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Clear Their Name

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"It's clear to me that this trial was constructed with lies. And based off everything that I've seen, I think we can build a case strong enough to bring Johnny D home. And I'm not gonna stop til I've done that."
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

Someone is accused of a crime they did not commit, and must haul ass to prove their innocence.

Sometimes, the person accused of the crime is incapable of proving their own innocence for themselves. Maybe they've already been arrested or convicted, and had the key thrown away long ago. Maybe the evidence is stacked up against them and almost nobody believes them. Maybe they're just not badass enough to do it themselves. Either way, it's up to the hero to buck the odds and naysayers, find the evidence and Clear Their Name.

The poor sap locked up will usually have one person—often a beloved relative or a best friend (who's actually in love with them, hence their fixated devotion)—who remains committed to their cause, and who brings in the often-initially skeptical heroes to investigate the case. In some cases, the loved one's devotion to the wrongfully accused will persist even if the wrongfully accused has given up hope of being exonerated. If the hero's good enough, they may learn of the case independently and offer their services to the skeptical police, who are convinced they've got the right person locked up. In some cases, the police might be corrupt and actively perpetuating a Miscarriage of Justice in order to obscure the true culprit or another crime.

Given the nature of the trope, it usually occurs in media which involves defense attorneys or Private Detectives unaffiliated by the police, although particularly conscientious police officers may find themselves also working to clear some innocent's name.

Occasionally the person who's locked will up be guilty after all. Another popular twist is to have the guilty party be the one who wants the accused cleared (often because of feelings of guilt) but doesn't have the guts (or in some odd cases can't prove it as it looks like they're just taking the fall for them) to confess.

If it's the protagonist who has to prove themself innocent in the face of a false accusation, it's Clear My Name. May overlap with Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In an arc of Assassination Classroom, planted evidence makes everyone believe Koro-sensei is an underwear thief, causing his students' trust in him to dwindle. However, some of those students eventually catch on that while Koro-sensei is a pervert, there's no way he'd do something so low as stealing underwear, as losing his students' trust would be worse to him than dying. So they decide to investigate in order to find the real culprit and clear their teacher's name.
  • Takes place more than once in Case Closed, with people hiring Kogoro to prove that they didn't do something they've been accused of. Sometimes they're innocent, sometimes... well, they're not.
  • In Dengeki Daisy, Kurosaki's reason for becoming a hacker was to prove to himself (and everyone else) that his father was not really a traitor.
  • Victorique from Gosick does this for her mother back in her home town, where she was accused of killing a priest and was banished.
  • It's not really a crime, but it would count into this trope: In Kotoura-san, Yuriko's mother was falsely accused of having faked her Super-Senses and was eventually Driven to Suicide, an accusation that existed up to this day. This is Yuriko's motivation to study psychics and act as something akin of Hero Secret Service.
  • Variation in Monster: the hero, Dr. Tenma, is Wrongly Accused. However, he doesn't really care about clearing his name, considering stopping Johan, the actual culprit, much more important. However, some of his friends do care, and spend their time piecing together information in the interests of proving Tenma innocent.

    Asian Animation 
  • The Noonbory and the Super 7 episode "Ring Around the Dozegury" has Dozegury pin the blame of his mean tricks on Totobory, who is innocent. Noonbory initiates a mission to find the real culprit and prove Toto's innocence.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: The Little Detective, Weslie's friends are often accused of misdeeds they're not responsible for. Weslie gathers and presents evidence to prove that his friends are innocent.
  • The Simple Samosa episode "Samosa Mama" is about Samosa being taken to court for kidnapping Garlic, Green Pepper, and Mushroom, and having to get help from his friends Dhokla, Jalebi, and Vada to prove that he is not responsible for kidnapping them.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, the Bat-family teamed up to figure out if Bruce truly did kill his latest girlfriend in an attempt to protect his identity. The kicker comes from the fact that during this time, Batman basically said "screw this" and abandoned the Bruce Wayne identity completely.
    • Another Batman-related storyline, The Joker: Devil's Advocate, revolves around this: While vandalizing the post office, the Joker is suddenly arrested, tried, and sentenced to die for an incident involving poisoned stamps, but he insists that he has been framed and asks Batman to help him find the real perpetrator for the poisoned stamps and clear his name. Near the end, the real perpetrator is found and reveals himself, and the Joker is pardoned, just mere seconds before he is to be executed by the electric chair, knowing that his name is at least in the clear.
  • Captain Marvel: In a Captain Marvel arc tying in with Empyre, Carol Danvers (recently made a Kree Accuser) was assigned by Emperor Hulkling to track down and execute an apparent war criminal, a female Kree soldier, for destroying a Kree/Skrull city. When the Kree surrenders herself, she insists she's innocent but is willing to die an honorable death by a living legend. Carol decides to use her warhammer to see if the Kree truly isn't guilty, and not only does she learn that she's her half-sister Lauri-ell, she sees nothing that indicates she's responsible for the crime. Acting against Hulkling's order, Carol hides Lauri-ell on Earth and investigates who the true perpetrator is.
  • Laff-A-Lympics: In "The Discount of Monty Cristo", Dread Baron and Mumbly steal a magic credit card and frame Hokey Wolf. While Hokey is in jail, his friends try to find the card. Yogi and Boo Boo eventually trick Dread Baron into revealing the card to its owner and a cop.
  • In The Maze Agency #15, Lieutenant Bliss is accused of murdering her ex-husband. So Jennifer Mays goes undercover to find the real killer.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Annual #5 revealed that Spidey's parents Richard and Mary Parker had been secret agents who had been killed in action by by the second Red Skull, then framed as traitors as a final insult. Spidey then went on a quest to clear his parents' names.
    • Betty Brant cleared the name of her dead husband, Ned Leeds, in Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives, when she revealed that Roderick Kingsley was the real Hobgoblin (Ned was brainwashed by Kingsley to act as the Hobgoblin in situations where Kingsley didn't want to put himself at risk).
    • Subverted in Spider-Gwen. When Gwen reveals her identity as Spider-Woman to her father, he tries to stop the NYPD from targeting her for the death of Peter Parker. When he's removed from the case, he begins looking into the true story privately in order to clear her daughter's name. However, not only is Gwen technically responsible for Peter's death, as her fight with the Lizard-fied Peter Parker only worsened the effects of the poisonous serum, but Captain Stacy is eventually forced to admit that no one actually cares about what really happened. All people care about is having a scapegoat to blame all their problems on, and Peter's death gave them an excuse to use Spider-Woman as one. Captain Stacy quits his job and burns all evidence that Peter was the Lizard as a result.
  • Superman:
    • This was the very first act of heroism Superman ever performed, within the first two pages of Action Comics #1 - saving a girl falsely accused of murder, moments from execution, by revealing the real killer.
    • In The Hunt for Reactron, Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird have been framed for both the death of the hero Mon-El and the terrorist attack which destroyed Metropolis' water supply, and they need to capture the super-villain Reactron to uncover the true culprit.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: When the Holliday College students Eve Brown and Dorothy "Dot" Lord are accused of being Nazi spies and arrested, Diana quickly realizes they and eighteen others been set up to take a fall by Paula von Gunther. In order to decrease the security on her she's been pretending to give the US the names of other Nazi saboteurs, and for some reason the FBI is taking her at her word. Di spends the issue trying to prove the girls are innocent.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise: In "The Murder Frame" Willie is the victim of an expert Frame-Up and he and Modesty have to use all of their resourcefulness to clear his name and bring the real culprits to justice.

    Fan Works 
  • The first case of Blackened Skies sees the victim turning up in Kaede's lab, making her a prime suspect. However, on top of having to prove her own innocence, she also goes into the case aware that Mondo has the most obvious motive of the lot, and tries to protect them. Then she finds herself having to defend Kirumi once the suspect pool gets narrowed down.
  • One episode of Children of Time sees Sherlock Holmes framed for murder, and the Doctor and Watson must prove that his innocence before his sentence is carried out. They get their evidence, but not in time to keep Holmes from suffering an And I Must Scream sentence. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to reverse the process, and Holmes is physically all right... but mentally scarred.
  • Lincoln ends up doing this for Luan in The Fool Who Cried Foul after the comedian is blamed for sabotaging Luna's performance as the opening act for SMOOCH; it's not easy by any means but Lincoln sticks it out, even making progress when Lola's performance is sabotaged and he finds evidence that at the very least makes a good case for Luan being innocent of that incident (as it involved a remote control and unlike with Luna's concert, Luan was in full view of the entire family when Lola's act went wrong, meaning that Lincoln has several people who can confirm that Luan didn't have a remote).
  • The main character of Fractured Fates has to do this twice: the first time during the second trial for Asuna Izumi, the second time during the third trial for Saku Yamamoto (who is one of the victims of that case).
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Hermione is accused of the attempted murder of Draco Malfoy. He and she both have their memories magically altered so even she thinks she did it, and it's up to Harry to stop the Wizengamot from sending her to Azkaban.
  • In NUMB3RS story Manipulation, Don and the team have to do this when Charlie gets blamed for a series of murders they are investigating.
    • The Best Laid Plans: Alan is framed for the murder of Philip Breshers, who was previously put in prison due to Alan's testimony and then threatened Charlie when he came looking for Alan.
  • In Three Strikes, the efforts of Pixy, Clown, Genette, and the Razgriz are able to out several traitors and use the information they gathered to get the brass to pardon Trigger.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Call Northside 777, loosely based on the Joseph Majczek case, is an example of the intelligent late-1940s studio film at its finest. Jimmy Stewart is Chicago Times reporter P.J. MacNeil trying to find evidence that two men in prison for killing a policeman 11 years ago are innocent. This superbly acted, suspenseful picture was made in 1948, and showcased all sorts of post-WWII shiny new technology, like miniature cameras and photograph wire transfers. Venturing repeatedly into Older Than They Think - Technology territory, it was like CSI of its time. Now it's just amazing that Stewart managed to get the evidence he needed just with such "primitive" stuff.
  • Confidentially Yours is about a secretary who sets out to prove that her boss, who's the main suspect in a murder case, is innocent of all charges.
  • Double subverted in Counter Investigation: The 9 year old daughter of police chief Malinowski is raped and murdered, and after a hasty police investigation with little evidence, Daniel Eckman is arrested and convicted. Eckman proclaims his innocence, and Malinowski begins a counter-investigation to find the real killer, the main focus on the movie. Eventually, it is proven that another known child murderer was in the area at the time and Eckman is let out of jail. It is revealed that Eckman actually was guilty. Then it is revealed that Malinowski knew Eckman was guilty the whole time and deliberately did the investigation to get Eckman released so that he could kill him with his own hands in revenge.
  • In The Crime Doctor's Strangest Case, Jimmy Trotter comes to Dr. Ordway to clear his name after he is accused of murdering his employer.
  • Enola Holmes 2: Sherlock tries to exonerate Enola of Mae's murder throughout the film. He makes a couple of convincing Sherlock Scans pointing to another culprit, but is thwarted by new fingerprinting technology that supposedly places Enola at the scene with the murder weapon. The real murderer, Grail, is killed at the end while the mastermind, Moriarty, goes to prison, and Enola walks free.
  • Francis has to clear Peter's name when he is accused of murder in Francis Covers the Big Town.
  • The premise behind The Life of David Gale: a journalist tries to clear the titular character of murder charges while he is on death row but she is doomed to just barely fail to stop his execution, as the whole thing was a plan to end the death penalty by showing that innocents are killed with it.
  • The Life of Émile Zola is mostly about Zola working to clear Alfred Dreyfus's name of treason.
  • This is the plot of My Cousin Vinny, where the titular Vinny defends his cousin and his cousin's friend after they get accused of murder. Of course, this is also Vinny's first trial.
  • National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets: They're not trying to help an innocent person avoid jail, but rather clear the name of the main character's ancestor, who is being wrongly accused of assisting in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, when in fact he sacrificed himself to keep the South from regaining power based on a secret he discovered. A further twist is that the ancestor's name being smeared turned out to be an Evil Plan orchestrated by the antagonist.
  • In the film Primal Fear, Martin Vail is trying to clear the name of his client Aaron Stampler, and prove his innocence before the twist ending.
  • In Sin City, parole officer Lucille takes the cases for both Marv and John Hartigan and tries desperately to clear their names. She doesn't and actually gets killed in the process in Marv's story.
  • True Believer: Eddie Dodd and Roger Baron's goal on behalf of Shu Kai Kim. By the end of the film, they succeed.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger Rabbit is accused of murdering Marvin Acme in a jealous rage after detective Eddie Valiant made some incriminating photographs showing that Acme played patty cake with Roger's wife Jessica Rabbit. Now Eddie has to clear Roger's name.

  • Black Widowers: In "Friday the 13th", the guest is attempting to prove that an ancestor of his wife who was executed for attempting to assassinate Calvin Coolidge was actually innocent.
  • Ellery Queen tries to do this for a small-town man who refuses to speak in his own defense in the novel Calamity Town.
  • Daddy's Little Girl features both an inversion and a straight example:
    • An interesting inversion drives the plot. Investigative journalist Ellie Cavanaugh learns that Robson Westerfield, the man who was convicted of killing her sister Andrea, is being released from prison and plans on clearing his name, insisting he didn't kill Andrea. Ellie is still convinced he's guilty and sets out to prove his guilt once and for all.
    • Part of Ellie's motivation for trying to prevent Rob's conviction from being overturned is not just for the sake of her sister, but because the Westerfields and their supporters are trying to push the narrative that Paulie Stroebel was the real killer; Paulie is a vulnerable man with an intellectual disability and Ellie is repulsed at the thought of the crime being pinned on him, especially as half the town already regards him as an alternative suspect.
  • The entire purpose of Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne. While Dolores is responsible for her husband's death, Vera's death is a genuine accident.
  • In Heist Society, Kat is dragged back into the family business when her father is accused of stealing from a very dangerous man. The only way to keep her father and the rest of her family safe is to steal the paintings back.
  • Hercule Poirot:
    • In Five Little Pigs, Carla Lemarchant hires Poirot to clear her mother of her father's murder, even though her mother died in prison sixteen years earlier.
    • In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot clears Mr. Inglethorp of his wife's murder. Subverted, in that Mr. Inglethorp was the murderer and wanted to be put on trial quickly before the evidence which would convict him was found.
    • In Sad Cypress, Dr. Peter Lord hires Poirot to clear Elinor Carlisle of the murder of Laura Welman and Mary Gerrard, despite the fact that there's no other suspect, and the evidence seem to overwhelmingly point to Elinor.
    • In Towards Zero, Poirot's friend, Superintendent Battle must deal with this a few times. First, his daughter is accused of stealing from other girls in her school after being pressured to confess to the crime. This comes into play in the actual investigation, where the evidences seem to strongly implicate a particular suspect, whose mannerism in their eventual confession mirrors Battle's own daughter. This convinces Battle that the suspect is actually innocent.
    • In Mrs. McGinty's Dead, Superintendent Spence gets Poirot involved because the murder victim's lodger has already been convicted, but Spence isn't convinced. Apparently, his sullen, diffident demeanour during the trial was guaranteed to look unsympathetic to the jury, but in the Super's experience is entirely unlike how real murderers behave in court.
  • This is most of the plot of Iorich. Aliera was arrested on a very stupid, transparent charge and she refuses to talk to a lawyer or put up a decent defense. Vlad decides that even if she is a jerkass, he'd still prefer she didn't get executed, and he finds the idea of her owing him her life hilarious.
  • In the second book of the Knight and Rogue Series Fisk is called home to prove his brother-in-law innocent. Said brother-in-law, Max, was accused of having bribed several witnesses no falsely accuse two men so he could have them hung.
  • In Last Sacrifice, Rose is accused of regicide and goes on a quest to clear her name. Meanwhile, Lissa and her friends back at Court also gather evidence to clear Rose's name.
  • Lord Darcy: Master Sean is accused of murder twice.
    • In Too Many Magicians, the arrest is made solely to make Lord Darcy come to London and find the real killer. Everyone involved in the arrest knows perfectly well he's innocent.
    • In "The Bitter End", a bumbling Parisian sergeant arrests him on the grounds that a sorcerer ''must'' have done it note  and Master Sean is the first sorcerer the sergeant encounters during a very brief investigation.
  • Miss Marple, The Thirteen Problems:
    • In "The Thumb Mark of St Peter", Miss Marple's niece is suspected of killing her husband, if not by the police then certainly by the village gossips.
    • In "The Four Suspects", Sir Henry wants to identify which of the eponymous four suspects is a murderer, but thinks the most important thing is proving that three of them aren't.
  • In the 1925 novel Not Under the Law, protagonist Joyce Radway leaves home after a fight with her cousin and takes up residence in a city some miles away. No one knows what's become of her, but several months later she happens to see her hometown newspaper and discovers that a close childhood friend has been accused of her murder. She heads home in time to interrupt the trial and prove that she's still alive.
  • Partners in Crime: In the story "Finessing the King/The Gentleman Dressed In Newspaper", Inspector Marriot arrests the victim's lover, and tells Tommy and Tuppence repeatedly that it's an Open-and-Shut Case. Tuppence realises that he's trying to wind them up, since his instincts tell him the man is innocent, but is constrained by the evidence.
  • In A Passage to India, set in the British Raj, Dr. Aziz is falsely accused of attempted rape by Englishwoman Adela Quested, prompting his friends Cyril Fielding, Vikram Hamidullah, and Mahmoud Ali to rally around him. Adela ultimately withdraws her accusation.
  • In The Roman Mysteries book Slavegirl of Jerusalem, the main characters must clear the name of a slavegirl falsely accused of murder.
  • Sheriff Joanna Brady: One of the main reasons that Joanna stands for sheriff in the first book Desert Heat is to find out who framed her late husband as a Dirty Cop, and clear his name.
  • Needless to say, Sherlock Holmes did this on multiple occasions:
    • In The Norwood Builder, a young man was accused of murdering a wealthy old curmudgeon who had recently named him his heir. The story opens with him coming to Holmes for help. The old man faked his own death as he seeks revenge against the young man's mother for rejecting him in the past.
    • In Thor Bridge, Holmes's client is the husband of the victim, and wants Holmes to prove that his children's governess is innocent. Holmes determines that the victim staged her own suicide to frame the governess, who her husband had fallen in love with (the governess kept the relationship professional but encouraged the husband to become a better man).
    • In The Sussex Vampire, Holmes proved that the wife's apparent sucking of her child's blood was not malicious and had absolutely nothing to do with vampirism. She was trying to Suck Out the Poison, as the baby boy had been cut with a poisoned dart his jealous, hunchbacked older half-brother used on him.
  • In "The Theft of Leopold's Badge", Nick Velvet has to prove the innocence of rival thief Sandra Paris, who has been charged with murder.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Forlorn Death of Sally at the Crossroads", Holmes has to clear Doc Holliday from a spurious charge of murder.
  • Laurie usually tries not to take sides in the cases she investigates, but in The Sleeping Beauty Killer she can't shake the feeling that Casey Carter really didn't kill her fiance, despite the evidence against her, a jury finding her guilty and many other people - including Laurie's father and co-workers - being convinced she did it. Although she attempts to remain objective, Laurie is partly motivated to take the case to prove Casey's innocence. Although even Laurie starts to have serious doubts about Casey's innocence, in the end her investigation uncovers that Casey was indeed set up.
  • This is the plot of Sarah Caudwell's mystery Thus Was Adonis Murdered: Julia gets arrested for murder while on holiday in Venice, and Hilary has to remotely solve the murder so as to get her off.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird's main plot is an iconic example in American literature.
  • Wicked. Glinda volunteers to tell the Ozians that Elphaba isn't a wicked witch - but Elphaba makes her promise not to, so the government won't do the same to her to keep her quiet.
  • Another example from classic American literature is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Protagonist Kit is accused of witchcraft in Salem, and can't prove her own innocence. Luckily, her Love Interest Nat finds the child who can verify that she hasn't done anything wrong, and brings her to the courthouse in time to save Kit from conviction.
  • This happens to pilot Tycho Celchu in the X-Wing Series - he was briefly held by The Empire's mistress of brainwashing, so he's suspected of having been turned, they dumped thousands of credits into his bank accounts, he was seen with someone who from behind looked liked one of the prominent Imperials, and he was in position to kill Corran Horn. Who did not actually die. All the Rogues indicate that they think he's innocent, but not a lot of others share that opinion. It's mentioned that most of the evidence is circumstantial, but there's a mountain of it, so it looks like he's either guilty and made to look innocent through a clumsy frame, or innocent made to look guilty clumsily made to look innocent. This is what the bad guys intend, since his trial adds to the New Republic's problems-it's planned that evidence will be released to prove him innocent after he's been found guilty and put to death. Wedge Antilles eventually does find evidence of the real traitor Erisi Dlarit. It helps that just a few minutes prior, the "victim" had entered the courtroom (nullifying the murder charge in the process, but not the other charges), and had figured out not only the identity of the traitor, but also that one of the investigators—General Cracken, Intelligence chief—already knew that Tycho was innocent (but he did not if he wasn't a real Imperial agent, just framed in this case for some plot). Cracken, however, deliberately let the trial continue in hopes of flushing out the real traitor, and after the trial took steps to make sure that Tycho's good name was restored.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Accused: "Alison's Story" is focused on this after Alison gets framed for drug dealing by her abusive husband's cop father, as a means to get him full custody of their kids.
  • Andromeda:
    • In "All Great Neptune's Ocean" Tyr Anasazi is found standing over the dead body with the smoking gun (well, force lance) in his hand. His friends find out that the weapon has been manipulated to fire on a signal tone. Only then did Tyr draw it to get it under control.
    • Beka Valentine refers to this incidence, when in "Shards of Rimni" Dylan Hunt is found with the murder weapon in his hand standing next to the killer and arrested for murder. It turns out, Dylan has been set up.
  • The Battlestar Galactica episode "Murder On The Rising Star" has Starbuck accused of murder and Apollo struggling to find the evidence to clear him.
  • In Boston Legal, Alan and Chelina try to prevent the execution of a man in Texas who has accepted his death, despite probably being innocent. Unable to get a stay of execution before it's scheduled to happen, they watch as the preparations are made, desperately hoping for a phone call to tell them it's not to go ahead. The call never comes.
  • Chicago Justice: Atwater is exonerated after evidence comes to light that someone else in fact killed the man he was convicted of killing. Stone publicly apologizes over it.
  • In The Cosby Show, the Huxtable parents catch Theo with a marijuana joint in his notebook, and Theo insists that the joint isn't his. Despite their believing him, he still goes to great lengths to clear his name by confronting the boy who put the joint there.
  • Criminal Minds: This becomes the plot of the episode "25 To Life" when it turns out that a man who's just been paroled didn't commit the murders he was convicted of, and the hunt for the real killers begins.
  • Common in the CSI franchise. In the original, the team has to clear Nick of murdering a prostitute. And much later, Warrick of killing a gangster. CSI: NY has Hawkes and Danny both having to have their names cleared by Mac and the team at various times.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • The first episode of season 1 revolves around Matt and Foggy working to exonerate Karen after Wilson Fisk has her framed for murder.
    • In a minor one, Frank Castle is framed up by the Blacksmith for several murders committed after Frank's escape, including the murders of Reyes and Tepper, and shooting up Karen's apartment.
    • Matt gets in trouble in season 3 when Fisk "accuses" him of being an associate of his to give his FBI cronies reasons to harass him, Karen and Foggy.
  • Dead Gorgeous: In "Gold", Hazel learns that her old friend and sheep herder from her old life was jailed for thieving gold. She summons him up to try to discover the truth in order to win her legal case in an English class and help her friend pass on to the after-death.
  • In the case of Devious Maids, the reason Marisol is working as a maid for a wealthy couple is that her son is being framed for the murder of another couple's maid so she goes to work as a maid for one of their friends in order to find out the real culprit.
  • Ellery Queen: In "The Adventure of Caesar's Last Sleep", Sgt. Veelie is accused of the murder and Inspector Queen and Ellery have to clear his name.
  • Family Matters had an episode where a school lab accident was blamed on Urkel. Through some convenient lawyer skills on Laura's part, she discovered the true culprit.
  • Father Brown:
    • In "The Owl of Minerva", Inspector Sullivan is framed for murder. After breaking out of gaol, he is forced to team-up with Father Brown and his associates in order to clear his name.
    • When Bunty is arrested for murder in "The Scales of Justice", Father Brown, Mrs McCarthy and Sgt. Goodfellow have to scramble to find the evidence to clear her.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • This is a major overarching plot point during season one, as Barry seeks to clear his father's name after he was framed for killing his wife. The second season opening ep sees the real killer leave a posthumous confession.
    • Mid-way through Season Four, Barry is framed for the murder of current villain Clifford DeVoe, AKA the Thinker, when in reality DeVoe has transferred his mind into a new body. After the team decide not to plant evidence to clear Barry's name, they find a loophole when new teammber Ralph Dibny learns that his powers include a degree of shapeshifting, allowing him to pose as the still-alive DeVoe and get Barry cleared of the murder.
  • For Life: Some of the prisoners whom Aaron helps with their cases were he thinks also wrongly convicted.
  • Frontier Circus: In "Quick Shuffle", Ben is accused of murder and arrested. Casey and Tony have to find some way to prove that Ben acted in self-defence before the local Hanging Judge sentences him to swing.
  • In the 1987 BBC adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers' Have His Carcase, this trope is lampshaded by both Flora Weldon (the distraught widow and fiancee of Paul Alexis) and Lord Peter himself. After Alexis' body is finally found and an inquest is held, the coroner's verdict prompts comments that his name must be cleared of suicide. The book was written and set in the early 1930s and suicide was illegal for several centuries in England and Wales (until it ceased to be an offence with the passing of the Suicide Act of 1961).note 
  • Intergalactic: Ash's mother is determined to prove her innocence, and soon does with the help of a computer tech who reveals that the video footage which showed her stealing was faked. By the time she's ordered sent home instead of to a penal colony however, the ship she's on is seized by the prisoners.
  • In the popular and famous Korean television drama Jewel In the Palace, protagonist Jang Geum's main purpose throughout the entire story is to clear the name of both her deceased mother and her mentor (who were both framed, wrongfully accused and executed for a crime they didn't commit).
    • This trope commonly occurs in a lot of Asian historical dramas, normally in the form of children trying to clear the name of their parents. Justified in that family name is extremely important in such cultures.
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët: Every episode involves Lidia investigating murders her client (or later, her brother's actually) has been accused of to clear them. Only one case has them turn out to be really guilty.
  • There's been a few episodes in the Law & Order franchise where the detectives have had to either re-open an old case due to new evidence or have had to do a 180 on a guy they themselves locked up.
  • A rather convoluted example in Lizzie McGuire. After Lizzie and Matt end up switching minds for some reason, they have to cope with it for the day. Lizzie, in Matt's body, ends up learning that he (or rather, her brother) was being punished for a prank that (this time) Matt was completely innocent of involving soap and the drinking fountain. It turns out the person responsible was actually a kid who wanted revenge against Matt because he often ruins his pudding.
  • Matlock frequently uses this as a plotline.
  • In The Millionaire, each episode features somebody anonymously receiving a check for one million dollars from an Eccentric Millionaire. Several episodes revolved around people using their new money to investigate an injustice and clear someone's name.
  • Monk:
    • In Mr. Monk Goes to the Carnival, Monk, under secret orders from Stottlemeyer, has to covertly find evidence that Adam Kirk was actually framed for murder of a confidential informant, Gitomer.
    • Another episode of Monk dealt with Monk having to prove that a chimp was actually framed for shooting his owner.
    • He also has to prove that a Rapper, Murderuss, was innocent of the murder of his rival in the Rapping Industry via car bombing.
    • He also had to clear Willie Nelson's name.
    • Monk also had to clear Sharona's sister Gail's name of murdering a fellow actor during a play.
    • He also had to clear an entire union's involvement in a murder (and near murder of Stottlemeyer's wife).
    • He also had to clear the names of the Mob when it became apparent that someone from the minting press was involved, and at least once had to clear a dead guy's name when evidence was pointing to him for the recent murder.
    • He even once had to prove that Dale Biederbeck III was innocent of murdering or even arranging to murder a death-row inmate.
  • An absolutely standard set-up in Murder, She Wrote is that Jessica gets involved in order to clear the name of a niece or nephew who the police believe is the most likely suspect. This actually gets Lampshaded in one episode, when a prosecutor attempting to discredit her points out just how many of her relatives have been accused of murder, only for her to get them off.
  • The Musketeers:
    • The very first episode sees Athos framed for murder and robbery. Aramis and Porthos set out to clear his name, and D'Artagnan becomes involved since his father was one of the murdered.
    • Porthos in episode 5 was found passed out drunk next to a dead man, his gun and a melon.
  • Apparently contractually obligated for members of the main NCIS team, given that aside from possibly Gibbs and Abby, each of them has had a Clear My Name episode:
    • "Frame-Up" for Tony. A pair of severed legs is discovered near a local beach, and is initially viewed as a homicide. Evidence quickly amasses which point in Tony's direction, including his fingerprint found on the legs and a bite mark on one of the legs being an exact match to his teeth. Once Tony is thrown in jail, Abby throws herself into proving him innocent. She is finally able to trace the legs to a Jane Doe who died in a car accident, after which another plot becomes clear. Several years earlier, Tony had alerted authorities after a medical examiner had contaminated evidence which resulted in a convicted killer going free, and that same medical examiner was found to be in charge of the morgue where the unidentified young woman's body was found. The examiner is arrested, and Tony is released from jail and cleared of all charges. However, the storyline takes another turn when it is revealed that both Tony and the medical examiner had been targeted by none other than Charles, or Chip as commonly referred to, Abby's lab assistant. Apparently, he had been working for the same lab as the medical examiner and it had actually been him all along who had contaminated the evidence from the past case, the discovery of which also clears the medical examiner. Charles reveals all this to Abby just as she is about to stumble upon evidence that will implicate him, after which he tries to attack her with a knife. Almost simultaneously, the team upstairs discovers Charles' connection to the case and realizing Abby is in danger, they race down to save her. They enter the lab, finding a struggle having taken place, but are relieved to find Abby unharmed and Charles hogtied in duct tape. The episode ends with Abby asking, "Now can I work alone?"
    • "Probie" for McGee.
    • Both "Jeopardy" and "Shalom" for Ziva.
    • Played with in "Broken Bird" for Ducky. At first the team suspects he didn't do it, but he confesses. He only killed the young man out of mercy because healing him would mean he goes right back to cold, blooded torture. The young man's surviving sister chooses to not press charges, clearing Ducky of legal guilt but morally Ducky finds no absolution in this action. He must bear the weight until he dies.
    • Subverted for Gibbs, who actually did commit (no matter how justified) murder, and wasn't caught.
    • When Tony is briefly implicated for a murder in the episode "Bounce", his response is a dry "And to think I almost made it an entire year without being accused of murder."
    • Poor Agent Langer; he gets his name cleared posthumously.
  • Ryan in The O.C., when he is wrongfully accused of the attempted murder of his brother Trey, which was in fact committed by Marissa. Luckily for him, his friends are on hand to clear his name.
  • Nine times out of ten, this is the plot that Perry Mason has to deal with.
  • The Practice: Ellenor, Eugene and Jimmy struggle to do this for a death row inmate in Pennsylvania, facing an uphill battle even when they find new evidence casting doubt on his conviction. They eventually succeed.
  • Prison Break: Good thing Linc had Michael and Veronica.
  • In the first season finale of Profiler, Samantha is framed by her nemesis, Jack, for the murder of an unknown woman. Her colleagues manage to clear her in the second season premiere, though. Also, John has been suspected by being in cahoots with The Mafia, since his father's Family.
  • Shawn and Gus help a man freed from prison find out who committed the crime he was imprisoned for in the Psych episode "True Grits." One episode has another cop frame Lassiter to become the suspect of a murder. There's also an episode called "Gus's Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy," in which Gus' father is suspected of killing his Jerkass neighbor.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • One episode had Sam leap into an attorney preparing to enter his client's plea on a murder charge. He pleads "not guilty", which changes the original history of her taking a plea deal for twenty years so that she is instead sentenced to death. Sam then spends the rest of the episode trying to prove that his client killed in self-defense and ultimately, to even his own surprise, proves that his client did not kill the victim at all.
    • Season 5 featured a trilogy of episodes revolving around Sam's efforts to save Abigail Fuller from Leda Ader by leaping into different points in Abby's life ended this way. In a last desperate insane attempt to destroy Abby, Leda framed Abby for her own murder, by sneaking into Abby's kitchen and used a knife she knew had Abby's fingerprints on it to slit her own throat. Sam, having leaped into the attorney who was one of the only people in Abby's life who believed she was innocent of any wrongdoing, barely manages to clear her name.
  • Rizzoli & Isles:
    • In "Killer in High Heels", the entire team works tirelessly to prove that Maura is not a murderer when her date turns up dead and she has no memory of what happened.
    • In "Misconduct Game", Susie Chang is murdered and evidence planted to make it look like she had been falsifying evidence. Maura recuses herself from the case, and the rest of the team works to clear Susie's name and save the reputation of the forensic department.
  • This is a common plot in The Rockford Files, whether it's a relative of the accused or Jim's attorney friend Beth Davenport requesting that Jim clears an innocent person's name.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Colonel O'Neill is framed for the attempted murder of Senator Kinsey, and the rest of his team must clear his name. It turns out to be members of the rogue NID trying to stop Kinsey turning them in to boost his own political reputation.
    • Subverted in an early episode. Teal'c is put on trial for a murder. Which he actually did commit prior to his Heel–Face Turn. And he is willing to be executed to atone for it. Daniel ends up defending him, arguing that even though Teal'c did do it, he was following orders (with his own family's life at stake for disobedience) and chose a victim based on saving as many of the other prisoners' lives as possible.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Sins of the Father" Worf has to clear the name of his deceased father, who has been accused by the Klingon High Council of treason. This is Serious Business for a Klingon, as this means Worf and his descendants all become dishonored as well if his father can't be cleared. In a subversion, Worf is forced to take the heat and accept discommendation as if the truth came out, the Klingon Empire would be split into a Civil War due to the fact the real person behind the traitorous action was a powerful member of the Klingon Great Houses. This would last until the Klingon Civil War two years later.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Ex Post Facto", Tom Paris is convicted of murdering an alien scientist, and is punished by being forced to relive the victim's last moments repeatedly. Tuvok doggedly runs down the case, and discovers the doctor who performed the memory implantation was the real killer (who was using the implantation to smuggle weapons research to another local power, the hope being that they would capture Paris and scan the data from the implants).
    • Then in "The Chute", Tom and Harry are both convicted of a terrorist bombing and sent to a Hellhole Prison. Janeway and crew find the real terrorists, but discover that Tom and Harry's convictions cannot be overturned as the government doesn't want to admit that their justice system could be fallible. So instead Voyager has to break them out.
  • An occasional occurrence in Walker, Texas Ranger:
    • "An Innocent Man" has a man being blackmailed into pleading guilty to numerous murders he did not commit, and Walker races against the clock to find the real murderer before he is executed.
    • "Texas vs. Cahill" sees Alex being accused of killing the defense attorney in her current trial and sent to a women's prison where she has to contend with vengeful inmates she prosecuted in years' past. When Walker and Trivette work together with her father to find the real killer, they discover the real killer was Alex's current defendant, Lane Tillman, whose crimes were Caught on Tape.
    • "Deadly Situation" detailed rookie police officer and aspiring Texas Ranger Glenn Cooper, who is a descendant of the legendary ranger Hayes Cooper and a distant cousin of Walker's, taking the fall for corruption in his department, having busted three of his own for stealing evidence from a recent drug bust, which is later revealed to be four after those detectives are arrested by Gage and Sydney: his lieutenant turned out to be in charge of the operation and after Glenn gave him the original copies of the evidence, he tipped off the trio of him being onto their operation and set him and his partner up for their crime.
  • The Whole Truth: Judd Hirsch's judge character wants Jimmy Brogan's help to clear his name. It works but in reality he's guilty. He gets busted on a related charge at the end, though.
  • In the Wishbone episode "The Slobbery Hound," Wishbone is accused of causing trouble around the neighborhood. The audience knows that another dog, a bloodhound, is causing the trouble but when a neighbor "catches Wishbone in the act" (really having stepped outside too late to see the other dog), the main trio takes it upon themselves to figure out what really happened, even finding a piece of evidence that the adults all missed: namely Wishbone's teeth and paws are too small to cause the tooth marks and paw prints found at two of the scenes.

  • The music video for Madonna's "Like a Prayer" features a rowdy white gang who attack and gang-rape a white woman and leave her for dead, while a black man (portrayed by Leon Robinson) tries to stop it but they pin the crime on him and have the police arrest him. The heroine witnesses all that is happening, then goes to a church and intercedes with a black saint for help, then gathers up her courage and has to clear the black man's name of the murder.

    Video Games 
  • About the first 1/3 of Breath of Fire II is about Ryu persuing the culprit of a robbery his friend Bosch/Bow was accused of.
  • Darksiders II has Death, furious at the accusations towards War starting the End War, going on his own personal quest to absolve his brother at around the same time War himself is doing it. Knowing he likely can't find the true conspirators in the chaos of the war, he chooses instead to "erase" the crime War is falsely accused of by bringing mankind back from extinction.
  • In Emerald City Confidential, Petra, the resident private detective, is hired by Trot to investigate a ship explosion at the city docks. Though the authorities are convinced that the ship's captain caused the explosion, Trot is convinced that he is innocent and asks Petra to find who the real perpetrator is.
  • Early in Full Throttle, Ben's outlaw biker gang is arrested for the murder of Malcolm Corley, even though his VP Adrian Ripburger was real killer. Ben arrives too late to stop the murder, but manages to escape pursuit and spends the remaining game working to clear their name.
  • Gunpoint has you spend the first level accidentally implicating yourself in a murder and erasing the evidence to keep the police from arresting you. Unfortunately, this makes the police arrest Katie Collins, an innocent woman, as the "easy solution". You then spend several missions trying to recover the evidence that you erased (with the outcome pretty obvious) to clear her name. This ends poorly when, after a last-ditch effort to plant evidence and get Katie released, she kills herself in her jail cell. Her last message is that she didn't want to be a burden for anyone else anymore. You can cut her pretty deeply if you reveal that the reason that you can't get any evidence is because you deleted it, although this is optional.
  • Hiveswap: In Act 2, the main point of the Jadeblood trial is to prove that Daraya didn't commit the theft she was accused of. Starring Joey as the lead defense (aided by Tyzias). Even if Daraya herself is less than caring about it being done.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: The Exile has to prove that Dhagon Ghent didn't murder Captain Sullio.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The quest "The First Murderer" has Ryder asked by Nilken Rensus to prove his innocence. Not helping Nilken's case is that he and the guy he's been accused of killing were seen violently arguing before the first Andromeda colony went to crap, so he's a reasonable suspect. It eventually turns out Nilken is innocent of the murder... but not of attempted murder. By amazing coincidence, a kett shot the guy at the same time Nilken was planning on doing so.
  • The entire plot of Mirror's Edge is basically Faith trying to clear her sister Kate's name of Robert Pope's murder before she is locked away for life. She ultimately fails, and Kate is convicted, after which she has to break her free (twice). At the end of the game, they are both on the most wanted list.
  • Subverted in Persona 5 where Tae Takemi was framed and blacklisted by her boss, but is not the least bit concerned with proving her innocence. Focusing instead on completing a cure to save one of her patients. It can be played straight later on if Joker steals her boss's heart and makes him confess to his crimes.
  • In Sly 2: Band of Thieves Carmelita Fox got framed by Neyla for working with Sly Cooper whom she's supposed to arrest. Sly Cooper worked hard the rest of the game trying to clear her name which he did in the end.
  • There's a number of quests in The Witcher games, where corrupt and racist guards are about to execute people of some minority for apparently made up crimes. True to the general style of the series, the accusers may be biggoted asses, but their victims not much better either.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney is another one that stands with Perry Mason and Matlock. The goal in every case to clear the name of their client and determine the true culprit. A good third of the suspects even insist on pleading guilty, making the lawyer's job that much harder. In Investigations Edgeworth usually has to clear at least two suspects per case in order to get to the real murderer- even though he's usually a prosecutor!
    • Done twice in the second game's final case. First Phoenix accuses Adrian to get Matt cleared, then discovers that neither were technically guilty—Matt had hired an assassin to do the job for him. Phoenix must then clear Adrian's name in order to re-incriminate Matt, all the while pretending that he's still defending Matt.
    • In case 4 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, getting the culprit and clearing the defendant's name are the defense's only goals after the defendant starts suffering from an apparently mortal poisoning.
    • In case 4 of Trials and Tribulations, Mia takes on the case of a death row convict already convicted for murder once before. She very nearly gets him cleared on both charges, but he commits suicide rather than let the real killer, his Manipulative Bitch of a girlfriend, go to jail for her crimes.
    • This is the main goal of Dual Destinies, where Edgeworth helps Phoenix get his badge back in order to exonerate Simon Blackquill, a prosecutor (falsely) convicted of murder. Blackquill himself is in no mood to cooperate because he is Taking the Heat for his mentor's daughter and believes that he can't be acquitted unless said person is convicted in his place. The one he's protecting is Athena, of all people, who became a lawyer to get him free.
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, most of your classmates have a tendency to spring to conclusions, fingering the first and most obvious suspect. On top of this, the accused often act in ways that only make them look guiltier. Thus, it falls to you to clear the accused's name while working towards exposing the real culprit.
    • The first game's second case has a particularly twisty example: someone tampers with the crime scene solely to expose another's secret, meaning you have to clear them of suspicion before fingering the true murderer.

    Web Comics 

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has an uncommon variation where a reincarnation is accused of crimes committed in a past life. Aang is placed in jail while Katara and Sokka search for clues that would prove that Avatar Kyoshi, one of Aang's past lives, didn't murder the leader of an Earth Kingdom village 370 years earlier. Subverted when during the trial Kyoshi herself confesses to the murder.
  • In the third episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben and his team end up helping a human/Pyronite hybrid clear his name when he's accused of creating the crop circles that have been popping up all over his town. The real culprits were the DNAliens, who were turning the land into a giant circuit board to power a weather machine for their masters.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers:
    • This forms the basis for the pilot film that starts the series. The two chipmunks' personal hero is framed for stealing a priceless ruby, so they set out to clear his name and in the process meet their future teammates Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper.
    • In another episode, Fat Cat and his gang frame Flash the Wonder Dog with several crimes so Flash's role as the star of a TV show will be given to a cat. The Rescue Rangers set out to clear his name.
  • In one episode of DuckTales (1987), Uncle Scrooge is sentenced to prison for the theft of a priceless piece of art, thanks to some pretty damning evidence — footage from the museum security camera. Huey, Dewey and Louie believe in his innocence, however, and ultimately uncover the proof that it was really Flintheart Glomgold in an Uncle Scrooge costume.
  • Gravity Falls: In the episode Not What He Seems, Grunkle Stan is accused of stealing nuclear waste. It's up to Dipper and Mabel to find proof of his innocence. But instead they find proof of his guilt.
  • In the third act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus Private Eye", Mr. Anybody's watch was stolen by a mysterious criminal who had entered the house at night, even after Kevin the family bulldog's attempts to try and get the watch back only succeeds in the watch band getting broken in two and the thief escaping with the actual watch. When Mr. Anybody comes downstairs after hearing the racket and sees Kevin with the piece of the broken watch band in his mouth, he assumes that Kevin stole his watch, calls him a bad dog, then takes him outside as punishment. Bogus then works hard to see if he can solve the mystery and prove Kevin's innocence. The next night, when the thief returns, Bogus sics Kevin on the thief, who, this time, fails in trying to escape as Kevin catches him. After the thief is unmasked, he is actually revealed to be Ratty in disguise the whole time. When Mr. Anybody shows up again and sees that Kevin caught Ratty and got the watch back, he realizes that it was actually Ratty who stole the watch, thereby vindicating Kevin.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "Rarity Investigates," Rainbow Dash is accused of sending Spitfire away so she can take her place in the Wonderbolts' air show. However, after a little investigating from Rarity, it turns out the real culprit was Wind Rider, a retired Wonderbolt who framed Rainbow Dash out of fear that she would break his flight speed record.
  • Rugrats (1991):
    • A few episodes had Tommy try to prove the innocence of someone, usually Spike. This was difficult for him, since as a one-year-old baby, he couldn't talk to adults.
    • In one such episode, Angelica broke Tommy's favorite lamp, then rubbed the fact that none of the babies could reveal the truth about what happened to the adults. Unfortunately for her, she got too carried away with her Evil Gloating, failing to notice some of the adults entering the room...
  • The Simpsons:
    • The very first Sideshow Bob episode had Bart trying to clear Krusty the Clown of committing armed robbery. Bob pulled it off with a very convincing disguise, but was foiled when Bart pointed out that the real culprit (Bob), unlike the real Krusty, had really big feet. Bob and Bart have been Arch Enemies ever since.
    • Bart himself was suspected of having Principal Skinner murdered by gangsters after Skinner's keeping him in detention prevented him from getting to work at Fat Tony's club and caused Fat Tony a lot of trouble with a fellow crime boss. The mobsters do everything they can to make Bart look like the mastermind and make themselves look innocent, and it looks like Bart is going to go to jail until Skinner himself interrupts the trial and proves Bart's innocence. As it turns out, the reason Skinner disappeared was because he became trapped under a large pile of newspapers while cleaning out his garage. He was stuck for several days before he managed to free himself.
    • And the episode where Mayor Quimby's nephew is accused of assaulting a waiter, and Bart witnesses the fact that he is innocent. Bart struggles with the fact that if he doesn't testify, an innocent (if still a Jerkass) man will go to prison, but if he does testify, he'll be confessing that he was truant from school at the time in question.
  • One of the ongoing plotlines in Skysurfer Strike Force is clearing the name of the deceased, Dr. Adam Hollister, father of Jack Hollister aka Skysurfer One.
  • In the season 3 opener of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Mariner, believing that Starfleet would abandon her mother, Captain Carol Freeman, in the accusation of destroying Pakled Planet, decides to pull this trope to exonerate her mother. As it turns out, Starfleet was already certain of Freeman's innocence and had another group doing the same exact thing. Without the need to hijack any Starfleet vessels in the process.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "The Late Mr. Kent", Clark Kent interviews a thief who is a few days away from being executed for a murder but claims to be innocent. Clark's Super-Senses reveal a steady heartbeat and absolutely unwavering gaze, giving him the impression that the convict is telling the truth and inspiring him to investigate further. The thief really isn't the murderer and the real culprit tries to kill Clark to avoid being exposed.