found innocent" implies that this was a court of law).

But the whole point is that this evidence supports the frame-up.

  • One short story had a librarian identify her killer by writing the Dewey Decimal code for their last name. In a mild variation, the "evidence" is used during the summation to make the real killer snap and try to kill herself, proving their guilt; the detective knows a Dewey decimal code wouldn't be enough.
o The Dewey Decimal System doesn't work that way.
  • It does if your last name is Glass (748 in Dewey Decimal).

...wait, how is this an example?

  • Frequently abused by Monk.
o Also frequently subverted by said show, as the reasonable doubts usually only tell Monk that something about the facts of a case doesn't add up, but he doesn't know why, (and will say as much when asked) forcing him to work out what actually happened in his head until he can find condemning evidence.
  • Law And Order uses such things to have detectives look in the right direction, but little more.
  • Frequently subverted by Columbo: In almost all of his cases, Columbo finds a minor contradiction quite easily. Encyclopedia Brown would have stopped right there, but instead, Columbo goes to the suspect, who is invariably able to offer a reasonable explanation. Columbo's usual method of operation is to just keep doing this over and over until the suspect is forced to incriminate himself.
  • This is also pretty much how you play Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney. Granted, your target usually has an explanation, but the questioning continues until they're out of answers.
o Isn't this more like pulling the thread then? o Also in one case, Phoenix does this to a parrot.
  • And yet the prosecution STILL managed to coach the witness ahead of time.
o This example is actually a bit of an inversion, as you're a defense lawyer, not a prosecutor, but this works against you as the court system seems to have a strong emphasis on "guilty until proven innocent".
  • Actually, given that in case 3 the trial continues even after proving your client was drugged unconscious during the murder, I'd say the emphasis is on "guilty until you bring in a witness who you prove guilty instead."

None of these are actually subversions or examples of this trope, just examples of Pull The Thread.

Aiso, can we get more details on that "French grammar professor" example? And I'm pulling a few examples to Encyclopedia Browned, since they fit it better.

  • "Misle" is going into Encyclopedia Browned, too. Since "misle" is an actual word, and "misled" is its past participle, then it's worse than insufficient proof, it is erroneous.

  • Several of the Encyclopedia Brown examples don't actually seem to fit ones like figuring out that the coin is in the hot-dog or that the man is a woman in disguise are Hyper Awareness instead. They're noticing a stupidly minor detail (one that certainly wouldn't be evidence of anything to a sane person), but that leads them to comparatively concrete evidence.


  • A client's entry in an art show is damaged by one of the three friends he's hanging out with at his house, and it could have been done by any one of them, since they all left the client's living room at some point. Encyclopedia declares that one of the friends is the culprit, based on the "fact" that he claimed he didn't know the true meaning of the word 'misled' and thought it was the past tense of the verb 'misle'.
o Since a quick check shows that 'misled' is the past tense of the verb 'misle', this is Encyclopedia Browned.
  • Since a quick perusal of the crowd shows that no one knew that until they even saw the page, this also counts as Readers Are Geniuses.

And since a quick click shows that this is in Encyclopedia Browned...

  • A perp who pretended that his pig had been kidnapped and held for ransom is exposed by the fact that the number the kidnapper gave him to call when he gathered the ransom had a 'Z' in it, and there is no letter Z on the telephone. (Because it's impossible that the kidnapper might have deliberately given a false number, never intending to give the pig back in the first place.)
o I probably shouldn't modern phones do have the letter Z. Oops. In this case, it goes from Bugs Meany is Gonna Walk to Encyclopedia Browned.


  • ...wasn't this one of Archie Bunker's rants?

Conversation In The Main Page.

  • This troper - who left the book at home, the idiot - swears he remembers one being based on a woman's apparent natural tendency to preen and check herself out in a mirror. Can anyone verify or inform this troper just how off-base he is?
o Encyclopedia Brown got to pick up on this one, too.

Please Elaborate.

  • Here you are; from an entry removed from Encyclopedia Browned:
o One of the biggest Wall Banger examples ever comes from a Two-Minute Mysteries book. The suspect, a woman, states that on the day of the crime she received a fur coat, which she stored away as it was a hot summer day. The last line is the detective telling a cop to "Make sure the jury includes..." The answer is "At least one woman." The reason given is that any woman would know that on receiving her first fur, a woman wouldn't just put it away but would try it on and "purr over it". ...the stereotyping of women aside, how is that even an answer?!?
  • That's not the only Wallbanger when it comes to women. A woman is found murdered, and the prime suspect is a man who was accused by a witness of driving her home. The man denies it, claiming that the woman's hat found in his car was a plant. The detective agrees, as a woman never wears a hat with an evening gown.

o Although this explanation eventually became canonical, the critics overlooked another possible interpretation of Bashir's mistake. The line could have meant that he misread the words "preganglionic fiber" as "postganglionic nerve" in a written exam, not that he actually looked at one and mistook it for the other. In which case it would not have been a writer error at all.

Okay! Rebochan: I pulled this example:

Western Animation

  • This troper cannot remember the name of some morning cartoon that was about murder mysteries, where the viewers (aimed at the preteen and teen audience) could try to figure out the culprit. The first one was about a fortune teller who was murdered by a client, and she had conspicuously left her pendant on a drawing as a dying message - it formed the sign of Cancer, thus revealing which client killed her. However, the actual clue for the viewers was completely different; it was the specific tassels on his sleeves, which could be recognized in the opening shot of the murder, even though the perp was an anonymous silhouette. So to review: the clue to solving the murder was to recognize the sleeves during an event with no actual other witnesses. This troper saw two more episodes, both of which hinged on a visual clue the police couldn't have seen, and felt insulted.

Because we don't know where it came from or the context. Can anyone help out? I'm also not quite sure it's an example of this particular trope. Caswin: Is it me, or could many of these examples be considered useful leads, if not definitive evidence in their own right? (And does anyone remember a story that involved pegging somebody as knowing the contents of a dinner in advance because they brought ketchup? I remember thinking that he could very plausibly have brought it for a potato dish other than french fries, but at the same time, it does draw suspicion...) Leaper: Note to Jet 37 L (if he/she ever sees this): the term "vacuum flask" is, unless I'm seriously mistaken, mostly or entirely unknown in America. We use the word "thermos" for every object of its kind; it's a genericized trademark to us, like "aspirin" or "xerox" (or "hoover" to Brits!).
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