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Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit

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"Yes, the villainous traitor Fawlg-I was obviously responsible for sabotaging our mission at every turn. How unfortunate that he did not survive so that we might force from him the complete story of his heinous betrayals."

Uh-oh, you did something bad! Looks like someone will have to take the blame. But who?

How about someone who can't defend themselves? Someone who has no active way to clear their name after you've framed them? Someone who will never start pointing fingers and give names in turn? Someone to whom nothing can happen if they are framed, and thus there is little to no guilt in doing so?

Like a dead guy, maybe even one you killed yourself!

How well this ploy works depends on a number of factors, like the interest the investigators have in the truth, the energy they're prepared to expend, and what proof of guilt the local legal system requires. Good detectives may find a deceased fall guy to be a wee bit too convenient for serious crimes, but if they can't find evidence to the contrary quickly enough, they may still be pressured to call it a day by Da Chief or Da Chief's superiors— either because they're in on it, or because there are other cases that need solving too.

Often portrayed as a major Kick the Dog moment, taking Speak Ill of the Dead to the level of outright slandering them.

See also the Blame Game. A similar technique is used in a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story.

If the dead guy actually did do it, then that's the well-named The Dead Guy Did It and possibly requires Framing the Guilty Party.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • As a Great Detective series, Case Closed had more than one case of this. For example, Yusuke Sakata was planning to do this to the people who killed his dad in a Deadly Prank, killing them all and setting up the last one as the apparent culprit. Which would be easy since the last guy was a Serial Killer that he had been chasing after before he ever came up with his plan.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: A hacker is willing to pose as the Laughing Man and even go to jail, as long as he becomes a celebrity. He finds out too late that his co-conspirators think this plan will work better if he's dead. "Don't worry, you'll be more famous this way."
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, after the A-Laws are defeated, it is suggested by The Movie that the organization and their actions were blamed on Alejandro Corner, a season 1 villain who died five years prior. Why the actions and existence of Ribbons Almarck would need to be kept secret is a bit of a mystery, though it may have something to do with keeping the existence of Innovators/Innovades a secret.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • Akihiko Kayaba is given all the blame for all of the deaths that occurred because of his death game, while the Player Killers, who knew or didn't believe that killing other players would kill them in real life, get off with counseling at worst (well, those that survived the game did — many PKers were PKed in turn). Kayaba, of course, died with the game. One man actually commissioned his wife's assassination while in the game, expecting that this would eventually happen. What happened to Grimlock, either in or out of game, once this was exposed, was not specified.
    • During the Fairy Dance arc, upon his defeat and arrest, Sugou Nobuyuki insists to the police that Kayaba was the one who was really behind his mind control experiments on the SAO survivors. No one buys it, and Sugou eventually gives in and confesses when one of his own employees is brought in for questioning.

    Comic Books 
  • In 52, Lex Luthor uses his alternate universe counterpart Alexander Luthor, whom he and the Joker killed in Infinite Crisis, to pin the blame on various incidents Luthor himself was involved in. Steel smells a rat, but he can't really pin anything on him.
  • After the events of Ra Moon's attack in Mega Man (Archie Comics), Dr. Wily uses the fact that he had been manipulated by him to get Ra Moon blamed for all his previous evil-doing by making it seem like he had been controlled from the beginning. He succeeds and is restricted to house-arrest with Dr. Light, setting up the Mega Man 3 adaptation.
  • Suicide Squad, The New 52: Deadshot and the Suicide Squad kill an entire stadium of virus-infected zombie cyborgs. After Voltaic's electrical powers make short work of the monsters, Deadshot blasts him. Since Voltaic's unique energy is on the bodies, the government can cover up the whole op as a mass murder by an escaped convict.
  • Superman:
    • Who is Superwoman?: After murdering Agent Liberty, Superwoman intends to murder Supergirl and frame her for Liberty's murder.
      Superwoman: Now that you're here on Earth someone else can play the role of Agent Liberty's Kryptonian murderer.
      Supergirl: But the hard drive image—-
      Superwoman: Was easily dealt with, along with records of its existence. And with the good Inspector counting feathers on his wings in Heaven no one will be able to point the finger at me. I'll make sure that you are the one who's blamed. Unfortunately for you, you won't be able to tell them otherwise as you'll have suffered a "mysterious disappearance".
    • ''The Hunt for Reactron: After framing Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird for Mon-El's murder and the latest terrorist attack in Metropolis, General Lane tasks Reactron with killing the trio before they have a chance to clear their names.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Fractured Fates, the killer of Chapter 3 attempts to do this to cover their involvement in the murders of Saku and Shiro by making their deaths look like a murder-suicide committed by the former.
  • In Recovery None, the Director pins several of Project Freelancer's crimes on Washington, who was last seen suffering from severe blood loss. Unfortunately for them, Wash is Not Quite Dead.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In 2 Days in the Valley, up and coming hitman Lee Woods recruits the washed up hitman Dosmo for his latest job specifically so Woods can do this. After killing the target, Woods then shoots Dosmo in his car afterwards, with the plan being to blow up the car and then plant some of Dosmo's cigarettes and cigarette pack at the scene of the murder, so DNA evidence will connect Dosmo to the killing, and with their only lead dead, the police won't be inclined to investigate further. Dosmo lives thanks to a Bulletproof Vest, however, and manages to escapes the car before Woods detonates it remotely. It turns out that despite not being the most competent cops around the police might not have gone for Woods' Frame-Up even if he had succeeded in killing Dosmo; towards the end of the film the detectives investigating the crime scene comment that it seems pretty obvious that the cigarette pack was left there intentionally to mislead them, given how clean and traceless the rest of the scene is.
  • Arlington Road: The reason this film needs to be counted as horror. Nobody wants Faraday's fate.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: Ward Abbott tries to pin the Berlin assassination and the money theft on Conklin, who died in The Bourne Identity, and Bourne, who was to be killed before the CIA could find him.
  • In The China Syndrome, this is briefly tried but fails because someone elects to tell the truth instead.
  • Clear and Present Danger: The President threatens to do this to the recently deceased former boss and mentor of Jack Ryan in The Movie and blame him for the illegal actions the President ordered. It backfires.
  • This is strongly implied to be part of the MO of the assassin Vincent in Collateral. He hires a local taxi to act as The Driver for him while he goes after a target or targets. At the end of the night after he has finished with all his targets, he kills the driver and makes sure all the physical evidence points to them as a random spree killer. A detective recalls a similar case happening years ago, and the implication is that Vincent was going to set Max up to take the fall at the end of the night.
  • Inverted in The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent had become a symbol to Gotham, so Batman decided that he would take the blame for the murders committed in Dent's final hours. In the third movie, Gotham's new stellar law enforcement record was somehow enabled by a bill inspired by Dent's example, at least until Bane exposes the truth by reading Gordon's speech to the media.
  • A possible example in The Departed; one of Costello's mooks Delahunt is killed in a shootout, and is later identified as an undercover cop on the news. Costello dismisses it as disinformation planted to throw him off the scent of the real mole; it's never confirmed if he's right.
  • Combined with Sure, Let's Go with That in The Eiger Sanction. When Hemlock is the Sole Survivor from the climbing expedition up the Eiger, his superior assumes that Hemlock, not knowing which climber was the enemy agent, decided to kill all of them. He congratulates Hemlock on his ruthless but efficient solution and Hemlock is not inclined to argue, having discovered that his friend (who just saved his life) was the real enemy agent.
  • In the TV movie In The Shadow of Evil, an amnesiac cop recovers enough memories to know that he is the serial killer he's supposed to be trying to catch. He plants evidence that implicates the precinct's mortician, then kidnaps him and his own therapist and stages an apparent rescue of the latter, shooting the former, but it's not enough to permanently throw off suspicion.
  • In Miller's Crossing, Tom suggests doing this to the Dane after Bernie kills Johnny Caspar, but then says they can't because the timelines wouldn't match up and instead kills Bernie. Played with in that Tom's primary motivation for killing Bernie is simply that he knows he'll betray him again if he doesn't.
  • A Million Ways to Die in the West: Clinch threatens to kill a dog unless Anna reveals the identity of the man who kissed her. Anna tells him it was the dead Mayor, but Clinch doesn't buy it.
  • Minority Report: Used to fool the Precrime murder precognition. Normally, murders cannot be committed because they are predicted by pre-cogs and the police stop them before they happen; sometimes, a pre-cog sees images of a murder that's already happened, which is dismissed as a worthless "echo". The villain hires one of the Crazy Homeless People to try and (inevitably) get caught killing a woman he wants out of the way so he can do it himself later (reenacting the attempted murder exactly) and pretend that the prediction of this murder is an echo.
  • Inverted in the first Mission: Impossible film. Ethan's superiors believe he is a mole because he's the only one who survived the mission.
  • Done for laughs in Mulholland Dr., where the killer has to kill several extra witnesses and make it look like a bizarre shootout.
  • In The Parallax View a patsy is set up to take the fall for a political assassination, then quickly killed. Yes, it's inspired by Who Shot JFK?.
  • The Resistance Banker. When the President of the Dutch Central Bank returns early on the day La Résistance are going to steal the state treasury bonds, Gijs realises We Need a Distraction and takes the President aside saying he has information on the identity of the mysterious Resistance banker code-named "Van Tuyl". Given that it's actually his brother, Gijs instead names a man the SS have already arrested and shot. The President is momentarily shocked (enough to ignore a ringing phone from a flunky trying to find out if the removal of the bonds is authorized) but then dismisses the 'rumor' because the Resistance is still going strong, which wouldn't happen if their funds had dried up.
  • In Ruthless People, the Kessler family and Barbara Stone are attacked by the Bedroom Killer, who dies after falling down a set of stairs. It is eventually revealed that the trio opted to use the body in their plan to get ransom money from Barbara's cheating husband, Sam Stone, despite massive police attention due to the Kesslers having originally kidnapped Barbara. Ken Kessler shows up to the pick-up disguised as a clown, and warns police that he will give an order via radio to kill Barbara if they interfere, and not to follow his vehicle. They naturally follow anyway, and Ken proclaims over the radio that he was not going to jail before driving off a pier into the ocean. When the "body" is recovered, they find the Bedroom Killer in Ken's disguise, while Ken escaped in scuba gear with the money. Barbara then shows up and claims the killer was her kidnapper, and there were no partners as he had schizophrenia, which the police believe.
  • In Saw VI, Detective Mark Hoffman names recently-deceased Agent Strahm as the latest Jigsaw killer. It doesn't work.
  • In Schindler's List, a Nazi officer is looking for a thief and shoots a man in cold blood to let the Jewish inmates know he isn't playing. The dead man promptly gets blamed for the theft.
  • Scream:
    • In the first film, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher plan to kill Neil Prescott, then pin the blame of the serial killings on him. This is made easier by the fact that Neil has already been declared a suspect in the Ghostface killings. To make it look more genuine, they deliberately hurt each other to present themselves as hapless survivors of the whole mess.
    • This pops up again in Scream 4, where Jill Roberts plans to pin the murders she and Charlie Walker committed on her deceased boyfriend, Trevor Sheldon. There is even a subtle Foreshadowing; at the time of his death, Trevor is wearing the same clothes Neil Prescott did when he was nearly executed.
    • And again in the fifth film. To exonerate themselves, Richie and Amber want to slander Sam for the murders. Nobody in Woodsboro cares much for Sam because she has the reputation of a bad girl, not to mention being the daughter of the aforementioned Billy Loomis, so she's practically Defiled Forever.
  • Heavily zigzagged in the mid-90s Dolph Lundgren film The Shooter. (Hidden Assassin in the US.) Lundgren is an intelligence agent working for America. He and his partner start the film by being assigned to secretly capture an infamous female assassin who is suspected of being hired to attack an international treaty convention in Prague. Eventually, she convinces him that she's innocent—a conspiracy was going to use her as the fall guy for their plan. They work together to bring down the conspiracy, but she gets killed along the way, and it turns out that Dolph's partner is involved in the conspiracy and is the one who is really going to attack the convention. After Dolph saves the day, the good guys in his department decide to save his partner's reputation (and the partner's pension for his wife and children) by pinning the blame on the dead female assassin and pretending the partner died a hero. It's that kind of movie. Little wonder that Dolph's last action is to say, "Screw This, I'm Outta Here".
  • In Swimming with Sharks, young studio assistant Guy snaps when he realizes that his boss has been lying about passing word about Guy's good work up the chain of command, so he breaks into his boss' house to torment him and get revenge. Towards the end, Guy's Love Interest (who the boss had also had a relationship with) shows up and begs for him to leave the Hollywood studio scene behind and come with her. Instead, Guy and the boss kill her, blame her for the boss' injury and torture, and Guy's advancement up the ranks is now secure.
  • Subverted in Tower of Terror. Emeline Partridge, nanny to child star Sally Shine, ended up as such, but as it turns out, she wasn't as malevolent as she seems when she and the other ghosts proved her innocence, and it was Sally's sister Abigail who put the child star to her demise.
  • In the thriller Unlawful Entry, Officer Pete is told by his partner to stop harassing a married couple or he'll report him to the higher ups. Officer Pete responds by making an excuse to chase after and arrest Leon, a petty drug dealer later that night. When Pete, his partner, and Leon are alone, he murders his partner and makes Leon take the murder weapon. After a terrified Leon does so, Pete shoots and murders him too. Afterwards he frames Leon as the killer of his partner and fakes mourning him when the other police officers show up. "You killed my partner, Leon."
  • The Usual Suspects: At least enough for the real Keyser Soze to get away.
  • Valentine: At the very end of the film, Jeremy Melton/"Adam Carr" kills and frames Dorothy Wheeler for the film's last few murders by dressing her in his Fallen Cupid costume and making it look like she suffered a psychotic break, going on a killing spree that was ended by him killing her. He views this as Laser-Guided Karma for the False Rape Accusation that ruined his life at 13.

  • In the first book of John Ringo's Black Tide Rising, the FBI heavy-handedly interferes in efforts to defeat a zombie virus; a college microbiology geek is able to figure out an esoteric element of the virus, only to be arrested by the FBI and aggressively interrogated. By the time actual doctors get to talk to the kid, he's such a mess he can't help them stop the virus. In this case, the "Deceased Fall Guy" is most of human civilization.
  • The background of Achimas Welde from The Death of Achilles includes him being promised a million if he manages to save a Spoiled Brat from the noose. The case is clear cut, with several bodies of little girls murdered in a Nightmare Fuel fashion found in the guy's basement. Achimas manages to arrange for the blame to be shifted onto the guy who reported the bodies, who, suspiciously, is nowhere to be found (of course he isn't. Achimas is no Spoiled Brat, and therefore isn't sloppy with hiding corpses).
  • In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Demons, one of the villains convinces a character who is undergoing an existential crisis to commit suicide and write a note in which he claims to be guilty of crimes actually committed by the villains. Some Fauxlosophic Narration ensues as the characters ponder whether 'tis nobler to be or not to be the fall guy.
  • Dr. Gideon Fell: A variant occurs in The Mad Hatter Mystery; the killer tries to frame the mad hatter, knowing that the dead man is the mad hatter.
  • Empire from the Ashes: "Mister X", the Big Bad of the third book, attempts to do this by preparing a meticulously-crafted journal, credited to one of his subordinates, as a backup plan, which he arranges to be found after the subordinate is killed attempting to assassinate the Empress. However, this is what gets him caught — as Ninhursag is only too happy to point out, Jefferson neglected to include the assassination of the Crown Prince and his twin sister in the journal, which the megalomaniac who allegedly wrote it wouldn't have hesitated to consider his greatest triumph.
  • The Executioner. Hal Brognola is Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee and pressured to reveal the identity of his Deep Cover Agent in The Mafia. So Hal asks Vigilante Man Mack Bolan to provide a suitable candidate to protect the real agent Leo Turrin — preferably dead to avoid awkward questions being put to him.
  • The Final Reflection:
    • The story opens with a competition between teams representing the Klingon Navy and Marines, with their Interservice Rivalry meaning a signficant amount of prestige rides on the outcome. When the team representing the Marines is found to be cheating, the Marine officer in charge of the team is blamed for the whole thing and executed on the spot by a superior officer who, it is implied, is at least a co-conspirator and probably the real mastermind.
    • An officer on Krenn's ship attempts a mutiny, during which another officer is seriously injured. The mutineer attempts to convince Krenn that he's too useful to do away with, and suggests that the injured officer could easily be converted into a deceased fall guy.
  • In Tony Hillerman's Hunting Badger, robbers murder a talk show host and fake a suicide note with a confession.
  • In the Louis L'Amour short story "Keep Travelin' Rider", Tack Gentry kills two henchmen who killed his uncle as part of a land grabbing scheme. Their boss promptly blames everything on them and claims that he's an innocent bystander, with the Texas Rangers who've just arrived frustratedly admitting there's no way to disprove this. Tack accepts this, but says that they can arrest the Big Bad for horse theft, as he's quickly able to prove that the horse the villain is riding is one the villain took from Tack when he thought Tack was dead. The villain angrily goes for his gun and follows his goons to the grave.
  • The Mammoth Book Of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures: One short story in the collection, "The Amateur Mendicant Society" (based on a Noodle Incident mentioned in one of Conan Doyle's original stories), involves a Government Conspiracy killing off current and former members of a blackmail ring. Holmes agrees to keep silent about the matter if they'll leave his client (who quit the group almost two decades ago) alone. Holmes and the conspirators make it look as though the leader of the blackmail ring murdered all of the others to prevent the exposure of his operations and then died in a freak accident.
  • Nursery Crime: Defied in The Fourth Bear. Jack realizes that MS 4, who were involved in Goldilocks' death, are trying to frame Bartholemew for the same and will probably kill him soon after. Jack pretends to take the bait by ordering his arrest, but secretly tips Bartholemew off, allowing him to go into hiding and escape death.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Tywin Lannister tries to pin the blame for the murder of Elia Martell and two children Rhaenys and Aegon on the recently-deceased knight Amory Lorch. Oberyn Martell does not believe it. Tywin's lie has a small amount of credence due to the fact that Lorch actually did kill Rhaenys... but the one who killed Aegon, as well as raping and murdering Elia, was Gregor Clegane, and Clegane is so good at his job as Tywin Lannister's best killing machine he's loath to give him up to face justice.
  • The Thin Man: George Wynant, the eponymous thin man, is the main suspect because he is presumed to have run away. The discovery of his body reveals that it was actually his lawyer who killed both Wynant and his former lover.
  • Two Kinds of Truth: Part of the plan to get Preston Borders out of prison consists of framing the now deceased rapist Lucas Olmer for Borders' crime and accusing the now-deceased lawyer who represented Borders of making up the lie told during the original trial because no jury back then would believe a cop would forge evidence. Harry is given an opportunity to dodge the frame-up charges by accusing his late partner Frankie Sheehan but he refuses. Borders' original lawyer turns out to be alive.
  • Unexpected Developments, on of the Ben Safford Mysteries, involves a member of a military board of inquiry taking a bribe to blame a pilot for a plane crash and protect the manufacturers of the defective vehicle from losing their investment. When an investigation threatens to expose the corruption, the bribe-taker kills another member of the board who voted against the pilot, staging a suicide to cast suspicion on him. He stages the scene to look like a suicide by putting a glass of bourbon, a picture of a pretty woman the killer assumed to be his sweetheart, and part of the bribe money next to the body. His plan works for the first half of the novel, then the dead man's sister (the owner of the house he was killed in) reveals that the bourbon was hers and her brother only drank vodka. Additionally, the picture of the beautiful woman who the killer assumed was his victim's sweetheart was really a picture of his niece's drama teacher, who he'd never met, meaning he had no reason to look at the picture before killing himself. Once the suicide is disproven, people stop buying the dead man as a fall guy and the killer's plan unravels.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, Cain defuses an argument between Inquisition and Mechanicus personnel over who had leaked the existence of the Shadowlight to Chaos forces by blaming it on the late renegade Inquisitor Killian. Based on the logic he used when designating the already-punished scapegoat, he might even have been right.
  • In the first Warrior Cats book, the ThunderClan deputy Redtail is dead after a battle with RiverClan. Tigerclaw claims that the RiverClan cat Oakheart, who also died in the battle, was responsible for Redtail's death, but it's only an excuse to hide the fact that Tigerclaw himself had murdered Redtail.
  • Inverted in Wax and Wayne. At the end of Shadows of Self, not only is the governor dead, it turns out that he'd been replaced by an impostor for quite some time, which poses a problem when Marasi discovers evidence that he's been taking bribes. The heroes want to take down his associates, but since they don't know how long the impostor was in office, they're not sure if the governor really was corrupt or not, and their shapeshifter refuses to impersonate him and give false witness. So she fakes his suicide, letting the dead man appear possibly-guilty rather than absolutely guilty, and the lack of a confession makes it easier for his associates to get off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 13 Reasons Why, Alex's friends decide to pin Bryce's death on Montgomery at around the time he is murdered in prison. Alex's father is aware his son really did it, but lets the frame-up walk to protect him.
  • American Horror Story: Double Feature: When Harry dies during the final episode of the Red Tide storyline, the Chemist and Ursula decide to pin all the killings related to the Muse on him (on the excuse that he snapped from a combination of pressure and drugs) in order to cover their tracks.
  • In Babylon 5, the board of Edgars Industries tries to pin the blame for an assassination attempt on the security chief, who just happens to have committed suicide and confessed to the plot with his suicide note. An admirable attempt... were the person they tried to convince not Garibaldi, who not only knows they're full of crap from the start, but came to the meeting ready to ruin their lives.
  • The Bill. Chief Superintendent Brownlow is questioned about an old case where a criminal was framed by a famous detective who's now deceased. Brownlow discovers that a fellow officer knew about the Frame-Up and did nothing, but bitterly notes that the deceased will take all the blame to prevent a scandal involving currently-serving officers.
  • Boardwalk Empire:
    • Nucky Thompson attempts to aid Margaret Schroeder, a poor and pregnant immigrant who came to him for help, but is enraged that her husband Hans subsequently beat her into the hospital (and a miscarriage) and went gambling with the money Nucky gave her. Nucky has his brother/sheriff Eli and his men kidnap Hans, take him out to sea, beat him to death, then throw his body overboard, and then has him framed posthumously for a massacre committed by Jimmy Darmody and Al Capone. At the end of the season Nucky's men wipe out the D'Alessio brothers, a group of hired thugs causing him problems, and then blames them both for their own crimes and ones committed by Nucky's administration.
    • In season 2, Nucky is able to get the charges of election rigging and other violations of the Volstead Act dropped through tampering of witnesses, intimidating a few into changing their statements. One, James Neary, the Atlantic City treasurer, won't recant, so Jimmy and Richard Harrow force him to type a note at gunpoint implicating Eli in the election rigging, then shoot him in the mouth and stage his death as a suicide.
  • The Boys (2019). Stormfront turns up to stop the mass breakout of superpowered inmates at Sage Grove. When she demands to know how this happened, rather than betray the presence of the Boys, Lamplighter puts the blame on a doctor who was killed by the inmates.
  • In Breaking Bad, this is defied by Walter White. After Gale Boetticher's death, DEA agent and Walt's brother-in-law Hank Schraeder gets all of Gale's lab notes and starts believing he's the elusive Heisenberg. Walter initially appears to go along with this, until Hank starts praising Gale as a chemistry genius responsible for the purest meth he's ever seen. Both drunk and consumed by pride, unwilling to let anyone take credit for his work, Walter turns Hank off of the idea, noting that his criminal mastermind is probably still out there somewhere.
  • Burn Notice:
    • A rival spy posing as Michael Westen steals a lot of money from a drug lord, then has to kill an assassin looking for him. Westen's plan to get the drug lord off his back is to make the dead assassin look like the real thief.
    • In another episode, a Dirty Cop pulls this on his partner after stealing a stash of heroin...unfortunately for him, the deceased was a friend of Sam's.
  • Castle:
    • "Flowers For Your Grave": the real killer frames a mentally-challenged guy because he wouldn't be able to defend himself or afford a private attorney and is an easy-to-believe scapegoat.
    • The serial killer in "Tick...Tick...Tick..."/"Boom!" has this as his recurring MO.
  • The plot of the Columbo episode "Negative Reaction" has a photographer kill his wife then kill an ex-con on parole, pretending that he'd kidnapped his wife for ransom, murdered her, and tried to kill him after he paid the ransom, only to be shot in 'self defense'.
  • CSI: NY: In "Party Down," a semi truck with 20 people locked in the trailer hurtles headlong into the Hudson River. Four victims drown and the killer tries to frame one of them for the crime.
  • Dexter: Dexter had doubts about the success of framing Doakes as the Bay Harbor Butcher...until he got blown up and wouldn't be around to make a fuss.
  • In Fear the Walking Dead, Nick tries to pin Troy's destruction of the ranch on Jake. Nick is an excellent liar, being both intelligent and a recovering drug addict, but unfortunately the one he has to convince is Daniel, who conducted interrogations in the military and doesn't believe it for a second.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Lannister soldiers are looking for Gendry, so his friend Arya claims that a Night's Watch recruit they had killed moments before was Gendry. Her gambit is aided by the fact that the recruit had stolen Gendry's distinctive helmet before he died.
    • A minor example is when Davos reveals to Stannis that he can read. Davos claims he was taught by his deceased son Matthos, in reality he taught by Princess Shireen. Since that tutelage consisted of her sneaking into the prison to help him read, he has good reason to not mention her help.
  • Used a few times in Hollyoaks: Paul Browning gets away with Lynsey's murder by pinning it on the deceased Riley, and Freddie Roscoe covers up his murder of Fraser Black by trying to make Sam Lomax's death look like suicide out of guilt over killing Fraser. Subverted when Justin Burton is blamed for the death of Macki: when he tries to tell the truth (that the real killer is Ali, who was killed by a car as he ran away from the scene) no one believes Justin because of this trope.
  • Used in Monk a lot:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike", union accountant Ron Neely has been embezzling money from the sanitation union's pension fund. But when the union goes on strike, he knows the pension fund's books will be audited, necessitating that he find a fast way to cover up the theft of the money. So he shoots and kills union boss Jimmy Cusack, makes his death look like a suicide, and blames him for the theft of the money.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees", sports agent Rob Sherman lures a career burglar named Dewey Jordan to his house to ostensibly participate in an insurance scam, but once Dewey is inside, Sherman draws one gun and shoots him. His wife comes downstairs to investigate the noise, and Sherman shoots her with a different gun, which he plants in Dewey's hand, then fires to make it look like Sherman shot him in self-defense.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum", Dr. Morris Lancaster shoots and kills Dr. Conrad Gould, then steals drugs from the medical supply room to make it look like a patient did it. He then administers a lethal overdose of the drugs to a patient named Bill LaFrankie.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Murdoch and the Undetectable Man," it seems as if a scientist has turned himself invisible to murder the men who tried to kill him. In reality, they succeeded in killing him, and his lover is killing them while making it look like he's alive and doing it so that she can avoid punishment.
  • On NCIS, Agent Michelle Lee shot and killed Agent Langer and framed him as the mole revealing secret military information in order to cover her own guilt.
  • Used by Alex on Nikita. She knows Division's found out Nikita has a mole, and she's just been forced to kill Thom in self-defense, so she figures she might as well let them think it was him.
  • On NYPD Blue, a stick-up man who snitched for Simone told him and Sipowicz that an old unsolved murder had been committed by a notorious killer who was recently deceased. Sipowicz scoffed, pointing out that snitches all over the city had been trying to pin murders on the killer since his death, but the stick-up man knew details of the crime that were consistent with the evidence. It comes full circle at the end of the episode when the stick-up man has been shot and tells Simone, "I got no bodies unaccounted for, Robert. Don't let 'em clear no cases off me," before dying himself.
  • Ozark: Marty tries to pin his entire money-laundering operation on his partner (murdered by the cartel in the first episode for embezzlement); he says that he suspected him of doing something illegal, which also explains why he dissolved their company so quickly and left for the Ozarks. Unfortunately for him, the Feds aren't fooled.
  • Done accidentally in Person of Interest. The FBI have been trying to track down Reese, going off a fairly vague description of a "Man in a Suit". They assume that Reese is a bad dude rather than the good person we know him to be. In "Dead Reckoning", halfway through the second season, Reese's old partner Kara Stanton murders the FBI agent in charge of the investigation and straps Reese and their old Mission Control Mark Snow into bomb vests to force them to do a job for her. At the end of the episode, Snow, realizing he has nowhere to turn, pulls a Taking You with Me on Stanton in his Dying Moment of Awesome, and the FBI decide that Snow, whose background is very similar to Reese's, was their Man in a Suit all along. Reese is in the clear.
  • In Sharpe's Eagle, General Simmerson, faced with a grilling from The Duke of Wellington, tries to pin the blame on losing the King's Colours on Major Lennox who was killed in the battle... and was a gallant soldier and good friend of Wellington in India. Wellington apparently believes in Never Speak Ill of the Dead and doesn't take it well at all.
  • Used in Sons of Anarchy.
    • ATF agent Stahl finds herself wrongfully shooting an escaping prisoner in the back. Scared that it might torch her career (or worse), she initially frames Gemma Teller for the crime. However, through a series of deals going sour and rash moves, the frame job becomes Stahl seizes an opportunity to shoot her own partner during a firefight, then frames her for the whole mess, including framing Gemma. She confessed all of it just before she died, too.
    • In a slight variation, Gemma frames a living person for Tara's murder, but arranges for the mark to be killed before they can talk.
  • The Sopranos:
    • In Season 2, Christopher is shot and nearly killed by Matthew and Sean in a bungled and poorly thought-out attempt to increase their street cred, ending with Sean shot dead in self-defence and Matthew on the run. When he's captured by Tony and Big Pussy, Matthew pins the whole thing on Sean; it was Sean who planned it and pulled it off, while Matthew actively tried to discourage him and had absolutely nothing to do with it. It's a ridiculously unbelievable lie (and the viewer already knows it was mostly Matthew's idea), and it doesn't save him from being killed.
    • The episode "Remember When" saw the FBI investigate the killing of bookie Willie Overall, Tony Soprano's first murder way back in 1982. After Overall's body is found and excavated, the investigation is eventually called off when, thanks to misinformation provided by Di Meo capo "Larry Boy" Barese, the decades-old murder is pinned on former Don Jackie Aprile, Sr., who has been dead himself for several years.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • This sets off the plot of "Sins of the Father". On discovering that the colony on Khitomer was betrayed by a traitor, Worf's deceased father Mogh is blamed instead of the real culprit (who is also dead, but whose House is too powerful to risk antagonizing). The Klingon High Council wrongly assume that Worf, being raised in the Federation, would have little interest in Klingon affairs. Unfortunately for them, Mogh had a second son (secretly raised by another House) who tracks down Worf in order to get his help in restoring his father's honor. Eventually, and very reluctantly, Worf is persuaded to go along with the ruse to prevent the Klingon Empire from falling into civil war.
    • This also happened in "The First Duty" when Nick Locarno places the blame for his squadron's accident on the only cadet to die during it, Joshua Albert, portraying him as unreliable and saying he caused the accident by panicking. Even Joshua's own father is ashamed of his son's failure and apologises to Wesley for it, wracking Wesley with guilt as Locarno is lying to cover up the fact that he'd manipulated his squad into attempting a banned, extremely dangerous maneuver and Joshua was not to blame.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Red Snow", after a wolf kills Mayor Titov, Ilyanov says Titov was the killer to allow the the vampire exiles (who have been killing Asshole Victims with Titov's knowledge) to remain safe.
  • Ultraviolet (1998). In the episode "Mea Culpa", a 12-year old boy kills a priest and the team is sent to investigate if the killing is vampire-related. The priest in charge of the team, Pearse Harman, gets annoyed when ex-cop Michael Colefield thinks it's child abuse-related, Lampshading the Pedophile Priest cliché. However when it turns out the priest was innocent and vampires were involved, Harman cynically allows the public to believe the priest was a pedophile to maintain the Masquerade.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Used frequently in Paranoia, where the main corebook explicitly notes that being the only one alive at the debriefing stops your (self-flattering) story from being contradicted. Even The Computer does eventually get suspicious about sole survivors, though, so one suggested alternative is to bribe/blackmail some of your surviving teammates into supporting your story. And, in a pinch, you can always just make up a culprit and ask for permission to go hunt them down.

  • In Accidental Death of an Anarchist, the police claim that the anarchist either fell out of the window while trying to escape or threw himself out to commit suicide. Either way, it was most definitely not their fault.
  • In Macbeth, the titular character frames his two guards for the murder of King Duncan, then kills them, while saying it was ordered by Duncan's sons, who flee for their lives and look even guiltier (although they get theirs in the end).

    Video Games 
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, one of the playable characters in Act 1 is Private First Class Joseph Allen, who is a United States Army Ranger-turned-undercover CIA agent hand-picked by General Shepherd to infiltrate terrorist and main antagonist Vladimir Makarov's Ultranationalist terrorist cell, later being selected to participate in Makarov's mass shooting on a Russian airport. At the end, Makarov shoots Allen fatally before escaping from the scene with his men, having found out Allen's true identity (most likely from Shepherd himself). This was a part of Shepherd's plan all along - 5 years prior to this, he'd lost 30,000 of his soldiers to a nuke launched by Makarov, an event seen from the eyes of one of said soldiers in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare missions "Shock and Awe" and "Aftermath". The world's apathetic response to such a loss is what leads him to set up Allen to die, as he knew this would all lead to a war that would give him the opportunity to take revenge on Makarov and the Russians. As planned, a dead, heavily armed CIA agent in an airport full of dead Russian civilians doesn't exactly improve Russian-American relations and instead kicks off World War III.
  • Loghain mac Tir in Dragon Age: Origins attempts to pin the death of King Cailan on the Grey Wardens, who he assumes all died at the catastrophic Battle of Ostagar (where Cailan also fell), making himself out to be a hero who saved his troops from the jaws of death, when in actuality he abandoned the king and the Wardens long before defeat at the hands of the Darkspawn was assured (he didn't even respond to the signal lit by the Wardens to summon his men to charge), then returned with his entire army intact and claimed the regency for himself. His motivation for doing this was a combination of wanting the throne for himself and his intense hatred of Orlais—Cailan was planning on having large numbers of Orlesian troops come to Ferelden to help defend against the Blight. Unfortunately for him, two Grey Wardens (the player character and Alistair) weren't quite as dead as he thought.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Legion version of the quest "I Put a Spell on You" has the Courier doing this to Private Davey Crenshaw.
    • Fallout 4: If Nelson Latimer dies during the quest "Diamond City Blues", his father Malcolm will confront the Sole Survivor next time they visit Diamond City. They can tell Malcolm that Marowski or Paul Pembroke killed Nelson even if they're both dead at that point.
  • At the beginning of Skies of Arcadia, Alfonso attempts to avoid blame for losing to the heroes by killing his vice-captain and claiming that the latter betrayed him. Alfonso's superiors see through the ruse.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: In the Justified Tutorial, the Smuggler is delivering a shipment of blasters for crime boss Rogun the Butcher when their ship is stolen by Starter Villain Skavak, cargo and all. By the time they steal their ship back on Coruscant, Skavak has already fenced the cargo. They subsequently kill Skavak at the end of Chapter 1, and when Rogun comes calling at the start of Chapter 2, they can try to convince him, truthfully, that it was all Skavak's fault. Rogun doesn't buy it and still blames them for losing the cargo.
  • In Tactics Ogre, at the end of the second Lawful chapter, Leonard is killed after assassinating the Duke. With his dying breath, he tells Denim to scapegoat him for all of the evil deeds of the Walsta Liberation Army, thus reuniting the Walstanian liberation forces under his command.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the second case of the second game, this trope is applied in a way that could only happen in this series. 14 patients at the Grey Surgical Clinic died, and Dr. Turner Grey blamed the deaths on a nurse, Mimi Miney, mixing up their medications. Miney confirms this. Two weeks later, Mimi Miney dies and her younger sister Ini is badly injured in a car accident. People blame Grey for this accident (perhaps thinking that Mimi's confession was coerced and that she was killed so that she wouldn't be able to recant it). Grey then uses the fact that spirit channeling is an accepted phenomenon in the Ace Attorney world to try to shift the blame to Mimi for her own death. It fails, of course, because Ini was actually the one who died, and Mimi tried to hide from her past by taking on her sister's identity. Grey's attempt to channel her to extract a confession would naturally fail since she wasn't dead, and so Grey ended up being killed.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth:
      • In the fourth case, Mack Rell and Byrne Faraday are set up to make it look like they killed each other, but the real murderer decides to try to frame Gumshoe instead once Edgeworth determines that the position of the bodies and other evidence makes no sense for the double murder explanation.
      • Quercus Alba tries this twice in Case 5. First he tries to blame the smuggling ring solely on assistant-Bahbalese ambassador and co-conspirator Manny Coachen. Later, he pins Manny's murder on his dragon, Shih-na/Callisto Yew (who wasn't dead but already placed under arrest for another crime). Lang is especially outraged by his doing so.
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert puts the responsibility for stealing Lainie’s money on Lainie herself.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, it's strongly suggested that the drug addict alleged to have killed Satoko's aunt was a deceased fall guy for Satoshi.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Smug Snake Kubota attempts this, planning to set up his recently fatally poisoned assassin as the fall guy in his plot to assassinate Hinjo. It fails when Vaarsuvius disintegrates him.
    • Old Blind Pete is set up as the fall guy for an incident that resulted in the death of a lot of Thieves Guild members, conveniently just after he was murdered by an old "friend".

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: Archer manages to use this on KGB mole Kremenski to hide his inappropriate expenses. After Kremenski outs himself as The Mole, he steals $50,000 from Archer's account while taking him prisoner. When Archer kills him, Cyril notices the theft and suggests Kremenski had been doing it all along, which Archer goes along with.
  • In Futurama this is Zap Brannigan's MO; he uses Bread and Circuses to ensure the loyalty of his crew, talks them into a Heroic Sacrifice and then escapes and takes all the glory.
  • King of the Hill: In the episode "A Fire Fighting We Will Go", Hank and friends become volunteer firefighters, but get in trouble when the firehouse burns down on their watch. Hank realizes that it happened because Dale plugged in a neon sign with faulty wiring, but the group ends up pawning the blame off on the sign's original owner, a recently deceased firefighter named Chet Elderson (Dale turned the sign on in his memory). The fire chief accepts this explanation since he kept warning Elderson about the sign and its bad wiring, but to preserve his reputation they decide to rule it an accident, so in the end nobody is punished.
  • The main crew of Metalocalypse uses this when they find out that they've been embezzling from themselves.

    Real Life 
  • A guy in Illinois murdered his wife and another man and tried to blame it on the dead man. He got away with it until his mistress came forward and helped convict him.
  • A case in Virginia involved a man who murdered his wife and one of her colleagues in the US Navy. He claimed that the colleague broke into their apartment and murdered his wife before he shot him in self-defense, but his plan fell apart when police realized that the crime scene didn't match his story.
  • After Henry Hudson's crew mutinied against him (after having to spend the winter in northern Canada, with Hudson still pressing his men to continue the expedition to find a route to Asia) when the crew returned to England, they blamed the mutiny on the men who died en route back so as to escape the charge of mutiny (which would have seen them executed).
  • Adolf Hitler is an example of how even a dead guy who was genuinely guilty of genocide and war crimes can also be used as a fall guy.
    • During the Cold War era, German military leaders such as Erich von Manstein and Heinz Guderian wrote memoirs about World War II in which they claimed that they could have beaten the Soviet Union and won the war if Hitler had listened to them and not made his own stupid decisions. For example, if they had been allowed to focus everything on taking Moscow instead of shifting attention to the South in the 1942 summer offensive, Case Blue. The fact that Hitler was no longer around to disagree with them was very convenient. Many of their claims have been debunked by modern historians, who point out that until 1944 Hitler usually did do what his generals advised, even when he disagreed with them. For example, he approved summer 1943's Operation Citadel at the urging of his generals despite having a really bad feeling about it, and indeed it turned out to be a major defeat. Also, on the flip side, there were some times when he overruled his generals where he ended up being right. Returning to the first example, his generals had little evidence for their view that Russia would give up and stop fighting if Moscow fell (it didn't work for Napoleon), and in light of Germany's desperate shortages of food and oil, he saw the importance of capturing the resource-rich Caucasus region. The operation didn't succeed in the end, but of the two options it was the one that made more sense.
    • Similarly, various figures in the military and government of Nazi Germany claimed to be uninvolved in the genocides and war crimes that Germany carried out, pinning the blame on a small number of leaders and especially the deceased Hitler. While Hitler was undoubtably the person most to blame for the war and its atrocities, he couldn't have done it without a lot of help, and his subordinates knew full well what they were doing.
    • This is the core of the controversial argument by British historian AJP Taylor on the beginning of World War II. He argued that while Hitler may have been evil, the actual war was sparked off by incompetent and muddled diplomacy by Britain and France that created an opportunity for Hitler (or, potentially, any other German nationalist leader) to take advantage. After Hitler was defeated and the full extent of his evil was revealed, the argument went, the Allied leaders simply buried their own incompetent diplomacy while placing all the blame on the now-dead Hitler and his incontrovertible evil.
  • Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense strategy conceded his participation in the crime but argued that his brother Tamerlan (killed during the manhunt) was the primary perpetrator and that Dzhokhar should therefore be spared the death penalty. (It didn't work.)
  • Jeremy Bamber, the perpetrator of the White House Farm murders, tried to pin the crime on his adoptive sister Sheila, who was known for being schizophrenic. Police believed at first, but closer examination of the evidence showed it was him who killed his adoptive parents, his sister and her sons.
  • After the 2001 anthrax attacks, agencies such as USAMRIID and the CDC sent the FBI some consultants on biological warfare to aid in the investigation. The FBI not only accused the consultants of performing the attacks, but when one of them committed suicide due to unending harassment, the FBI pointed their fingers at the corpse and declared the case closed. This resulted in the FBI becoming extremely unpopular with the intelligence community because their own efforts revealed two damning facts: first; the anthrax strain had never before been seen in the Western hemisphere, and second; though they recognized an element of how the anthrax was prepared, it was a Soviet technique no Western scientist has been able to reproduce. To this day, American military biologists consider the attacks their equivalent of the Roswell landings.
  • In the first Boer War in 1881, the battle of Majuba Hill was a shattering and humiliating defeat for the British note  with 50% of their force being killed, wounded or captured and the rest sent into headlong rout. Fortunately for the aftermath, the British commander General Colley was among the dead and therefore the ideal man to take all the blame in the post-battle inquest. Nothing said about the complacent and fallacious British assumption that a bunch of poorly armed colonial irregulars, and Dutch, to boot, would be a pushover, only one step up from being black natives.
  • 2 years earlier in the Zulu War, black natives who didn't even have guns inflicted their own embarrassing defeat on the British. General Lord Chelmsford blamed it all on Colonel Durnford who died in the battle, claiming he disobeyed an order that Chelmsford clearly never actually issued and which Durnford would've had no time to carry out even if it had been issued. Few actually bought his excuse, and it was only the fact that he was able to bounce back and fully conquer Zululand afterward that kept him from falling into complete disgrace. Even this partial redemption, it was only at Queen Victoria's personal request that Prime Minister Gladstone even agreed to meet with Chelmsford, and reputedly did nothing but criticize him during said brief meeting.
  • A woman in New York was being investigated for the death of her two husbands. In an attempt to throw the blame off herself, she poisoned her daughter with a spiked drink, then composed a "suicide note" where the daughter supposedly took responsibility for both murders. Fortunately, the daughter survived and police were able to determine that the note was a forgery.
  • Chris Watts murdered his wife and daughters, then claimed his wife killed the girls and he killed her in a fit of rage. He later recanted the statement, going back to his original confession.
  • In 1996, a Seattle police officer named Matt Bachmeier lost his home in a suspicious fire. One month later, Bachmeier claimed that a local petty criminal by the name of James Wren had confessed to setting the fire. To back up his claims, he produced what looked like a written confession signed by Wren. Police began to get suspicious of Bachmeier's story when they couldn't find Wren, and their suspicion only deepened when they found bloodstains in the back of Bachmeier's patrol car that were matched to Wren. Wren's body was eventually found in the wilderness six months later. It turned out that Bachmeier had set the fire himself to collect the insurance money, then coerced Wren into signing the confession before killing him.
  • Inverted in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Two of Custer's surviving officers, Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen, were criticized by Custer's supporters, especially his widow, as being responsible for Custer's death by failing to properly execute Custer's orders during the battle. Modern critics of Custer have pointed to Custer's own tactical mistakes as being the real reasons he lost the battle and he and most of his men were killed. Custer's entire career showed a history of reckless aggression (this had made him a hero at the Battle of Gettysburg), and at Little Bighorn he finally bit off more than he could chew.