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Framing the Guilty Party

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Tagon: Can we plead "that's not how we did it?"
Massey: Maybe you can ask for a recess while the defense runs around in a panic.

When one comes across a Frame-Up, the usual assumption is that the victim of the frame is innocent. Sometimes, however, this is not the case.

Framing the Guilty Party usually takes one of four forms:

  • Framing a Known Guilty Party: You know who the bad guy is, but there's not quite enough evidence to prove it, so the cops/prosecutors either create the evidence or allow someone else to create it and/or perjure themselves in order to convict them. If the Good Guys get away with it because the Bad Guy deserves it, it's Pay Evil unto Evil.

  • Framing an Unknown Guilty Party: Person A frames Person B for some reason (revenge, personal antipathy, lulz, deflecting suspicion from Person A and/or his friends, etc)... and it turns out that Person B actually was the bad guy who really did commit the crime.

  • Framing a Party known for being Guilty of something else: Person A commits a crime and frames Person B, but Person B is guilty of other, just as severe crimes that he or she got away with — at times, it’s exactly this guilt that makes them so easy to frame.

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  • Framing Yourself: The guilty party plants enough evidence to make themselves a suspect, and either does the frame-up so incompetently that it's obviously a frame-up, or later somehow exposes the "frame-up". The goal of this manoeuver is usually that the guilty party will be put beyond suspicion, on the basis that the real culprit tried to frame someone innocent; this may lead genuine evidence incriminating the guilty party to be disregarded, on the assumption that it was also planted, or else cannot be prosecuted without violating laws against double jeopardy.

Unsurprisingly, while the first form can be considered Truth in Television (how true it is obviously depends on how corrupt your local police force and prosecuting counsel are), the second one is almost always pure fiction, often something of a Contrived Coincidence. If someone trying to frame themselves pulls it off, the character is typically on the way to Magnificent Bastard status, although there's always the risk that if the investigators don't fall for the fake frame-up (either by not realizing it's a frame in the first place, or realizing the frame was faked), the perp has provided evidence proving their own guilt, in which case it's more of What an Idiot!.


Compare Bluffing the Murderer/Engineered Public Confession, in which the evidence to convict the guilty party is created by somehow tricking them into doing something revealing rather than via a frame. See also: Frame-Up, for implicating the innocent with false evidence. Framing Yourself can also overlap with Sarcastic Confession. Someone who takes the frame at face value, and therefore suspects the guilty party, is Right for the Wrong Reasons. Contrasts Then Let Me Be Evil, the case when the framed party commits atrocities because they are framed.

WARNING! Although spoiler tags are used below, even the unspoiled mention of works could give away major developments. Proceed at your own risk!

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Framing an Unknown Guilty Party

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one of the episodes of Detective Conan, the killer is a woman named Tina. Her boyfriend found the crime scene and saw that the victim wrote "Tina" in his own blood as he lay dying, so the boyfriend changed the message to "Ringo", hoping to deflect all suspicion onto an innocent person who probably wouldn't have an alibi. Then Ringo found the crime scene and changed the message again to point to... you guessed it.

    Comic Books 
  • In From Hell, fraudulent psychic Robert Lees, in retaliation for a personal slight, leads Inspector Fred Abberline to Sir William Gull's home, claiming he's had visions of Gull committing the Whitechapel murders. He is shocked speechless when Gull confesses to the crimes. Years later, still shaken, he admits to Abberline, "I made it all up, and it all came true anyway. That's the funny part."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The protagonist of Kind Hearts and Coronets spends most of the film coldly and methodically killing off the entire aristocratic D'Ascoyne family. In the end, his jealous girlfriend tips off the police that he is the murderer... of her husband, who in fact committed suicide on a completely unrelated note. It evolves into a Category 3 in the end. Almost. Probably.
  • No Way Out:
    • Commander Farrell's girlfriend is killed accidentally by the Secretary of Defense, who blames a Soviet spy, setting off a Pentagon Witch Hunt. Farrell has to find proof who the real killer was before evidence turns up showing he had slept with her, and thus be accused...not only because he didn't commit the crime, but because he is a Soviet spy.
    • The man who ends up being blamed for the killing (the politician's aide) was not actually guilty of that (or of being a mole), but had committed multiple illegal acts in the course of the coverup, including at least one actual murder, and is the primary villain of the movie.
  • A slight variant of Category 2 is in the film Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. A crusading newspaper editor (John McIntire) wants to prove that the death penalty can cause an innocent man to be executed. He hatches a bizarre plot with his star reporter (Dana Andrews): the editor will plant false evidence indicating that the reporter is guilty of a recent unsolved sex murder. After the reporter is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death, the editor will come forward with proof that the evidence was falsified, forcing the authorities to release the reporter. Amazingly enough, the reporter agrees to this. The first twist comes when the editor is killed in an accident, and the evidence destroyed before he can clear the reporter. The second twist comes when it develops that the reporter is the actual murderer.
  • An example of this being done to a good guy happens in The Dukes of Hazzard film. To get the Dukes out of the way, the cops plant a still at their home. As the Dukes are known moonshine smugglers, it's questioned why the cops had to frame them in the first place. Daisy explains that the cops are just too stupid to find the real one.
  • An interesting example of the criminal himself suggesting the framing. In Hannibal, the titular character is escaping from Mason Verger's farm where he was going to be killed when Mason shows up with his personal physician. He orders his doctor to go into a pit filled with man-eating pigs to get a gun and shoot Hannibal. When the doctor refuses, Mason threatens to expose the doctor's role in his crimes. Hannibal says, "Hey Cordell! Why don't you push him in [the pit]? You can always say it was me." He then proceeds to do so.
  • Done in the climax of the Mexican film Todo El Poder, after the protagonists used a doctored video of the (supposedly kidnapped but in reality dead) Dirty Cop confessing his crimes to expose and blackmail his Corrupt Bureaucrat boss; however, the boss attempts to turn the tables when he's presented with the evidence, as he shoots his underling's body (not realizing that he was already dead) and then announces that tomorrow the newspapers will report the arrest of the "dangerous gang of kidnappers" led by the protagonist but "unfortunately the brave cop lost his life in line of duty". The protagonist then reveals that he also kidnapped the boss' wife as a backup plan after the Dirty Cop died of a heart attack before getting an actual confession from him.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the infamous witch trial, where a group of peasants, by all appearances, just grabbed a random woman and dressed her up in a witch costume because they wanted to burn something. They seem to have no evidence aside from one guy who claims she turned him into a newt ("I got better."), until Sir Bedivere administers a test that reveals she is indeed a witch. She shrugs it off with "That's a fair cop."

  • In Martha Wells's The Death of the Necromancer, one of the villains framed an innocent man for murder and necromancy. As a consequence, the heronote  spends the novel trying to frame him, so that he too will be executed for a crime he didn't commit. The hero finally tricks him into shooting a magically animated corpse.
  • Donald Westlake wrote a novella called A Travesty that has the murderer (also the narrator) being framed for the murder he committed by the detective because the murderer has been having an affair with the detective's wife.
  • While the crime is not something we would recognize as a crime and the frame-up consists of simply an anonymous accusation (Nazi Germany was something of a Police State), Harry Turtledove's In the Presence of Mine Enemies has a woman in an unhappy marriage accuse her target of adultery of being a Jew after he says no. At that point in the novel, we have already found out the man is a member of the secret underground Judaic community of 21st century Nazi Germany, and that one of the things that made him say no was thinking such a relationship could have endangered the secret (the other is that he is happily married).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica
    • Baltar, desperate to get any hint of involvement in the Cylon attack off himself, randomly picks someone who was standing on the bridge as being a Cylon. Guess what?
    • Later in the first season, a Cylon agent gives the fleet doctored photos of Baltar tampering with the Colonial defense mainframe, thereby facilitating the genocide of mankind. When the frame-up is discovered, Baltar's actual indirect role in providing the Cylons access to the defense network remained unknown until the late third season. And even then, no-one can prove it, so very few people know about it in the first place (they find other things he has done to go after him). No one actually has hard, non-drug-based vision evidence of his wrongdoing until he confesses to someone halfway through the final season.
    • Eventually, Baltar is put on trial for the Cylons' disastrous occupation of New Caprica. It really was his fault, but not for the reason they think. The witnesses have to resort to perjury to make the case against him, as none of the prosecutors know what he's actually guilty of, and he's ultimately acquitted.
  • In Burn Notice episode "Mind Games" Micheal tries to convince loan shark Wallace that his thug Carter is an undercover Police Officer, even hiding a kit in his house. Wallace has Carter's house searched, but instead finds Carter's real kit, revealing he was an FBI Agent the whole time. Being good guys, Michael and the gang take it upon themselves to both save his life and complete the job.
  • The Caesars: In "Claudius", the sixth episode, Capito tries to save himself and his son Bassus from being tortured to death for allegedly conspiring against Emperor Caligula by offering to name his fellow conspirators. They include Caligula's dancing teacher Mnester, patricians Callistus and Vitellius, and Caligula's wife Caesonia; the last name allows Caligula to see through the lie, and Capito and Bassus are both killed. However, Callistus and Vitellius actually were conspiring against Caligula, and organise his assassination by the Praetorian Guard at the end of the episode.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Det. Burn considers this with a serial rapist in season 2. Goes so far as cutting open an evidence bag from a previous attack. Ends up costing her her job.
    • A former FBI colleague of Jo's actually goes thru with it in trying to catch another rapist in season 8.
  • In Downton Abbey, Barrow takes a disliking to the nanny and lies about seeing her neglecting her duties. When Lady Grantham checks in on her, she discovers the nanny has in fact been abusing one of the children under her care. Lady Grantham gives all credit to Barrow for uncovering the nanny's abuse.
  • Played for Laughs in The Good Place:
    Young Eleanor: I work two after school jobs because you blew half my college fund bailing your boyfriend out of jail.
    Doug Shellstrop: So irresponsible!
    Young Eleanor: And you blew the other half framing her boyfriend.
    Donna Shellstrop: It was so stupid! He was already guilty, dumbass!
  • Leverage: In "The Hot Potato Job", the crew kick off a mole hunt to distract their target's security from their real heist. The "suspects" they call in for questioning are just employees whose security passes they need to steal. Unfortunately, one of them actually is a mole and confesses when interrogated, ending the distraction earlier than planned.
  • In an episode of Murder, She Wrote a distraught father who came upon his daughter's body, apparently murdered by a local art thief, rearranges the scene to frame his son-in-law. Turns out his son-in-law was the murderer, and he was attempting to frame the art thief.
  • The Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Madcap Modiste" used a fifth version of the scenario: Accidental framing of an unknown guilty party. Charles Pierce is arrested and accused of poisoning his estranged wife Flavia, and his girlfriend Hope Sutherland tries to plant evidence to exonerate him. Hope was trying to make it look like Flavia killed suicide, but the evidence plants ends up getting Flavia's employee Leona Durant accused of the murder. Unable to stand by and let an innocent person be convicted because of her, Hope confesses. Only it turns out that Leona really did kill Flavia (albeit accidentally while trying to poison Hope), something Perry proves.
  • In Scandal season 1, episode 3, Olivia and her team take on a client who is being accused of rape but the stories don't add up. It is ultimately discovered that he is guilty of rape but not of the woman who accused him. The man had raped the accuser's best friend years ago causing said best friend to commit suicide. The accuser decided to lie about being raped by him to get revenge. Even though he is proven to be innocent of this particular rape, Olivia is able to convince his mother to turn him over to the police for his crime.
  • In Spooks, it's revealed that Adam Carter once infiltrated Syrian intelligence. A Syrian officer was close to exposing him, so Adam fabricated evidence that the officer was an Israeli mole. As it turned out, he was one. Oops.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lots of frame-ups in the roleplaying game Paranoia (which specifically encourages frameups) wind up being Category 2, just because everyone is guilty of something.
  • In BattleTech, Sun-Tzu Liao accused Victor Steiner-Davion of having replaced Thomas Marik's son, Joshua, who was in Victor's realm undergoing medical treatment for leukemia, with a body double. Unbeknownst to Sun-Tzu, who was just trying to stir up trouble for his most hated rival, Joshua actually had died and been replaced with a body double while a panicking Victor tried to figure out what to do, as he was foolishly afraid that Thomas would cut off the military aid Victor needed to refit his forces after the damage they'd suffered during the Clan Invasion. Thomas was an extremely honorable ruler and had Victor been honest with him he wouldn't have done anything simply because it was against his principles, but he was justifiably furious over the attempted deception and launched a military campaign against Victor that caused significant damage.

    Video Games 
  • In Life Is Strange, at the end of Chapter two when Max, Chloe, David, Nathan, and Jefferson are discussing Kate’s suicide attempt in Principal Wells’s office the player has the option of blaming Jefferson for it based on an argument observed between Kate and Him some time before the incident occurred. While it turns out that Jefferson indeed played a role in Kate’s actions, this early in the game whether or not he really had anything to do with it was highly debatable, as the complete context of the interaction between the two was not absolutely certain and other than Jefferson’s overall creepy demeanor, there isn’t really any evidence that he’s a bad guy in any way... yet.
  • Tamriel Rebuilt: The quest Belated Justice features a somewhat twisty example of this if you push for a guilty sentence: the evidence you present to finally tip the scale to guilty is accurate (it doesn't actually say anything about the crimes themselves, but are important since they provide motives), but in the course of acquiring it you would have learned information that comes close to confirming the alibi (that a Daedric doppelganger committed the crimes, something that is known to have happened with other people at the time — the person was seen in two places at the same time during the critical evening). The twist that places it in this category? The person imprisoned is the Daedric doppelganger, who somewhere along the way forgot that they weren't the real article, something you do not learn unless you get him executed.
  • In Town of Salem, there are several ways for this to happen. One way is for the Framer role to frame someone for being part of the mafia, while that person is actually a different evil role. There's also the Jester Springtime for Hitler; Jesters want to make the town think they're evil, and one easy way to do that is to throw suspicion on random people, ending up looking suspicious yourself either by getting a townie executed or just making enough bad accusations. Of course, Jesters aren't part of the Mafia and don't know who is, so it's entirely possible for them to nail a genuine Mafia member.

    Web Comics 
  • In Kevin & Kell, Angelique and Kevin's father try to frame each other for killing Sid, and both are convinced the other did it. It turns out that Danielle was on a mission to assassinate Sid, and he accidentally shot himself with her gun when she couldn't bring herself to do it. Her father then decides to take the blame in her place, since his frame-up was the one that was more accepted.
  • A variant occurred in a Something*Positive story arc. Kharisma had been trying to kill a very rich, very evil, and very old man because he made a bet with her: if she managed to kill him within a certain time period, she would inherit all his money. He survives all of her murder attempts because he's just that evil, only to die of natural causes just before the time limit expired. However, she is arrested and convicted of his murder anyway. And she doesn't help herself by bragging about the bet every chance she got...

    Web Original 
  • During one group Let's Play of Trouble in Terrorist Town, Markiplier jumps to his death and promptly claims Mangaminx killed him, causing the others to attack her. It turns out she actually was the traitor for that round.
    Markiplier: Minx didn't actually kill me, but god you guys went for it.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer:
    • In the premiere episode, there is a double-whammy example of this trope. The eponymous secret agent wants to erase the fact that he's been misappropriating government funds to fuel his playboy lifestyle, so he hastily contrives a reason that might convince others to let him secretly access the mainframe: "I'm on a mole-hunt!" It doesn't work as intended. Instead, this causes the real mole to make a run for it, pay for his getaway using Archer's account, and ultimately get blamed for all of Archer's financial discrepancies.
    • Our "hero" is accused of fathering an illegitimate son with a prostitute. His blood is drawn for the paternity test, but he secretly swaps the sample with blood from his co-worker so that the sample won't match the child's DNA. It turns out that his co-worker was the real father, making the samples match, and everyone believes that Archer is the father.
  • King of the Hill: One of Dale's fears is that if they found Boomhauer's car, the police will investigate, and as part of the government they are gonna pin the crime on him. And since he did it, they'll succeed.

    Real Life 
  • May have happened in the real-life murder of Sunny von Bulow. The legal team, desperate to find out that the man they were representing (Sunny's husband Claus) was not a hopelessly amoral killer, were pleased to discover persuasive logic that a key piece of evidence against Claus had been fabricated — most likely planted by Sunny's family, who hated Claus and were convinced of his guilt. The piece of evidence in question was a needle used for an insulin shot — but the trouble was, the insulin was found on the outside of the needle. If the shot had been administered, there would not be insulin on the outside of it, meaning that the needle must have been dipped into insulin but not used. Testimony from one of the maids was also brought into question due to her interactions with the family's attorney. However, this didn't mean he didn't do it; the family may well have simply framed a guilty man. In the end, Claus was found not guilty, partially due to the rejection of hearsay evidence and the fact that the coma could not be proved to have been caused by insulin, and partially because Sunny herself had overdosed on aspirin not three weeks earlier, leading to questions about her state of mind.
    • If the needle in question was really as described, it raises serious questions about the competence of everyone in the original trial. The needle was not a subtle issue.
  • Mob hitman (and later informant) Donald Frankos claims that he was convicted of a murder he didn't really commit on the basis of perjured eyewitness testimony. According to him, he always wore a disguise when committing contract killings. In his memoir, he dryly notes that "if I had done it, he wouldn't have been able to identify me" would not have made a good defense in court.

Framing Yourself

    Anime & Manga 
  • Detective Conan:
    • One murderer drew a letter on the wall pointing towards herself in the victim's blood, but the victim was killed instantly and thus couldn't possibly have drawn it. This also allowed her to use her own skeet shooting gun without worrying about fingerprints (since anyone in the club could have accessed it) or gun powder residue (since she had used it earlier anyway).
    • Another made it look like he had killed the victim (a fairly accomplished swordsman) in a swordfight by cutting up the room (cutting way too much and too randomly while purposefully leaving a certain statue intact to implicate another suspect) and leaving a sword clenched (the wrong way) in the victim's hands. This was also done in an attempt to hide the dying message left by the victim while his back was turned.
  • Kindaichi Case Files has one. A hanged chicken dripping blood to a math test answer sheet (which points the whole prank to the only teacher owning that answer sheet) complete with rumor that said teacher was the one starting the prank, her being in in the same closed room as the first victim, and the prep school building's dark past related to her grandfather all point at the math teacher. It turns out that she's really the killer, deliberately spreading rumors about her involvement and constantly placing herself as the one with highest possibility for being the killer while preparing plausible false deduction for Kindaichi in order to get away with her crime.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope makes up the twist ending to Fritz Lang's last American film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
  • The Life of David Gale has an alternate motive for this: the eponymous character planted evidence to frame himself specifically so that additional evidence created to exonerate him would only be found after he was found guilty and given the death penalty, thus turning public opinion against capital punishment by being an example of a wrongfully-executed man. He, the victim, and an accomplice staged the whole thing from the start.
  • The Spanish film Killing Words is about a professor who makes it look like his ex-wife has framed him for her murder and skipped town, when in reality he murdered her.
  • In Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy Krueger resurrects Jason Voorhees and tricks him into killing a few kids in Springwood, Ohio, with the intent of taking credit for Jason's murders (since the adult residents will assume it's him). Unfortunately for Freddy, the titular conflict begins when Jason keeps going at it. Unlike other examples of this sub-trope, Freddy fully intends to take credit for the first few kills since the people's fear of him gives him the power to murder at his leisure.
  • Threatened in the climax of the 1994 HBO movie, The Enemy Withinnote . The protagonists confront General Lloyd (Jason Robards), telling him to call off their coup attempt. Lloyd laughs them off, stating that by the time they could actually move against him, the Vice-President would've already been sworn in, completing their coup. Colonel Casey (Forrest Whittaker) tells Lloyd that either he calls the coup off... or he'll confess: He'll paint himself as one of the conspirators and spill everything he knows (and as a "conspirator", everything that would've been hearsay becomes first-hand testimony). Lloyd angrily tells his people to stand down.


By Author:

  • Agatha Christie did this several times:
    • It was pretty much the central premise of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, where the murderer goes to elaborate lengths to frame himself for the murder of his wife, acting shifty, having public tiffs with her, being seen purchasing the poison, openly enjoying his newfound wealth, etc... albeit keeping a rock-solid alibi up his sleeve. The plan was to get speedily tried on a wave of public outcry, whip out the alibi at the last second, be found innocent on that shocking revelation alone, then be forevermore protected by the Double Jeopardy rule (in Anglo-Saxon law, one can't be tried for the same crime twice). Hercule Poirot foils this plan by refusing to allow the man's arrest until he has true evidence of his guilt.
    • Also, in Towards Zero, culminating in a complex double set of framing: first, the real killer framed himself, clumsily, and then put together a much more professional set of planted evidence pointing at someone else. The desired end result was that the second suspect would be hanged for murder; the actual murder victim was only a means to an end.
    • A variation is used in the short story (and later film version) Witness for the Prosecution, where a witness frames herself so her testimony against the defendant is later exposed as false, to help free him instead.
    • In The Murder at the Vicarage, the killers plant several clues to make it look like the victim was shot at the exact time when one of them came to the crime scene to see the victim. The police are meant to see through these clues and assume the crime was committed later.
    • It's attempted by one of a pair of murderers in Death on the Nile, but in such a clumsy fashion that Poirot sees through it before it can be a serious red herring, and the other killer is actually afraid that the stupidity of it is going to end up working against them.
    • In Ordeal by Innocence, the killer makes sure he would be the prime suspect, then creates an alibi to mislead the police into thinking that someone else is trying to frame him. Unfortunately for him, his alibi fails.

By Work:

  • Discworld: The Klatchian agents in Jingo plant sand and Klatchian coins at a crime scene to convince Vimes that they weren't involved. Sure enough, when Vimes reads Colon's report, he sarcastically comments "All that's missing is the box of dates and the camel under the pillow!"
  • Honor Harrington: In At All Costs, Havenite politician Arnold Giancola plants obviously manufactured evidence that (correctly) names him as the one responsible for altering diplomatic correspondence which started the war all over again. Fortunately, the Pritchart administration picks up on this fact and never makes the evidence public.
  • Subverted in Jade Dragon, where The Shadow investigates a frame-up so obvious the authorities will likely conclude the man is innocent, but a sleuth who goes a step further soon realizes that's exactly how a clever enough criminal could get away with murder. The real crook, though, went a step further than that, adding increasingly subtle evidence against the guy...
  • In John le Carré's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, the hero is sent by MI6 to East Germany to frame East German spycatcher Mundt as a British mole. Except the British have actually discredited his "evidence" deliberately because Mundt really is The Mole for them, meaning that if Mundt is accused of being The Mole in the future, no one will believe it.
  • Star Wars Legends: In The Krytos Trap, Tycho stands trial for Corran's murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, but both sides suspect that much of it was manufactured by Imperial Intelligence. The question is whether he is innocent and made to look guilty by a frame, or guilty and made to look innocent by a "clumsy" frame. In the end, the victim was alive the whole time (the Imperials faked his death and took him prisoner) and General Cracken, a member of the tribunal, knew that Tycho was innocent (of this particular crime) and held the trial to give New Republic Intelligence time to locate the real spy.
  • The Thinking Machine: The 'frame yourself' version is done by the murderer in "The Fatal Cipher". The killer plants a lot of false evidence to implicate themselves, relying on Van Dusen to discover that this evidence is fake, and then find the second set of false evidence they planted to implicate their chosen patsy. The entire scheme ends up verging into Complexity Addiction.
  • The Trees of Pride has an interesting variant on this effect. The local doctor needs Squire Vane to be declared legally dead in order that his daughter may inherit the Squire's estates and cut down a grove of poisonous trees (the Squire suffers from an extreme case of Scully Syndrome, and is unwilling to accept any amount of evidence corroborating the folk tales regarding the tree's lethality). He talks the Squire into going on a secret vacation for a few months, then plants evidence to indicate that the Squire was murdered and that he was the murderer. Since he could easily halt any prosecution by simply producing the Squire alive and well, he knew that he personally ran very little risk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Blacklist, Anna McMahon creates the appearance of collusion with a terrorist organization in order to shine a light on its activities.
  • In season 4 of Breaking Bad, Walt gives Jesse a rare poison known as Ricin in hopes that he will use it to kill Gus Fring. When it later appears that Jesse's girlfriend's son has been poisoned with the Ricin, Jesse immediately assumes Walt is responsible due to nobody else knowing about it. However, Walt points out to him that he has nothing to gain by poisoning the boy. He then reasons that since the only thing keeping Gus from killing Walt is that Jesse refuses to cook meth for him if he does, Gus must have somehow found out about the Ricin and poisoned Brock with it in hopes of turning Jesse and Walt against each other. This convinces Jesse to side with Walt again, but the final scene of the season reveals Walt was responsible for poisoning Brock after all (albeit with a "lesser" poison — Lily of the Valley).
  • Father Brown: The murderer does this in "The Brewer's Daughter"; laying out an Orgy of Evidence against themself, then relying on Father brown to realise this evidence was planted, and then uncover the second more subtle set of clues planted to implicate someone else.
  • The Jonathan Creek episode " Demon's Roost" has a flashback to the " striped unicorn" case, in which the murderer arranges things so that it looks like he must have killed his wife, but plants evidence towards a more complicated solution that suggests he's being framed, relying on Jonathan to be so used to Locked Room Mysteries that the idea the only other person in the room was the murderer would actually strike him as less likely. And it worked; Jonathan only figures it out during the present-day scenes.
  • Category three is utilized in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Eosphoros" (fittingly, since the show is more psychological and frequently deals with self-styled Magnificent Bastards and Chessmasters). The killer intentionally plants evidence against him (his fingerprints on a packet of ketchup that was at the crime scene), then gives the detectives a prepared explanation for it. This almost succeeds in getting him off the hook, too.
  • Mission: Impossible: The episode "The Mind of Stefan Miklos" had a two-for-one variation: the Americans have been using a foreign mole in their intelligence service (Townsend) by feeding him bad information that he unwittingly passes on, but another spy (Simpson) in the ring is a rival and discovers proof that the information is bad, accusing Townsend of being a double agent for the Americans. The investigator, Miklos, who the foreign intelligence service is sending to ferret out the truth, is believed to be far too competent to fall for an attempt to frame Simpson, so instead the team frames Townsend, depending on Miklos to see through their con, and come to the conclusion that the only reason the Americans would frame him would be to discredit the information he had passed on and have Townsend's own people eliminate him. As a bonus, the failed frame-up implicates Simpson as having been involved, leading to a Category 1 variation, since Miklos concludes that he must be a double agent and was assisting the Americans in the attempted frame.
  • In the early Monk episode "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale", the titular Dale the Whale arranges for his physician, Dr. Christiaan Vezza, to murder a judge named Catherine Lavinio who issued a costly antitrust ruling against Dale, then stage the scene to make it look like Dale did it, including a 911 call fingering him as the murderer and a neighborhood girl seeing a morbidly obese man disconnecting a smoke alarm in the house. This is completely impossible, because not only is Dale too fat to move, he couldn't even fit through the victim's door if he could, because he's basically like a ship in a bottle. In this case, the motive was seemingly ego- Dale wanted to look so rich and powerful that he could have a judge murdered, and have everyone know he did it, and yet still get away with it because nobody could prove it, a plan that backfired since Monk figured it out and also because his physician hates his guts and resented being blackmailed into committing the murder in the first place, and has no problem testifying against Dale when caught.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Murder Takes The Bus", a character eventually confesses to a stabbing murder, but Jessica then states that he is guilty only of attempted murder because an amateur forensic analysis was sufficient to reveal that the victim was already deceased when the stabbing occurred. She later realizes that the character had committed the murder all along, hoping that confessing to a stabbing that a coroner would easily find was not the cause of death would prevent anyone from realizing that he had committed the strangulation that actually did kill the victim.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode " Manual for Murder", the killer discovers that someone is deliberately ruining his life, murders everyone else involved, and makes sure Murdoch learns he has reasons to resent them all, knowing that he'll see through the obvious solution, discover the architect of his misfortune, and conclude framing him was the final step of this plan.
  • There was an episode of The Practice in which a white cop alleged that a black man walked up to him and confessed to being in possession of cocaine. The prosecution unsuccessfully argues that it's a self-framing job. The cop's partner asks the judge why he would make up such a ridiculous story, to which she replies that perhaps he did it precisely to open up that line of reasoning. Unlike the above example, it's revealed that the man was in fact guilty; he tells his lawyer that he did it in order to stop the cop from brutalizing another black man, correctly figuring that no jury would believe it happened that way.
  • Probe's "Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You": Someone has planted evidence that an orangutan (Josephine) had killed Louise with a gun. Josephine was surgically modified to increase her intelligence. She has created a sign language and written language, and educated herself by watching TV. She murdered Louise because she was a romantic rival for Austin's affections, and planted the evidence because on TV, the obvious suspect that everyone thinks did it at first, is always found innocent.
  • An episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles offers a sci-fi twist on the trope. Charles Fisher, who survived Judgement Day thanks to being in prison, later becomes a collaborator for Skynet and is rewarded by being sent back to live out the rest of his life before the war. It turns out Fisher's incarceration was thanks to a Stable Time Loop; he committed espionage, knowing that DNA evidence would implicate his younger self.
  • Columbo: In "Publish or Perish," Riley Greenleaf's way of killing an author who's about to leave him for another publisher is to hire another guy, Eddie Kane, to do it, and have Kane plant an orgy of evidence against himself while Greenleaf carefully stages an alibi, to try to convince the police that someone is trying to frame him. Unfortunately, he plants too much evidence and some of it doesn't fit (literally).

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Subverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All case 2. Disgraced nurse Mimi Miney and her sister Ini were in a car accident that left Ini dead and Mimi disfigured — some quick thinking let Mimi kill her old identity and assume her sister's. When she commits murder a year later, she makes it look as though the murder was carried out by the vengeful spirit of Mimi. (This is plausible in a game world where spirit channeling is realnote .) This frames "Mimi" (and the spirit medium supposedly channeling her) and draws suspicion away from "Ini".
    • In the fan-made case Two Sides of the Same Turnabout, Helene gets trapped in the crime scene at the time of murder due to chloroform being used on her to knock her unconscious. Helene proves in court that she was drugged, claiming that she was framed up, but the prosecutor is having none of it: he says that Helene used the drug on herself to make it look like someone else framed her up. It's eventually proven that Helene was right.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has a strange non-murder example in the second case. Byakuya Togami isn't the murderer; however, he did rearrange the crime scene to frame someone else (a Serial Killer... who actually didn't do it this time), but he made sure to leave just enough evidence to frame himself for the framing. Turns out he did this to scout out who was most likely to catch him if he ever did decide to murder someone. And for the lols.

    Western Animation 
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: The Titans Tower is randomly attacked by an assailant sent by a mysterious Japanese supervillain named Broshogun; but when they travel to Tokyo to investigate, the local police chief Daizo is an Obstructive Bureaucrat who denies that Broshogun even exists, and is busy leading a crack team called the "Tokyo Troopers" saving the city from bizarre monsters and other villains. It turns out that Broshogun not only exists, he was actually a prisoner of Daizo the whole time, and the Troopers and all of the monsters and villains were creations that Daizo forced the ageing Broshogun to make so Daizo could play the hero. The only reason the Titans were attacked in the first place was Broshogun desperately trying to bring real heroes to Tokyo to rescue him from Daizo and foil his evil scheme.

    Real Life 
  • In 2015, Michigan Rep. Todd Courser admitted to writing up and sending out e-mails accusing himself of soliciting a male prostitute, because he was actually having an affair with fellow Rep. Cindy Gamrat and tried to muddy the waters with false accusations when the truth started to come out — the reason we know this is that one of his aides secretly recorded him explaining this plan. He was also alleged to have written up phony child abuse allegations, also against himself, earlier in his career in order to get himself sympathy votes when they were exposed as fraudulent.


    Fan Works 
  • In Semper Ad Meliora, Lelouch, Kallen, and Isaac Stadtfeld frame the majority of the Stadtfeld family for planning to assassinate the latter two over an issue of inheritance. Said family is actually guilt of treason, having sold secrets to the Rus Republic several decades prior and still having channels open with the E.U. Lelouch arranged for this framing to ensure that Kallen and Isaac would retain their titles as Duke of Westhaven and Heir to said Duchy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zig-zagged all over the place in Blue Collar. The three main characters attempt to rob some money from their union, but when they break into the safe, there isn’t any — the union has been skimming it, making illegal loans and working with organized crime. Nevertheless, the union claims that the money that should have been in there was taken so they can make an insurance claim and double dip. Faced with being pursued for a crime they did commit but from which they didn’t profit, the three men try to blackmail the union, and that drives the rest of the plot.
  • In Chicago, one application of this trope gets two murderesses off the hook. Sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn creates a fake diary that supposedly belongs to Villain Protagonist Roxie Hart, talking about how she killed the man she was having an affair with and how she was glad she did it. Co-conspirator Velma Kelly then presents it to the prosecutors of both cases, using it as a bargaining chip to get the charges against her dropped. When the diary is presented as evidence, however, Flynn points out that the diary is full of legal jargon — as though it had been written by a lawyer...
  • Delusions of Grandeur: It's extremely unlikely that Don Salluste, who's old and solely interested in money, would have fathered a child with one of the Queen's handmaidens. In fact, he reacts with shock to the mere concept and heartily denies it.note  However, considering he's utterly crooked and has been stealing tax money that belonged to the kingdom for years now, it's obvious the Queen has seized this pretext to finally put him into disgrace, rather than bother proving his actual crimes.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, Czaka is innocent of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, but since he is a collaborator who betrayed the Resistance, they have no qualms about framing him for it anyway and letting the Gestapo deal with him.
  • In Hitman, 47 is framed for the attempted murder of Belicoff. 47 in fact actually murdered Belicoff, but Belicoff was replaced with a double right after it happened since they wanted to keep Belicoff in power but also couldn't control the real one. 47, being one of the few privy to this knowledge, had to be eliminated.
  • Inverted in Silver Lode in the sense that an innocent party is exonerated by dishonest means. Rose and Dolly use a fake telegram from Discovery, California to "prove" Ballard's innocence and McCarty's guilt. A genuine telegram which indeed confirms this is later received.
  • Reversal of Fortune: Sunny's children frame Claus von Bulow — but when one student exclaims that proves he's innocent, Alan and another student reply that the children might have framed the guilty party. The film never says whether von Bulow is guilty, but the ending strongly suggests he is.
  • Subverted in Ruthless People. Sam was planning on killing his wife, Barbara — but she was kidnapped before he could. That said, after the chief of police was unintentional blackmailed into investigating Sam (the "blackmailers" thought it was evidence of Sam killing Barbara; it was really the chief cheating on his wife and doing a hooker), his attempt to frame Sam is sidelined by his men finding the bottle of chloroform Sam intended to use and pics of Carol with Sam.

  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch, Jr. and the Lestranges are sentenced to Azkaban in an obvious show trial. While the Lestranges are obviously guilty (Bellatrix boasts that Voldemort will free them someday as she's dragged away), the reader is led to believe that Crouch, Jr. was innocent. Later, we find out that he actually was a Death Eater after all. It's unclear whether Barty Crouch, Sr. knew that his son was guilty (in which case this is category 1) or if he was just covering his own political ass (in which case this is category 2). Basically, it comes down to your own interpretation of how huge a Jerkass you think Crouch, Sr. was.
  • In Isaac Asimov's story "Mirror Image" (set between The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn), there is a dispute between two Spacer mathematicians about who stole the other's idea. The only witnesses are Three Laws-Compliant Robotic Butlers, one of whom was ordered to lie. So, Baley questions both robots (the mathematicians refuse to be questioned by a mere Earth policeman), and, suddenly, one of the robots shuts down. Baley explains how it means the robot was given orders to lie by his owner, thus producing a strain severe enough to shut it down. The owner promptly confesses. The catch is, both robots were under a strain, and Baley didn't know enough about robots to know that the lying one will have a harder time because of it. He had already formed an opinion on other grounds, and interpreted the evidence to support his conclusion and pressure the perpetrator into confessing.
  • In Feet of Clay, Vimes is investigating an arsenic poisoning, when he finds a packet of powdered arsenic in his office just as authorities suddenly arrive in response to a tip-off. Vimes' response is to hide the arsenic and "plant" some coffee sweetener on himself, then eat it theatrically in front of the authorities to make the frame-up look like a clumsy frame-up. That's right, he framed his framers for framing him.
  • In Agatha Christie's The Market-Basing Mystery and Murder in the Mews, a suicide is made to look like a murder disguised as suicide with the intent of framing the person who drove the victim to take their own life.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Valentine's mother-in-law has left a glass of poison out for Valentine, and comes back in the middle of the night to remove the glass that contained the poison. Unfortunately, the Count was watching the whole thing, and after giving Valentine a drug to fake her death, replaces the poison in the glass. When Valentine's death is discovered the next morning, the doctor is called, the murderer comes in to see what all the fuss is about... and is unpleasantly shocked to see the doctor (who had his suspicions about the many deaths in Valentine's family lately) examining the glass for traces of poison, which he quickly finds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted in Justified: Raylan finds a witness to one of Boyd's crimes (who had previously refused to give evidence) and intimidates him into testifying, but stops cold when the witness asks for a picture so he knows who he's supposed to implicate. Turns out he didn't give a vague description because he was scared; he genuinely didn't get a good look. When he offers to commit perjury to help Raylan put Boyd back in jail, Raylan immediately turns him down.
  • In one episode of Hustle, a crooked DI tried to extort 10 grand off a friend of the team, so they gave her the perfect opportunity to extort them — that she would get the proceeds of their con, or she'd call the cops on them. Except, of course, they rigged it so all the evidence would point to her pulling off the con by herself, and then called the cops on her. Her original wrongdoing is never brought up.
  • This was used in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit called "Repression." An 18-year-old girl recovered memories of her father molesting her when she was young and planted images of child pornography in her youngest sister's room, in the hopes that it would be enough to get him in prison. Subverted when the investigation later learns that the memory that was recovered wasn't a real memory, that her father never molested her or her two sisters. The typical SVU sadness kicks in because this was learned after her younger sister killed their father.
  • In one episode of the original Law & Order, a police officer is killed, and initial evidence points to the priest who molested the officer when he was a boy. It turns out the officer's death was actually a suicide that had been staged to look like murder by the responding officers, who had no idea about any of this and were just trying to preserve his reputation and his family's survivor benefits by hiding the fact that he killed himself; the fact that it pointed to someone who had a checkered past was a total coincidence.
  • An unusual case of this in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Critic": Thanks to work from Monk and Natalie, the police suspect theater critic John Hannigan of murdering his girlfriend, Callie Esterhaus. So Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, and Disher confront Hannigan at his office to question him about drugging and raping an underaged girl — specifically Natalie's daughter Julie. Hannigan denies the accusation and claims he has never seen Julie before. This gives him away because Julie was performing in the play Hannigan was using as his alibi for the murder, and at one point in the show, she has a solo, where she looks exactly like she does right now. The fact that Hannigan says he doesn't recognize Julie proves he wasn't at the theater at all and was committing the murder. Goodbye, alibi.
  • Played with in The Lawyer to the point of deconstruction. Frank Nordling frames one party for heroin possession as part of his gambit against another. His plan is to represent the defendant and get the court to accept a plea that involves no jail time. Unfortunately, the police also find an unregistered gun, and what was supposed to be a quick means to an end spirals out of control. Although Frank gets the gun charge tossed, Therese - who is bipolar - develops extreme anxiety during her time in custody and commits suicide. Additionally, Frank getting his sister Sara, a recovering addict, to plant the heroin backfires predictably when she keeps some of the heroin and relapses.
  • One episode of Bones has the team consider framing an innocent party to get the guilty party to plead. A woman with Diplomatic Immunity had killed the woman who'd been sleeping with both her husband and son. All the evidence could have also pointed to the woman's son as the murderer if the team just left out a few details. The hope was that she would confess and waive her immunity in order to protect her son. Booth ultimately decides not to go through with it, since it's still lying even though they don't intend to actually take the evidence to court. They convince the woman to plead because the alternative is handing the real evidence over to her home government so she can be tried there, where she'll most likely be killed in prison by her political enemies.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: During the modern-day portions of the game, you play as an Animus researcher working for Abstergo who is coerced by a mysterious voice in IT to hack into various computers and deliver information to the Assassins. Later in the game, Abstergo gets wise to this and imprisons you and your co-workers while they investigate to find out who did it. During this time, however, your IT contact, rather than being an Assassin mole in a Templar run business, reveals himself to be a lunatic reincarnation of Aita who's trying to get you possessed by a virtual ghost (that of the ISU Juno upon aka the goddess Juno in mythology and Aita's wife before his first death and reincarnations in humanity); when he fails at this, he tries to kill you and is shot dead by security while you are on the ground from a non-fatal drug dose right next to him making it look like he was trying to make it look like he killed the perpetrator to cover for himself. The circumstances of the aforementioned scenario and the evidence found in his files (and the fact that he is the Head of IT giving him access to places the player shouldn't technically be able to go in) is more than enough to divert all suspicion from you. So, in the course of trying to eliminate you, he frames himself for the crimes you actually committed, albeit at his behest.
  • A very odd variation happens in Dragon Age: Inquisition during the "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts" quest. The "guilty" party is Grand Duchess Florianne attempting to frame her brother Gaspard for the murder of Empress Celene. He has nothing to do with her plans, but he is making his own moves by moving in chevaliers and mercenaries to lead a coup. While Gaspard knows nothing of what Florianne was planning, it is unknown if the reverse is true. Given that Orlais is a Decadent Court where the nobility literally make a game out of political intrigue, it's more than likely Florianne knew her brother was up to something, even if she didn't know the exact details.

    Web Comics 
  • In one Schlock Mercenary arc, the good guys blew up a reality TV network, and planted evidence to frame its CEO for the disaster. They would have gotten away with it, but someone else planted even more evidence, framing them for being in cahoots with the (actually innocent) CEO. They had a lot of trouble defending themselves against the false charges because if they gave their real alibi, they would have revealed their real crimes.
    Tagon: Can we plead "that's not how we did it"?

    Western Animation 
  • Sort of used on American Dad!!, when a series of improbable events happened to make Stan look like a wife-beating child molester. Stan's solution was to find somebody who, while innocent, deserved the punishment anyway. They wound up framing it on a co-worker of Roger's who had screwed him over. The fact that the police found (legal) neo-Nazi apparel — and that the detective in charge of the case was a Holocaust survivor — was a rather handy bonus. Another bonus: Stan specifically describes his plan in a way that seems to point to the U.S. overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who likewise deserved to get overthrown even though he was innocent of the specific crime he was accused of.


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