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Convicted by Public Opinion

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Who cares what the court has to say? Justice is short for "just us"!

"Peter, you may have dodged your legal troubles, but things will get much worse. There is still the court of public opinion."

Usually when a person's guilt can't be proven (or has not yet been proven or disproven, without counting ridiculous technicalities) in a court of law, it is assumed that they are innocent. But in the court of public opinion, it tends to be the exact opposite. The public (or even the authorities) are convinced you're guilty; they just don't have enough hard evidence to prove your guilt. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the person in question is guilty. It just means that they have already been tried and convicted by public opinion. The public can either be completely right or dead wrong (and are usually the latter, per the Rule of Drama).

Whenever someone is placed in the dock accused of "Crimes Against Humanity", you can be pretty sure this trope is in full effect. The same goes for rape because Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil.


If the public is particularly displeased with a juridical decision, they might take the matter into their own hands. See Witch Hunt and Vigilante Execution, although the public does not necessarily have to be unjust and violent. If the convicted is convinced that it is hopeless to appeal, he might as well become the monster they asked for. Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty may be the only way the public will be convinced of the person's innocence.

Usually combined with Reformed, but Rejected. Compare Shamed by a Mob, Pariah Prisoner, and Pædo Hunt. See also Never Live It Down for the fan version. Insidious Rumor Mill is done to invoke this kind of reaction against someone to ostracize and isolate them.

This is sadly Truth in Television, but No Real Life Examples, Please! Though if you wish to read about that, The Other Wiki has articles on the court of public opinion and trial by media.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note: Kira gets much of the "evidence" for his executions from reading about them online. At the end, there is mention that people will sometimes post things about another person in the hopes that Kira will take notice and kill them.

    Comic Books 
  • Birthright: When Mikey is whisked away to another world, his father Aaron is accused of having killed him because they were last seen together playing in the woods and there no other witnesses. Even though there is no conclusive proof that incriminates him, Aaron is dragged through the dirt and the mud, his wife divorces him and their family disintegrates. When Mikey sees what happens in his home, this pushes him to do a Face–Heel Turn and side with the Big Bad to return home because he feels guilty his departure tore his loved ones apart.
  • One Diabolik had a character tried for the murder of her father and stealing a jewelled knife and acquitted for lack of evidence and a chance that Eva Kant (Diabolik's accomplice) could have done it while masked as her with Latex Perfection. But the public believes her guilty, and a Vigilante Man shoots her. Later the Vigilante Man is about to kill Diabolik for his many proven crimes... When he confesses that murder: according to him, Eva had decided to gift the knife to Diabolik (who liked it) and was stealing it while masked as that character when the father caught her and was about to attack her from behind, and Diabolik, who had guessed what Eva was doing and decided to cover her, killed him. In the end, it's not known if Diabolik had really done it or was just buying himself time, and the Vigilante Man is shown tormented by the possibility he murdered an innocent.
    • The very third issue of the series made strange use of this trope with Diabolik's own trial: Diabolik had done everything he was convicted for and then some, but at the time there was no evidence that Diabolik even existed, and it's made clear that Diabolik was convicted and sentenced to death purely because the public had already convicted him and wanted the King of Terror dead. This would end up saving Diabolik's life years later: in the issue Stop the Guillotine, an activist opposing the death sentence uses knowledge of this Kangaroo Court to try and get the trial annulled with the intention of personally get Diabolik convicted and sentenced to life in jail, and the attempt, while failed, kept Diabolik away from the guillotine long enough for Eva to break him out.
      • To make even more clear that Diabolik had been convicted on non-existent evidence, there's the matter of Walter Dorian, a man identical to Diabolik whose identity was being used by the King of Terror: after being arrested, Diabolik admitted having murdered him, but not only this happened in a foreign country (something that Diabolik didn't specify), but, as pointed out by the activist, it later emerged that Walter Dorian had survived the assassination attempt, and had been kept imprisoned on trumped-up charges by a military junta until he escaped in the chaos of a revolution. By the time of Stop the Guillotine, Diabolik had found out that Walter Dorian was still alive and killed him upon realizing that Dorian had killed two of his mentors.
  • Rocky: Lampshaded in one strip where Rocky is talking to some guests at a party about how he hopes he's never arrested for anything because even if he's found innocent and released, the public believes anyone accused of a crime is guilty, and them being released is just because they don't think the courts can do its job properly. As an example, he brings up a publisher he worked for decades earlier who he years later had heard was accused of owning child pornography. This immediately backfires as the guests start gossipping about Rocky being molested by his employer.
  • Vigilante: Leonard Kord is released after the real attacker confessed to the attack Leonard had spent years in prison for, but the public still considers him guilty of the attack and he gets attacked and his home surrounded by an angry mob preventing him from getting any work and ensuring he gets blamed for any "fights" where he tries to defend himself from his assailants. He's eventually murdered by the Electrocutioner for a crime he did not commit.

    Comic Strips 
  • A fairly early storyline in Pogo centered on Albert being accused of eating the Pup-Dog. One strip cut to a bunch of crotchety old lady... animals... on a porch talking about the news, all certain he was guilty. In the end, Albert was found innocent when the Pup-Dog showed up from wherever it was he'd gotten off to. Cut back to the old ladies on the porch, positively incensed that Albert "got away with it" and bemoaning the "travesty o' justice" that had occurred. Even though the "victim" was very much alive and well.

    Fan Works 
  • Played With in First Try Series, where Sakura's mother, Barako, tries to get Tetsuo, Kakashi and Naruto run out of Konoha for daring to stand up to her and taking her daughter on a months-long training trip. Danzo, Tetsuo's grandfather, takes offense and turns it around so that all of Konoha thinks that Barako's a terrible parent.
  • Some Harry Potter fanfics where Sirius Black is acquitted have the Wizarding World believing he's guilty. One, in particular, has Sirius Black unable to gain custody of Harry until he found an old law stating orphans of wizarding parents cannot be raised by muggles for as long as a magical guardian remains available. The Minister was quite unhappy with this development but, having to uphold the law, couldn't prevent it.
    • Other fanfics posit that Sirius was sentenced without a trial because the public was already against him and the Ministry was afraid a trial would lead to a riot or similar discontent.
    • In a specific example, Growing Up Black, when they discover that Sirius had apparently married a pureblood witch and produced a son (in reality Harry, having been magically disguised as Sirius son), the remaining Blacks manages to get Sirius released from Azkaban, not by proving his innocence, but through proving he didn't get the preferential treatment at his trial a pureblood is entitled to. Almost everyone still thinks he's guilty, assuming that he bribed his way out, despite this being impossible even through the most shameless corruption of the ministry.
  • Adrien Agreste falls victim to this in The Karma of Lies. After his father is unmasked as Hawkmoth, Adrien is naturally regarded with suspicion, which is only made worse by Lila Rossi painting herself as an Unwitting Pawn played by both of them. While Adrien knew her true nature, he doesn't bother revealing it until after she betrays him, making it appear as though he's trying to set her up as The Scapegoat. His Lack of Empathy for others doesn't help him much, either.
  • Represented in Redaction of the Golden Witch by the Conspiracy Theorist Karl. He's convinced that the Sole Survivor of the Rokkenjima Incident must be responsible, and all of his theories twist facts and speculation around to support that singular conclusion. He's far from the only Witch Hunter who feels that way.
  • In Two Moons, post-Duel Trixie is treated as ponysona non grata all over Equestria despite being officially pardoned by Celestia. Celestia actually has to save her from an angry mob right in the middle of Canterlot, and notes with extreme displeasure that the royal guards were just standing around and letting it happen.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The whole point of Absence of Malice, in which an innocent man's entire life is ruined because an anonymous tipster's claim that he's involved in a current murder case gets published in the newspapers.
  • Fury had a man arrested because "it seems he knows more than he lets on" about a kidnapping. Gossip Evolution inflates it into everyone "knowing" he's the kidnapper, forming a Lynch mob, and burning down his prison. He barely escapes and is definitely not happy...
  • While this trope held true for Yanni Yogi in his appearance in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the movie showed even more how hated he was after getting a Not Guilty verdict. When the judge gives his ruling, everyone in the courtroom buzzes angrily, instead of applauding or cheering him on. The very next scene shows him going home to find his house plastered in papers that call him a murderer and demand that he move out. The harassment gets to be so bad that his wife is Driven to Suicide.
  • In Ryan's Daughter, when revolutionary Tim O'Leary is arrested by the British on a tip from Tom Ryan, the villagers of Kirrary are convinced that the one who tipped off the British is Ryan's daughter Rosy, whom they know to be having an extramarital affair with the local British CO, Major Doryan, and whose house is just downhill from the army base. They show up at the schoolhouse where she lives with her husband, declare that she has been found guilty, and strip her of her clothes and shave her head, all while Tom is too frightened for his own life to admit the truth.
  • In Secret Window, when Mort Rainey is eventually revealed to be the killer, Sheriff Dave Newsome interrupts Mort's nonchalant casual conversation and bluntly says in a matter of fact tone something to the effect of "Both you and I know what you did. We can't find the bodies, but we'll find the bodies and we'll link you to them. And eventually, put you away." And of course, since he's a split personality murderer, Mort was completely confused by the sheriff's out-of-nowhere comment. Also, the locals are completely freaked out by him. So much so the sheriff wanted him to stop coming into town at certain parts of the day. The implications are strongly granted, but the authorities still never found the bodies.
  • Discussed in Sin City where the powerful Roarke family can get enough public approval to not only get away with crimes, but the citizens of Basin will gladly put an innocent man behind bars before you can say Crapsack World award.
  • In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Peter Parker manages to avoid criminal charges after his Frame-Up by Mysterio, but half the country is still convinced he's a murderer (thanks in no small part to J. Jonah Jameson), with protesters and counter-protesters assembling outside his high school in the morning and people throwing bricks through his apartment forcing him and Aunt May to move in with Happy. The breaking point that leads Peter to seek a way to erase everyone's knowledge of his identity comes not from a villain's Evil Plan, but from MIT, who explicitly rejected him and his friends for their attachment to Spider-Man and his controversy.
  • Used in the film Stand by Me. Chris Chambers admits to stealing the milk money but was still irritated (though not terribly surprised) by the fact that people automatically assumed he took it solely because of who he was. What really hurt him, though, was that the teacher he returned it to took advantage of that fact and kept the money for herself.

  • A recurring theme in Agatha Christie stories, alongside the distrust that builds between suspects personally, often family members. "It is not the guilty that matter, but the innocent."
  • In Stephen King's original book version of Carrie, the after-the-fact articles and book snippets make it clear that, after the "Black Prom", Sue Snell and Tommy Ross were blamed by the public and by investigators for driving Carrie over the edge, recast as an Alpha Bitch and her Jerk Jock boyfriend so as to have an easy scapegoat.
  • The Cutie: Clay was shunned by his friend and family after a fatal drunk driving accident in college which he was in fact guilty of but avoided being arrested for.
  • In Doctrine of Labyrinths the populace nearly stones Felix to death when Stephen drags him through the city streets on the way to his trial — unfortunately, he's innocent. This trope also comes into play during the trial itself, where he's perceived as guilty from the start despite no real evidence. While Felix obviously didn't deserve to be so brutally abused and humiliated, it's implied that if he hadn't made so many powerful enemies by being an asshole during his own time on the curia then his former colleagues might not have condemned him so hastily, possibly giving him a fair hearing instead of just revelling in his downfall. It was only partly Felix's fault though - the fact that he's gay, low-born, and a former prostitute would've created a bias against him regardless.
  • The Encyclopedia Brown mystery "the Case of Sir Biscuit Shooter" involves a friend's uncle who had spent time in prison, but had gone straight and was now working in a circus. His role was a clown named Sir Godfrey Biscuit Shooter, who wore a VERY noisy "armor" made of pots and pans. Later, Sir Biscuit Shooter is accused of knocking out the star of the circus and stealing her money—all because he had been in prison. Many of the circus performers think Sir Biscuit Shooter is the guilty one. Encyclopedia proves the thief was the bareback rider who wore soft slippers and was able to move stealthily. Sir Biscuit Shooter couldn't have pulled off the crime undetected as the clanking of his pots and pans would have given him away.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Oh so many times. The wizarding public changes their mind about whether Harry is the savior of their world or a spoiled celebrity (a status that was forced on him mind you, not that his feelings mattered at all) more times than they change their robes.
    • Also Frank Bryce from the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, who was nearly convicted for the murder of Voldemort's muggle family. The villagers continue to treat him with suspicion and a Know-Nothing Know-It-All attitude even after his name is cleared, as they have no idea what happened to the Riddles.
    • Sirius Black is a partial example. While he was convicted (without a trial), his infamous reputation went well beyond the crime for which he was originally convicted. For example, Stan and Ernie of the Knight Bus believed him to be Voldemort's right hand and an Ax-Crazy Psycho Supporter.
    • In the case of Barty Crouch, Jr., it's implied that he was convicted on flimsy evidence because the public was crying for blood. Subverted when it turns out he was guilty after all. After his supposed death, though, the tide changed and people started to feel sorry for him just because he was condemned by his own father without any of the evidence actually changing. If only they knew... The movie decided not to bother making it ambiguous, most likely because of time restraints, and had him frothing at the mouth crazier than Bellatrix Lestrange herself.
    • Also mentioned by Ron when they find out Hagrid is half-giant: while any who know Hagrid know he'd be incapable of the mindless violence giants are known for, most people don't know Hagrid and it's this, coupled with Fantastic Racism and Malicious Slander, in a cocktail of vileness concocted by Skeeter and Malfoy and his cronies.
    • Ludo Bagman inverted this in his trial — even though there was still some good evidence against him and he could well have been guilty (though he wasn't), he was also a popular Quidditch player and charismatic (in a sociable if not smart way) enough to quickly get the jury on his side. Before long, the trial stopped being about the charge of selling secrets to a Death Eater and started being about how fantastic Bagman had been against Turkey shortly prior.
  • In Harlan Ellison's short story "Hitler Painted Roses", souls go to Heaven or Hell based on how good people think they were. In the story, an Expy for Lizzie Borden, sentenced to hell because everyone knows she killed her parents, gets a chance to confront her lover, a clean upstanding pillar of the community who went to Heaven despite actually killing her parents.
  • Invoked almost word for word by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. The public decided long before the trial that Tom Robinson, a black man, was guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, because this was Alabama in the 1930s. Even when Atticus proves that Tom couldn't have committed the crime (she said he held her down and beat her, which Tom couldn't have done because he only had one working arm) and basically everyone knows that her asshole father did it, he still gets convicted because he's black.
  • In The Killer Angels, General Garnett considers himself this due to Stonewall Jackson accusing him of cowardicenote  and then dying before Garnett could defend his actions. Because of this, he feels that he has to win a major victory or die trying in order to redeem his honor, which is why he insists on going on Pickett's Charge despite being too ill to walk. In the film adaptation, Gettysburg (which kept Garnett's need to go on the charge without explaining the reasons why), his final scene shows him riding straight towards a loaded cannon, followed by his riderless horse emerging from a cloud of gunsmoke.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series because he's marked as a criminal Michael is an instant suspect when buildings start being burned down. He has an alibi all three times, but still gets chased by a mob twice before the real criminal is caught.
  • Tyrion Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire always had a reputation of being a monster, despite the fact that he is one of the most honorable characters in the series, simply because of his outward appearance (an ugly dwarf, who eventually loses his nose). Every time he's at trial, everyone is ready to execute him unless defending him will somehow help their own agenda. Fortunately, Tyrion is very much aware of this and has long since figured out how to use it to his advantage. Eventually, however, it does make him snap.
  • An unusual variant in The Truth: when The Ankh-Morpork Times publishes evidence that Vetinari was entirely innocent of attempting to leave town with stolen funds, and was the victim of a nasty frame-up, the opinion of the average reader is given as "He got away with it, then. Of course, he's a very clever man." The unusual aspect is that they don't actually seem to care much either way. Of course, compared to the antics of many of Vetinari's predecessors in office,note  allegedly stabbing a formerly trusted subordinate and absconding with as much of the treasury as you can carry barely merits a raised eyebrow.
  • In the Shirley Jackson novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Constance Blackwood is charged and acquitted for the crime of poisoning nearly her entire family with arsenic-laced sugar. She's acquitted, but the entire village ostracizes what's left of the family, with the children taunting Constance's younger sister Merricat about her deceased family every time she ventures out for food.
  • In the X-Wing Series, when Tycho is tried for espionage and the murder of Corran Horn, pretty much everyone who didn't know him personally thought he did it. The New Republic trying him had to keep at least some of the public's sentiment in mind, since they had just taken the planet from the Empire, and many of the nonhumans were angry enough at the new government due to the plague that only affected nonhumans. It's stated that there were already grumblings that if Tycho hadn't been human, he would already have been tried and convicted. Fortunately, it's hard to get a less controversial Not Guilty verdict than your alleged victim walking into the courtroom with evidence of who really tried to get him killed — and it's not the defendant.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing: Zigzagged with local outcast Kya Clark when she's on trial for murder. Many people feel this way about her, but others (such as the lawyer who takes her case) believe in her or feel ammivalent. The lawyer actually invokes this a bit to guilt the jury into really considering her case, and in the face of the evidence, they find her innocent. While many in the gallery are initially furious about this, it's noted that "As time passed, most everyone agreed that the sheriff shouldn't have arrested her. After all, there was no hard evidence, no real proof of a crime, It had been truly cruel to treat a shy, natural creature that way." Ironically, the end of the story strongly implies that she was guilty.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A woman in one episode of Castle invoked this trope. She wanted to divorce her borderline-abusive famous athlete husband, but knew if she did the public would consider him the victim of "another trophy wife just looking for her share." If, however, she disappeared after they'd spent the night getting drunk on his boat, everyone would believe he'd killed her and his reputation would be ruined.
  • In Cruel Summer, everyone seems to believe that Jeannette Turner played a role in the kidnapping of Kate Wallis, even though the only evidence is Kate's accusation on live TV and an old necklace of Jeannette's that Kate handed to the police.
  • Nick Knight ran into it in an episode of Forever Knight, both with the suspect he was investigating, and a past incident where he was hanged as a killer, even though he was innocent.
  • Talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show or The Maury Povich Show.
    • Whenever a guest is accused of doing something wrong to his or her significant other, such as cheating with someone else, the crowd will always boo the suspect, sometimes even after the person is proved innocent. On top of this, if the show shows the couple got back together in a "Where Are They Now?" update segment, the audience will always boo the person that had broken the other's heart, even if the two of them are truly happy now.
    • In any episode featuring paternity tests, the suspected father who denies that the baby is his typically gets booed by the audience upon his first entry, while the audience openly sympathizes with the mother. This has happened even in obvious cases, such as when a black man was accused of fathering a child who was fair-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, not to mention many cases where the woman in question has pointed to five or even more men as potential fathers.
  • Any cop show will eventually feature this. An example of the trope being referred to by name is in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where a secretly-made video of an abusive boss goes viral on the internet, leading everyone to condemn said boss. A more tragic example of this is when a singing coach is accused of sexually abusing children, and his name gets dragged through the mud after the information of the case is released to the public. Worse, it's later revealed that he was set up by two vengeful girls that he let go because he didn't believe they had the singing talents he was looking for. Sadly, the damage has already been done and the public wasn't interested in his innocence, which he points out to the detectives as he rips them a new one for destroying his life.
  • This was pretty common in Matlock, where a client would not only look pretty guilty but have everyone who knew them convinced of their guilt. One example had an obnoxious DJ accused of murdering his rival. Even Ben told him that the jury "can't wait to find you guilty."
  • In the Monk episode Mr. Monk And The Man Who Shot Santa Claus, Monk suffers this after he shoots a man dressed as Santa who was throwing toys to children from a building. Of course, he actually shot him in self defense, but he's hard pressed to prove as much. The general public quickly comes to despise him, not helped by his Super OCD making him look further like a Christmas-hating madman, an Immoral Journalist who goes out of her way to make him look bad, and a Frame-Up by the Santa he shot. It isn't until he finally proves the Santa is a murderer that the public forgives him.
  • In one episode of NCIS, a man who was arrested and then got Off on a Technicality for the murder of a prostitute contacted Gibbs and requested that he be formally charged and court-martialed because he felt that he'd suffer this trope forever unless he was formally acquitted and the real murderer was caught. Gibbs did manage to clear him, though the man ended up getting into some trouble for having lied in his initial statements to the police regarding his relationship with the deceased.
  • On The Orville, this is the hat of the planet that our heroes visit in "Majority Rule". Every decision regarding the punishment of misdeeds is made by a system of "upvotes" and "downvotes"; if the offender receives ten million downvotes, the result is a lobotomy. Given that the episode is a satire aimed at social media, everyone on that planet makes decisions in a shallow manner, oftentimes not even bothering to take the time to learn about the facts of a particular misdeed (e.g. a girl downvotes a guy just because she doesn't like his looks).
  • In Proven Innocent, part of Gore Bellows' strategy for convicting people is to make sure that they get convicted in the court of public opinion first, publicizing even minor indiscretions so that the public basically believe they're guilty before the defendants even get to trial. "Shaken" looks at a positive version of this; after the team determine that Deborah Vanderhey is responsible for the death of her granddaughter as part of a long history of domestic abuse that was covered up by her family's lawyers and doctors, the judge informs Deborah that while she cannot charge Deborah with anything as the statute of limitations on her crimes has expired, she is certain that the woman will be tried in the court of public opinion.
  • Criminal Minds episode "Carbon Copy" features an unsub killing nurses. Looking into the area's history, they realize he's most likely copying an older case where another serial killer targeted nurses. Their first suspect in this case is the first suspect in the previous case. He'd been cleared originally, but not before being publicly arrested and having his face and name smeared by the local news. Even after they caught the right person, he was recognized in a local bar and jumped by angry patrons, leading to serious medical problems for the rest of his life, and thereby giving him the perfect motive to get back at the FBI and the town for ruining his life. JJ points out that they have to be extra sure before they risk doing the same thing to him all over again. Smash cut to them storming his house and arresting him... but it's okay, because it really was him this time!

  • The Mitch Benn song "He Don't Look Right":
    Somebody's dead or disappeared so,
    The papers fix on the local weirdo.
    Pick up on every eccentricity,
    Don't mean a thing but it's good publicity.
    Who cares what happens in a court of law,
    When he's found guilty in the press before?
  • In Act Two of The Protomen, Dr. Light is framed by Wily for his beloved Emily's death. Wily himself remarks that this accusation, "whether truth or lies, gets said all the same" and will shape the public's view of the man. The court declares Light to be not guilty (not that that stops him from beating himself up about it) and yet Light is lead out of the courthouse through a horde of enraged citizens, all baying for his blood. This is what drives Light into exile, and paves the way for Wily to set up his totalitarian regime.
  • Richard Marx's "Hazard" is about the singer's character being accused of the murder of his girlfriend Mary simply by his association with the woman and his appearance alone.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy XIV. At the end of the A Realm Reborn arc, you're framed for killing the Sultana of Ul'Dah via poisoned wine. But you're the Warrior of Light, and everyone knows how heroic you are, so almost every NPC dismisses the accusations as plainly absurd — notable exceptions being those who are in on the frame job, but they know public opinion is against them and aren't willing to try taking you in under circumstances like this.
  • There are two cases in L.A. Noire where you must choose to convict one of two suspects, one of which the evidence points more heavily towards while the other is some kind of social deviant (a pedophile in the first case, a communist in the second). In both cases, there is immense pressure from everyone else to ignore the evidence and convict the latter suspect, and if you follow your principles and arrest the former one anyway, you get a lecture from your superiors and only a partial completion for that case. And in both cases, both suspects are really innocent and the crime was perpetrated by a third party.
  • The Tribunal system in League of Legends allows players to vote on a case as to whether or not the accused deserves to be punished. The players assigned to a case can review logs of the in-game chat and vital game stats, a supermajority is needed for actual punishment, and the worst punishments are subject to manual review by Riot Games staff (as are randomly chosen cases that don't warrant particularly strong punishment). According to the summoner's code, celebrating a victory with "GG easy noobs" deserves a ban. Also, any time a player just has a bad game, there are people who will try to get them reported for intentionally feeding. The forums are rife with people who claim they got falsely banned, though it should be noted that they are usually hiding something. The Tribunal was removed in early 2014 and replaced with automated chat bans, similar to Dota 2. This cuts out the whole jury part of the equation and just punishes you automatically if enough people report you.
  • The main plot of Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes is how the titular character is framed for arson and falls victim to this trope. Even though she hasn't been convicted yet and had a stellar reputation beforehand, people are throwing rocks at her house and sending threatening notes within a day.
  • In the original campaign of Neverwinter Nights, Fenthick Moss is manipulated into assisting the Big Bad of the first act, publicly supporting him while being unaware of his true intentions or eventual actions. By the time of the second act, he has been hanged to appease the masses, who demanded blood for what happened and believed Fenthick to be complicit in the plot, no matter how ignorant he was of it.
  • In Pathologic, the second playable character - Artemy Burakh, the Haruspex - starts out with his reputation critically low due to rumors that he killed his father (unsurprisingly spread by the real killer, Foreman Oyun, who sought to usurp the position Artemy would have otherwise inherited). Artemy was actually returning from ten years abroad when this happened, but a couple of townsfolk, already driven to hysteria by said murder and evidence of a deadly plague returning, spotted him at the train station and assumed he was trying to escape, forcing Artemy to defend himself. And he has to keep defending himself throughout the route, too, because a low enough reputation means that people will attack you on sight; as a result, it isn't long before everyone except his most trusted allies think he's a Serial Killer.
  • This is the subject of the traditional Tales Series deconstruction in Tales of Crestoria. The world's justice system is built around broadcasts from magic necklaces called vision orbs that show someone in the act of committing a crime. Before the first chapter is out, someone who was falsely accused of a crime uses vision orb testimony to clear their name. The true culprit is Unpersoned and brought to justice in short order. However, the dark side of the system is revealed when protagonist Kanata forgets this fact when discovering something heinous. As such, his actions don't have their "Pay Evil unto Evil" context to drove him to do it, and the vision orb recordings of Kanata — all taken by bystanders and showing him in the aftermath of a crime of passion — depict him as a deranged maniac. Additionally, the citizens of Crestoria trust vision orb testimony to be infallible, ignoring all context or rationalization that would drive someone to break the law. Therefore, a transgressor's protestations and justifications are written off as self-serving excuses, leading to many a Miscarriage of Justice when the people decide they'd rather have everything be morally easy so they don't have to feel bad for condemning someone to a Fate Worse than Death.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The series displays this a few times for the people inside the courtroom who are convinced that the defendant or a particular witness is truly guilty, despite what the evidence or lack of evidence shows. The judge is also easily swayed by the opinions of the prosecution and is sometimes quick to hand down a guilty verdict due to said opinions.
    • It applies to Phoenix's childhood, where he is accused of stealing lunch money from his fellow classmate, Miles Edgeworth. All the children point their fingers at Phoenix as the thief and even the teacher is convinced that Phoenix is guilty, despite no direct evidence. Only Edgeworth and Larry Butz stand up for Phoenix and convince the whole class that he is not the guilty party. It was Larry Butz.
    • In the first game, the first few times Phoenix meets Detective Gumshoe, he is recognized as the lawyer who defended a murderer. Phoenix has to keep correcting him and the fact that Gumshoe forgets details often doesn't help matters.
    • In the bonus case of the first game, "Rise from the Ashes", a chief prosecutor is accused of murdering a detective. Miles Edgeworth, who was also accused of murder 2 months prior and declared innocent of the incident, steps up to be the prosecutor of the case. The people in the gallery are against Edgeworth because they still think he's a scumbag of a lawyer that would do anything to get people a guilty verdict (which was his rumored reputation for years) and others think he had used forged evidence to convict a serial murder on a case several years ago and is only stepping up now so that he can become the next chief prosecutor. Edgeworth, while harsh in his methods, always follows the rules, and while he didn't mean to display forged evidence in the SL-9 case, someone else set him up to it, which started the rumors that followed him to the present. After Damon Gant, the Big Bad in the current case and the SL-9 case has a Villainous Breakdown and gives a Motive Rant, Edgeworth realizes that he could very easily fall down the same slope, so he takes a break from his job to find out what it truly means to be a lawyer. By the time Edgeworth returns and learns his lesson, the public views him more favorably.
    • Played straight in Apollo Justice where Phoenix meets Zak seven years after he escaped from his trial. Phoenix tells him that the public firmly believes that his partner, Valant, helped him escape during the trial and they also believe that he was the one who killed Magnifi, even though there's no evidence to support their claims. To put everything to rest and let the public believe what it wants, Zak writes a confession note saying that he "killed" Magnifi, even though Magnifi actually killed himself. This is all before days after Zak is legally declared dead after seven years since his vanishing act.
    • Because of the "guilty until proven innocent" and "evidence is everything" philosophy of the trial system, Kristoph Gavin, the Big Bad of Apollo Justice, can't be convicted because there's no evidence directly pointing at them. However, Phoenix has installed the Juror System, where outside observers of the trial will hand down the verdict based on what they had seen in the trial itself. The system was installed because of the public dissatisfaction of the current legal system. Apollo's struggle and arguments had soundly convinced the jury panel, and they declared Kristoph guilty, despite the lack of direct evidence.
    • In "The Magical Turnabout", everyone thinks Trucy is a murderer even before the trial has started thanks to exaggerations and slander in the media and the social networks. Trucy-haters even ask for her death penalty at full volume during the trial. Never has the In-Universe audience been so vocal about giving the pointer finger to a defendant. Justified in that Roger Retinz, a major media mogul called the Ratings Rajah, is doing his all to make Trucy look bad in the eyes of the public, partly because he has a grudge against the Gramarye family, of which Trucy is the only known survivor, and because Mr. Reus is the real murderer and wants Trucy to go down for the killing.
  • Double Homework:
    • The protagonist is termed a “mass murderer” for his role in the Barbarossa incident multiple times by the press, despite a lack of evidence of any crime on his part. For all anybody knows, it was completely out of his control.
    • Invoked by Rachel near the end of the game if the player chooses her romantic path. When the protagonist confesses his (and Tamara’s) role in the avalanche to her, she says that it could’ve happened regardless, but that he should continue to keep it quiet, as the Olympic Committee would bow to public pressure and bar him from any Olympic events if the truth were to get out.

    Web Original 
  • FreedomToons: "Biden v. Kavanaugh" presents the sexual assault allegations against both as being tried in a literal courtroom of public opinion, with mainstream media conglomerates as the Joker Jury. Unsurprisingly, they receive very different treatments.
    Dr. Mac: [holding up picture] Mr. Kavanaugh, did you, or did you not, make this angry face after being called a rapist 60 times?
    Brett Kavanaugh: Well, yes, but...
    Dr. Mac: I rest my case!
  • When Internet Historian is discussing the Balloon Boy incident that was written off as a hoax, he brings this up as a valid defense of Richard Heene who he now believes was genuinely innocent. He points out how since the public had so unswervingly decided it was a hoax that any jury would be stacked against him, and that Heene's wife was in danger of being deported if the charges went federal, thus Heene only confessed and pleaded guilty because it was the least nasty tine of the Morton's Fork he found himself in.

    Western Animation 
  • The Beetlejuice cartoon had this happen to Beetlejuice himself, accused of scamming the city for donations. The donations were stolen, but this was a rare time when he was being honest. Naturally, when public opinion was said to turn against him, it took the form of a huge angry monster. When Beetlejuice tried proclaiming his innocence, Lydia reminded him that when it's public opinion, "facts don't matter" to it. In fact, this instance is almost a subversion, since Beetlejuice has already pulled so much crap (and, in fact, he originally intended to scam the city) in the Neitherworld that it's a lot easier to see just why the public automatically thinks he's guilty.
  • Monkey Dust's Paedofinder General sketch is a parody of this.
    "By the power invested in me by prurient wishful thinking, I pronounce you guilty- of PAEDOPHILIA!"
    "By the power invested in me by a text vote on Sky news, I find you guilty- of PAEDOPHILIA!"
    "By the power invested in me by some bloke I met in a pub, who knew for definite, I find your sort GUILTY of PAEDOPHILIA!"
  • In The Simpsons, Homer was accused of sexual harassment. The entire country decided he was guilty, based on nothing more than hearsay and an extremely biased — and clearly doctored — news segment. The episode was meant as a satire of the current state of the media — which, sadly, hasn't improved since the episode first aired (in 1994!).
    Woman on Talk Show: I don't know Homer Simpson. I never met Homer Simpson or had any contact with him, but... [hysterical crying] I'm sorry, I can't go on.
    Talk Show Host: That's okay. Your tears say more than real evidence ever could.
At the end of the episode, Groundskeeper Willie proves Homer innocent with video evidence, and after some Unreadably Fast Text retracting their allegations against him (as part of a Long List of retractions), the media immediately proceeds to whip up another frenzy against Willie, painting him like a perverted voyeur who nobody in Springfield is safe from, which even Homer himself buys into.
Homer: Ohhhh, that man is sick!
Marge: Groundskeeper Willie saved you, Homer.
Homer: But listen to the music! He's evil!
Marge: Hasn't this experience taught you that you can't believe everything you hear?
Homer: Marge, my friend... I haven't learned a thing.
  • South Park: When the heads of a boy scout group were taken to court for discriminating against gays, the judge, when about to announce the verdict, said it was based on public opinion.
  • On Rick and Morty when Morty is found innocent of all charges after going on a Death Crystal tech-fueled bully murder spree, a particularly unflattering caricature of Nancy Grace from CNN outright declares that the only thing that matters in America is what the general public thinks of people accused of crimes:
    Nancy Grace: Well, I, for one, will not be accepting this verdict. And this little monster may think he's gotten away, but there is something called the Court of Public Opinion that still has final say in this country. Oh, I guess he's coming out of the courthouse now. Let's go live to that!