Like Androcles' Lion, but with people. The hero goes out of their way to help an "inconsequential" Innocent Bystander, often at personal risk either to himself or reputation. Later on, if he's set up by the villain and it looks just like the Untrusting Community of Crazy Survivalists is really going to kill him... out pops the Character Witness ready to repay their kindness with life saving timing. Usually, they're a Wasteland Elder or a Reasonable Authority Figure whose voice has weight, or just a child he befriends who is adept at Shaming the Mob.
Subtrope of Karmic Jackpot and A Friend in Need. Compare Chekhov's Gunman. Can lead to a Disproportionate Reward Because You Were Nice to Me. See Old Beggar Test where this trope is invoked by a powerful figure disguised as poor or weak.
- Early in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Allelujah disobeys orders and rescues people at a space station, and during this time aids the governmental forces which are his group's enemies, impressing the antagonist, Sergei Smirnoff. This comes to Allejuah's aid later in the show, as Smirnoff lets an injured Allejuah go and take Marie/Soma Peres, Sergei's adopted daughter/Allejuah's love interest with him, since he recognizes Allejuah's voice and knows he's a nice guy.
- In the first episode of Samurai Champloo, we see an arrogant noble standing in the middle of a crowded road, harassing and threatening a commoner who had bumped into him, until Jin effortlessly cuts through his bodyguards for standing in his way. By the end of the episode, he has been captured and is about to be executed for the offense. Fuu has some fireworks she plans to use to free him, but she doesn't have anything with which to light them. No points for guessing who reaches up from the crowd with a match.
- The little fox kid in ×××HOLiC who vouches for Watanuki in the Demon Parade. Earlier, Watanuki had given him an arrow tail, which is a powerful ward against evil (and the "demons" in the parade are of the Dark Is Not Evil variety). So when the demons threaten to eat him and his friend, the fox kid steps up and proves his good nature by showing them the arrow piece.
- In the Ace Attorney manga, Phoenix hopes that Thomas Spitzer, Bobby Wolfe's Only Friend, will serve as a variant of this by proving that if he had someone to care for his spiders, he would not burn down the Den of Spiders to Mercy Kill them once his brother Robin, who had supported them, was dead. Edgeworth, however, calls Spitzer to the stand, whereupon he says that Edgeworth had convinced them that Bobby would have done it, and agrees with his theory, saying that the spiders were too expensive for him to care for.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: On the day of an important exam, the Duel Academy's card shop got a shipment of newly released cards; but Professor Chronos got there first and bought them all. Then he gave them all to Manjyome, and said he would manipulate the match-ups in the field exam so that he and Judai were opponents, hoping Judai would not only fail, but be humiliated. Meanwhile, Judai overslept, and while running to class, met an old lady struggling with her stalled truck. Knowing he'd be late anyway, he stopped to help her with it. Later, when he finally got to the card store, he found out she owned the place, and saved one of the new packs of cards for him; Judai was actually able to win the duel against Manjyome with it, gaining a promotion. (Which he turned down.)
- Spidey is always boggled when he runs into someone who he helped once, because J. Jonah Jameson is always working to make him a pariah in New York. But in a city of millions, all the people the wallcrawler has helped are ready to stand up for him if the situation calls for it.
- Jonah himself did this once, albeit in a way that didn't seem especially nice. After he regained control of the Bugle from Thomas Fireheart (whose coverage of the hero was too positive showing the opposite type of bias) Jonah started the task of getting rid of the gaudy billboards praising Spidey. However, a crisis struck, where Doctor Octopus had set up shop in the maintenance tunnels, eventually using them to kidnap Jonah's wife. She was rescued by Spidey, and afterwards, Robbie told Jonah that they didn't have enough manpower to disassemble Ock's lair and take down the billboards. Jonah told him that they could put the billboards off for a little while.
- The mutants of X-Men fare have had people give them cross country rides, duck them away from mutant hating authorities, etc, all because one X-Man helped someone else at some point, so anybody legitimately wearing the (X) is considered a good guy worth assisting.
- Superman's main defense against Lex Luthor? It's not his powers, it's the city of Metropolis, which loses its collective shit whenever people attack their mascot, and will permanently destroy Luthor's Villain with Good Publicity status if he ever gets caught openly hurting Supes without a really good loophole to escape the blame. It's also been implied at various times (particularly in the Elseworlds JLA: The Nail) that Metropolis is responsible for setting the trend for the citizens of the DC universe to not be suspicious, fickle, ungrateful assholes to their heroes like their Marvel counterparts, due to Superman's altruism towards them.
- Then there was that time Superman saved a high-steel construction worker from falling. Turns out he was actually an ex-weapons designer who would ultimately become Steel, one of Superman' closest allies.
- In The Legend of Total Drama Island, team leader Courtney is nominated for elimination and can't defend herself because she's in the infirmary. Ezekiel, whom Courtney has been re-educating to be acceptable to polite society, stands up for her. Ezekiel's sexist attitudes are well known, so his "testimony"; carries a lot of weight.
Izzy: Guys, you know what Zeke thinks of girls, and we can just imagine what he thinks of girls being in charge. And yet he was the first one to stick up for Courtney. That should tell you something.
- In "Perfect Alibi", part of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Hearts series, Bruce Wayne rescues a woman from being creeped on at a party; later on, when he needs an alibi, she immediately volunteers herself. She doesn't even know that what he was really doing was fighting crime as Batman, just that Bruce Wayne is a thoroughly decent human being who once helped her out of an unpleasant situation, and that's enough reason to return the favor.
- Miracle Queen Aftermath has Chloe facing serious consequences for her actions during the Season 3 finale of Miraculous Ladybug. In an effort to drum up support for her student, Ms. Bustier attempts to turn this into a school project, wanting the rest of her class to write letters about how wonderful she is. Given how Chloe has been an unrepentant Alpha Bitch who bullied and harassed her peers for years, the assignment doesn't work out as planned.
- In Zootopia, Judy saves an innocent bystander in Little Rodentia from being crushed by a runaway donut. It didn't seem important at the time, but when she and Nick cross Mr. Big and are about to be "iced", that same bystander, revealed to be his daughter, steps forward to return the favor and then some.
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Kiara tries to vouch for Kovu when he says he had nothing to do with his pride's attack on Simba, knowing he wouldn't do such a thing because she can already tell "He loves me!" Her father refuses to believe her, and when her lover is exiled, she goes to find him and bring him back on her own.
- In the Adam Sandler film Billy Madison, Billy calls one of his old classmates to apologize for bullying him when they were in school. The classmate reacts calmly, but after he's hung up the phone, he crosses Billy's name off of his "People to Kill" list. At the end of the movie, he shows up when Eric, the villain of the movie, is trying to kill Billy and shoots Eric (not fatally).
- "Man, I'm glad I called that guy."
- The 1999 movie Election: the same janitor whom Mr. McAllister unknowingly offends during the opening credits is also the person who reveals McAllister's tampering with the election at the end of the movie.
- In The Living Daylights, James Bond and Kara fight their way out of a corrupt prison in Afghanistan. While escaping, they free the prisoner in the next cell on a whim. The prisoner turns out to be a leader of the Afghan Resistance, and becomes a valuable ally.
- Crops up memorably in Scent of a Woman. Charlie Simms has been dragged around New York City by the retired, blind, and terminally irritable Colonel Slade who he is supposed to be babysitting. His fortitude pays off, however, when Slade unexpectedly intercedes before the school's disciplinary committee which has been convened to force Charlie Simms to testify against his classmates or be expelled. The colonel's speech is the paradigmatic movie speech, beginning a bit roughly, moving into a withering indictment against the establishment, and ending in thunderous applause.
- In Spider-Man, Spider-Man is helpless, holding up Mary Jane and a cable car full of kids, while the Green Goblin comes in for a lethal attack run. Then, he starts getting pelted with objects and distracted. As one New Yorker puts it:
Bystander: You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!
- In the infamous Steel movie, the titular character starts his crime fighting career by saving a couple from some muggers. Later on, when Steel is wanted by the police the same couple is called to pick Steel from a line up where John Henry Irons is present. The couple recognizes him, but they claim they had never seen him before. Likewise, a police officer Steel saved from an explosion by jumping on him claims John Henry Irons isn't Steel when taking a close look at him.
- In The Revenant, the hero frees the Ree chief's daughter when she is raped by one of the French. In the final scene, when he encounters her again with the Ree, they spare his life in recognition of his good deed.
- At the end of Baby Driver, multiple character witnesses testify in Baby's trial, ensuring he gets a shot at parole five years into his 25-year sentence.
- In Training Day, the main character Jake rescues a girl from being raped; she drops her wallet as she runs away, and he pockets it. Later, the main character captured and is about to be killed by a group of gangsters, they find the wallet in his pocket, and demand to know where he got it; it turns out the girl he rescued is actually the cousin of the gang leader, and after they call her in and she tells the story as a character witness, the gangsters decide to let Jake go.
- At the beginning of Tumbleweed, Jim Logan saves the life of the wounded Yaqui warrior Tigre. This saves his life twice later in the movie. First, Tigre's mother turns him loose rather than torturing him when she recognises him as the man who saved her son's life. Later, Tigre breaks Jim out of jail when there is a lynch mob coming for him.
- In The Tinderbox, a soldier has a magical tinderbox which enables him to summon large-eyed dogs to do his bidding. He uses the dogs to get a look at the princess of the kingdom, with whose beauty he falls deeply in love, but is captured and sentenced to be burned at the stake. While in prison, he catches the attention of a boy and recruits him to retrieve the tinderbox from his room at the inn, which he later uses to escape. The boy does this for him, because he remembers the soldier buying food for his family when they were impoverished.
- Going Postal. The first letter delivered after years of no service brings unexpected benefits for the hero after a huge catastrophe.
- Prior Philip in The Pillars of the Earth is betrayed by a monk named Remigius, the former deputy prior, as part of a plot by the prior's enemies. Later on, he forgives Remigius and allows him to return to the monastery rather than live in poverty (Remigius' allies having since discarded him). And a good thing, too, as Remigius is the only person in the world with the information that can save Philip from a witch hunt at the climax.
- The Hollows: Rachel Morgan, shunned, gets assistance in the unlikely person of a TSA operative since Rachel helped out his grandmother once.
- October Daye: There's a cab driver named Danny that doesn't let Toby Daye pay because Toby helped his sister once.
- Thursday Next doesn't have to pay a diner waitress because of her heroic actions in a war in the past.
- Don Quixote: Hiliarously subverted by Andres and Tosilos, who come back Laser-Guided Karma not in defense, but against our protagonist.
- Andres, a boy that Don Quixote thinks has rescued at chapter IV part I shows up again at Chapter XXXI part I. Don Quixote wants him to defend his Chivalric Romance delusions, but instead Andres denounces him with a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! speech and left.
- Lacquey Tosilos appear at chapter LVI of the second part when Don Quixote is trying to We Help the Helpless, and comes back in chapter LXVII to inform Don Quixote that all was a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
- In The Ramayana, Vibhishana advises King Ravana not to kill a messenger from the enemy army. Some chapters later, Vibhishana has switched sides and the protagonists are debating whether or not he's trustworthy. The messenger vouches for Vibhishana, because his previous actions showed him to be a man of honor.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, at one point John Crayford is convinced by Amicia to go and rescue a pack of Wild golden bears (in the setting, golden bears are sentient and have their own civillization). In the next book, when him and his group are under the attack of the Wild, the same pack swoops in and saves them in turn.
- The main emphasis of The Count of Monte Cristo is the Count's revenge on the four men who had him imprisoned. One frequently-overlooked plot point has the Count discovering that Monsieur Morrel, his employer when he was arrested, had made a valiant effort to try and get Edmond Dantes (the future Count) released, as he was convinced of Dantes' innocence. Morrel was taking a dreadful political risk in doing so, due to the struggles between royalist and Bonapartist groups that were convulsion France at the time and were in part what led to Dantes' imprisonment. By the time Dantes escapes and becomes the Count, Morrel's shipping company is on the verge of bankruptcy and his family's honor is ruined because of his inability to pay his debts. Using the alias of "Sinbad the Sailor", the Count repays his old employer by buying out and paying off the company's debts, giving them a brand-spanking new merchant ship to replace the one that had recently been destroyed in a storm, and also providing a generous dowry for Morrel's daughter. Monsieur Morrel would die soon after, but his good name and family honor were both fully restored.
- Dumbledore tries to serve as this for Severus Snape in the Back Story for the Harry Potter series. He made the former Death Eater a member of the Order of the Phoenix over most of his soldiers' objections and insistence that the man could not be trusted. The catch was that Snape swore him to secrecy about the reason for his defection, so Dumbledore could never explain why he trusted him. While some like Lupin were willing to accept this and trust Dumbledore's judgment without question, others like Sirius were not. Harry doesn't find this particular witness credible on this point until a major revelation at the very end of the series.
- Acts of the Apostles includes the story of how Saul, one of the most notorious persecutors of the early Church, was shown the error of his ways by Christ Himself as he traveled to arrest yet more of His followers. Now calling himself Paul, he was eager to join the Apostles and help them spread the Word of Christ, but their reaction was basically, "How stupid do you think we are?" Fortunately, a believer named Barnabas ("Son of Encouragement") convinced them he had indeed been changed by his experience on the road to Damascus, goy them to let him join the group, and the rest is history.
"And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out." Acts 9:26-28
- Turns up, oddly enough, in The Mighty Boosh, albeit in a uniquely absurd fashion. While looking for Howard, who left his job to become a binman, Vince gives £58.30 (via credit card) as well as his beautiful cape to a hobo who thinks Vince is a lady. Later on, when Vince and Howard are fighting a magic-fueled, crack-addicted fox in the sewers, the hobo shows up out of nowhere, attacking the Crack Fox long enough to allow Vince and Howard to run away. Yeah...
- In several episodes of The Pretender, starting with the pilot, Jarod takes time out from his mission to help somebody in trouble, and they repay him at the end of the episode by helping him evade the Centre operatives hunting him.
- The finale offered a parade of previously-wronged guest stars testifying about what horrible people the protagonists were as an excuse to end with a clip show.
- A similar example happened in the earlier episode "The Cadillac": Jerry's dad Morty is being accused of embezzling funds from the office of condo president with Morty's new Cadillac being cited as proof (the Cadillac was given to Morty by Jerry as a gift, but the guy accusing Morty doesn't believe Jerry is talented enough to make that much money). Morty's sole favorable testimony is from an old woman who, unbeknown to Morty, Jerry had stolen a marble rye bread from in an earlier episode. Once she remembers that incident, she withdraws her support and Morty is impeached from condo president. That lady would once again show up in the aforementioned finale.
- The A-Team, "Recipe for Heavy Bread". While the titular team were imprisoned in a Vietnam POW camp, the head cook, Lin, slipped food to Hannibal, Face, B.A., and Murdock, keeping them alive. Years later, when he's being targeted for execution by the camp's old leader, he encounters them again. They remember what he did and are happy to take on the job of saving him pro bono.
- In Conquests of the Longbow, whether or not Robin Hood ends up with Maid Marian, ends up alone, or gets hanged in the ending depends partly on how many Character Witnesses he manages to impress.
- An indirect example occurs in City of Heroes when a member of a villain group gives you the information you're seeking because you once saved his cousin, though he doesn't tell you who that person was.
- Quest for Glory II ends with the hero (your character) having a formal audience with the Sultan of Shapeir, surrounded by people he's helped throughout the game. Everyone has some very nice things to say about the hero. At the end of it, the Sultan publicly adopts the hero as his own son and therefore the Prince of Shapeir, as an Awesome Momentof Crowning. Now that is gratitude that more heroes should receive.
- There are two seemingly inconsequential quarians Shepard meets in Mass Effect 2: the first, Veetor'Nara, is a traumatized adolescent who just witnessed the abduction of an entire colony; the second, Kal'Reegar, is a marine who was sent out to protect Tali from being captured by geth. If you send Veetor home to the Migrant Fleet instead of having Cerberus interrogate him, and if you make sure Reegar survives the mission on Haestrom, during the trial you will have the option to "Rally the Crowd" (alongside interacting with the members of the Admiralty Board to finally uncover the real reason why Tali is being on trial in the first place) and they will speak up to vouch for Tali's innocence (Reegar in particular has a few very choice words for the Admiralty Board about their attitudes).
Reegar: Tali's done more for this fleet than you assholes ever will!
- Gets lampshaded if you talk to the Admiralty Board afterward, as one of them points out that you didn't actually prove anything. However, in a greater scale as found out in the sequel, this will help provide more options for Shepard and co. when they finally put an end to Quarian-Geth conflict if Tali is still affiliated to the Quarians, most preferably if she wasn't exiled back at the second game.
- In Mass Effect 3, if you saved the original council, the asari councilor will point out that when they distrusted Shepard, they ended up being wrong. This is helpful to ensuring that you can talk down Kaidan or Ashley, whom Udina is trying to convince that you're still a willing member of Cerberus, without killing them.
- If you send David Archer from 2's DLC to Grissom Academy, he vouches for you to some scared kids during the Cerberus raid there.
- During the first few minutes of Chrono Trigger, you can run around a fair talking to various Non Player Characters and crash into a young girl. The girl turns out to be the local Rebellious Princess, and when Chrono is put on trial for kidnapping her, the NPCs show up and either speak up for you or perform a character assassination based on what you did or didn't do (brought a girl her lost kitten back, let Marle browse around the shops, ate an old man's lunch, tried to sell Marle's locket...). The outcome is the same no matter what, though you are given some free healing items based on the number of people who spoke in your defense.
- In Love and Capes Mark got a ride home from a planet where he'd been stranded by hitchhiking. The aliens who picked him up don't generally pick up hitchhikers, but they were glad to do it for him because he'd saved their planet from being destroyed.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is found by a poor farmer's family and he treats them with the utmost courtesy and kindness while he bunks with them. Later, when the hero is presented by the region's duke to help with the Unseelie crisis and the public incorrectly scoffs that he is one of the enemy too, that farmer steps up to praise Quentyn's character and that wins over the crowd.
- In General Protection Fault, Fooker is accused of murder as part of an elaborate plan by Trudy, and since he was on a mission for the U.G.A., all the evidence that would provide an alibi is classified. The group is hoping that his best friend Chuck can help them, but Trudy has Chuck serving her with a chip that she can use to cause him pain, and forces him to testify that he knew Fooker was planning the attack and that he knows where Fooker has a cache of (planted) weapons, which is the final nail in Fooker's coffin.
- In Fred's case, when he's being sued for libel by Trent, several of his fellow employees speak up for him, and suggest that Trent was the one who had been the aggressor and had caused trouble for Fred. Trent's lawyer complains about this wasting their time, and what enables Trent to win is that his claim that Trent had tried to kill someone was, in fact, true.
- After Tommy and Ranboo rob and burn down George's house on the Dream SMP, Dream and George take Tommy to court, demanding he be exiled. At first, Tommy denies everything, but when George points out that Ranboo was there too, Tommy admits it was him, but insists he acted alone to get Ranboo out of trouble. Later, after Tommy's attempt at blackmailing Dream goes south and Tubbo accuses him of being selfish, Ranboo comes to Tommy's defense.
Ranboo: Tubbo... You said that Tommy was selfish. You said that Tommy doesn't care about anyone else. That's not true. I robbed George's house, too. I did it with Tommy. But in court, he said that it was just him. He could've pinned the blame on me. He could've said that it was me, there was evidence that it was me. But he didn't. He's not selfish. He can't be selfish.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- In the episode "Jet", Sokka helps an old Fire Nation man, who later helps him convince his village to evacuate before it is flooded.
- Toph tries to serve as this when Prince Zuko FINALLY completes his long overdue HeelFace Turn in Season 3 and asks the heroes to let him join them and help them stop his father from conquering the world. Their reaction is quite understandable: "You can't possibly think that any of us would trust you, can you? I mean, how stupid do you think we are?!" Toph is the only one who believes him because A) she's a Living Lie Detector, and B) she joined the team a season after everyone else and has no personal history with him and, therefore, no grudge to overcome. Even though her friends can't deny she's right about him telling the truth, she fails to get anyone to agree he deserves to be forgiven and that they would be smart to accept his offer. Painful misunderstandings ensue until events persuade everyone to believe Zuko's now on their side.
- Subverted in the first episode of Wolverine and the X-Men. Wolverine saves an entire family, and one of them turns him in to the Mutant Patrol first chance he gets.
- Played straight in X-Men: Evolution when army officers are about to arrest Rogue and Kitty on. The major tells his troops to stand down as Rogue had saved him from being hit by a car.
- There's a Jamaican cab driver who goes by "Mouse" on Spider-Man: The Animated Series who tries to be available for the webslinger because he saved her from a mugging.
- In Steven Universe, Steven frees Lapis Lazuli from her imprisonment and heals her gem, allowing her to fly back to Homeworld. This pays off a season later where she warns the Crystal Gems of an impending invasion and sacrifices herself to lock away The Dragon - all for Steven who helped her.
- The Lion Guard:
- None of the Pridelanders initially believe Makuu, who took over leadership of the crocodiles, really has any intention of changing his ways and being "a good leader." Only Simba is willing to trust him, and while he makes sure the Guard and the leaders of the other herds know he expects Makuu to be treated with the same respect they are, he can't order them to like him.
- When Janja switches sides, he goes to Jasiri — the hero who's helped him the most — first, and she takes him to King Simba and vouches for him. Simba and Kion still doubt they can trust him, until he gets a second witness — Makuu, who reminds Simba of how "you gave me a chance when no one else in the Pridelands would."
- In the Duck Dodgers episode "The Green Loontern", Dodgers saves Ganthet from being crushed by falling debris. Later, when the other Lanterns are accusing Dodgers of being one of Sinestro's agents, Ganthet speaks up on the duck's behalf, pointing out that an agent of Sinestro would not have risked their life to save anyone, let alone a Guardian.
- In legalese, a Character Witness is someone who attests to someone's moral conduct and good reputation in a court of law, without being able to comment on the specific facts of the individual case or suit. This is a form of "Character evidence", where aspects of a person's behavior and conduct are taken into account during the trial.