Officer Fletcher: How many?
Danny Witwer: None. This was all arranged.
A common tactic for fictional criminals (especially murderers) is to plant false clues at the scene of their crime: either to deliberately frame someone else or merely to throw suspicion away from themselves. Sometimes, however, they take things too far and the sheer amount of clues they plant has the opposite effect. No detective will believe that any criminal could be so careless as to leave that much incriminating evidence behind. He may also be suspicious because his investigation seems to be turning up all this evidence far more quickly and easily than is usual for this kind of case. Alternately, the quantity of evidence isn't the problem; the problem is the plausibility of the existence of the evidence, or the ability of the investigator to find the purported evidence (the latter usually leads to either a Detective Mole or a The Bad Guys Are Cops situation, although that can be avoided in the case of evidence that shows up after a thorough search in a place already searched).
In Real Life, of course, this is unlikely to work as it does in fictionnote . Any defense made in court that "I wouldn't be that stupid" is completely hopeless. Even if you prove to the court that you have an IQ of 200, so many other criminals have done stupid things that you would not be believed. The reason in fiction that the detective doesn't believe the evidence is generally that the detective is very experienced; the amount of evidence they find is so disproportional to the norm that it not only strikes them as unusual but implausible. That's why they start to suspect that it was planted deliberately. A Signature Item Clue may be what is used in these.
- In Daredevil: Born Again, this phenomenon is what finally convinces Matt Murdock that the recent misfortunes he has suffered are being caused by The Kingpin rather than simply being a string of bad luck. Most of his difficulties are subtly engineered problems concerning his taxes, his career and his friends — his entire apartment building blowing up is a little more suspicious.
Murdock: It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it.
- In X-Men Noir, Tommy Halloway/the Angel investigates the murder of Jean Grey, which was clearly done with Wolverine Claws. When he finds the missing X-Man, Anne-Marie Rankin, he's suspicious because she pointed him in the direction of Captain Logan almost immediately after they met. Halloway manages to figure out it couldn't be Logan very quickly, leading to the obvious conclusion that Rankin's trying to frame him - and since Logan's nekode aren't too hard to come by if you know where to look, she likely killed Jean herself.
- In The Maze Agency story "The Mile High Corpse", evidence is found on the body of the victim that seems to implicate all of the possible suspects.
- In Fables, this is part of what makes Bigby Wolf suspect that Rose Red's murder was staged.
- In IR$, the Big Bad decide to sacrifice his Dragon, hanging him so it looks like a suicide, with evidence of traffic... Not as bad as the main conspiracy, but maybe enough to commit suicide instead of the shame of the trial. The hero declares that in IRS, you learn never to trust any document presented before you asked for it.
- In Charlie Chan in London the eponymous detective, who already has suspicions about the supposed guilt of the convicted murderer, is rebuffed by another character pointing out how much evidence exists establishing his guilt. Chan's knowing reply is that there is "too much evidence."
- Eagle Eye has the Rogue AI frame the main character for terrorist activities to get him on the run and following its orders. To do so, it deposits a giant amount of money in his account, then he goes home to find that it has been made borderline inaccessible by the gigantic amount of weapons, classified documents, and other materials that has been delivered. The FBI do not find the overkill suspicious for the duration of the movie (the lead agent cites other reasons for his later skepticism).
- Esteban tries to point out this trope in Fresh when the police find a gun just used in a murder and a huge bag of heroin under his mattress. It doesn't help his case that both the drugs and the gun were really Esteban's, Fresh just made sure they could be found.
- In Minority Report, Danny Witwer outlines the basics of this trope:
(viewing the crime scene of Leo Crow's murder)
Danny Witwer: I worked homicide before I went federal. This is what we call an orgy of evidence. You know how many orgies I had as a homicide cop?
Officer Fletcher: How many?
Danny Witwer: None.
(crouches down and looks back up)
Danny Witwer: This was all arranged.
- The Trope Namer has more logical reasoning than most entries on the page. Witwer is looking at dozens of photos spread out on a bed that suggest the victim killed multiple children. One of the pictures includes the supposed murderer's child. Witwer is immediately baffled as to why, according to the scene, the victim had all these pictures lying on his bed before the murderer arrived. Even if the murderer had found the pictures somewhere else in the apartment, he would have no reason to lay them out where they were dramatically placed. It's this knowledge that finally gets Witwer to investigate other possibilities.
- Jack Reacher: The case against a former Army sniper for killing several random people seems airtight, since there was so much evidence found at the shooting site, including fingerprints on the quarter used to pay for the parking meter, bullet ballistics and license plate identification. The amount of evidence is not what makes Reacher realize the situation is a set-up, but rather wondering why the lead detective would even think to look for the parking meter quarter in the first place. Such a thought goes beyond due diligence into almost obsessiveness, and Reacher ultimately deduces that the lead detective was in on the frame from the beginning.
- On Shooter, the conspiracy's slew of clues to set-up Swagger as the killer is this, and it does drive the investigating agencies to believe that Swagger did it. The reason why Memphis doesn't believes it's Swagger at first is because 1) Swagger is a top-notch sniper capable of impossible shots, and there is no way he wouldn't have hit the President (the assumed target) in the conditions at the time, 2) the evidence arrived to the government offices barely minutes after the shooting (while the crime scene was still closed and the pursuit for Swagger was still starting), making him suspicious of the absurd efficiency and speed of its delivery and 3) not only did the cop that allegedly discovered Swagger provided a story that sounded a bit ridiculous to those with knowledge of sniper tacticsnote , but the cop was shot dead in an alleged mugging just hours after giving his statement, which sounds even more suspicious.
- In Vabank it's all part of the Frame-Up, and the police falls for it beautifully. The protagonists are all experienced criminals and know how the police investigators think. There is a lot of evidence but most of it is circumstantial and the one direct piece of evidence that links the villain to the crime (a fingerprint on a piece of metal used to disable the security system) is exactly the sort of mistake that a smart but arrogant white collar criminal would make when trying to stage a robbery of his own bank. It does not help that The Alibi that he provides to the police seems to be just invented on the spot and is easily disproven.
- On the Coreline short story Coreline A Tale Of Two Maris, this is the particular issue that occurs with a murder investigation on Indianapolis, the (apparent) work of a version of Mari Illustrious Makinami (with the powers of Captain America, who has been trained by Captain America, and with extensive knowledge of Supernatural Martial Arts) that has gone rogue. The police suspect that it is Mari because all of the murders have been done with moves which are unique to her, while the members of The Champions (a Corporate-Sponsored Superhero team) that have taken up the assignment to investigate believe that it's not her because they assume that someone who has been trained as extensively in covert operations as Mari has would have access to other methods of assassination that would not lead back to her, and thus she's being set up. The Champions end up being right — the one doing the set-up being an evil version of Mari with the powers of the Taskmaster, who can easily copy anything the other Mari does, especially martial arts moves.
- Hercule Poirot:
- Murder on the Orient Express: A bewildering array of clues, much of them contradictory, serve to alert Hercule Poirot that someone is making massive attempts to muddy the waters. The clues include a dropped handkerchief, a dropped pipe cleaner, a dented watch showing the time of the murder, a lost button, someone pretending to be the victim (and speaking a language he did not speak) after he was supposedly dead, an abandoned conductor's uniform, and a sighting of a mysterious woman in a scarlet kimono.
- It happens again (though not to the same extent) in The Hollow, which involves several people diverting attention away from the real killer by planting false clues and generally acting as suspicious as possible.
- Deliberately invoked in Jingo where a vast amount of stereotypical evidence implicating Klatch in a murder is planted, as the Klatchian ambassador realizes this will cause Sam Vimes to look everywhere except Klatch for the killers. It works flawlessly on Vimes because he's (justifiably) cynical about his own people; it fails to work on his Klatchian opposite number, as he's (justifiably) cynical about his own people...
- Also lampshaded in Feet of Clay. Vimes states that he instinctively distrusts clues because "you could walk around with a pocketful of the things."
- In one Five Finder-Outers book by Enid Blyton, the kids do this deliberately to confuse the policeman. He seems to be fooled only for a while, though.
- In the Jack Reacher novel One Shot, this is what the case against James Barr becomes. However, what makes Reacher suspicious is not the amount of evidence, but that the investigative team thought to look for a clue that they had no reason to believe existed.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, there is already considerable evidence incriminating the suspect in the eyes of the police, but the clincher is a bloody thumbprint of the suspect on the wall. Holmes finds this suspicious, especially as he had carefully searched that hall the day before, and there had been no bloody thumbprint there, making the clue proof in his eyes that it was a setup.
- In The Clue of the Screaming Woman by Erle Stanley Gardner, the killer attempts to frame a local recluse for a murder. However, believing Sheriff Eldon to be a doddering old fool, he badly overplays his hand.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe X-Wing Series of books, Tycho Celchu is accused of being a sleeper agent, as well as of murdering Corran Horn. His lawyer is quick to point out to the military tribunal that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves Tycho's guilt, but that someone has been actively destroying anything that could exonerate Tycho. For example there were numerous bank accounts indicating that Tycho had been paid millions of credits by the Empire, an amount completely disproportionate to his alleged importance as a spy. Not to mention that he was also supposedly brainwashed and thus there shouldn't have been any reason for the Empire to pay him at all. In the end, Tycho is let go when other clues come up, like the fact that Corran himself walks into the room and declares that Tycho didn't kill him. It also turns out that General Cracken knew Tycho was innocent all along (a fact which outrages the prosecutor, who was genuinely convinced of his guilt) and didn't reveal this to the tribunal so that his Imperial counterpart Director Isard would keep devoting resources to maintaining the frame-up instead of moving on to a different plot.
- Discussed in Anthony Boucher's The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars. When someone questions why Harrison Ridgely is so ready to call attention to anything that makes him look guilty, the police officer sighs "It's an old trick to make the case against yourself so black an investigator will automatically disregard it. Trouble is, it so seldom works."
- Played with in Black Man. The main court-admissible evidence of someone's presence at the crime scene is "genetic trace", which is unique for every person. Merrin's rampage across the US countryside leaves one orgy after another. The trick is, if it's a genetically engineered supersoldier that just happened to have an identical twin in a freak development of the already-modified egg, they would leave identical traces...
- The Continental Op story "The Tenth Clew"note — the eponymous clue being that the other nine are bogus.
- In The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the mastermind leaves behind a plethora of evidence in the cab as a deliberate taunt to Holmes.
- In The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, King Mendanbar finds a section of the Enchanted Forest burned down with a bunch of dragon scales scattered around. The witch he goes to for advice notes that there are way too many scales present to have been shed in the course of a single rampage, and also that they had been magically modified to look like they came from different dragons, when a dragon genuinely interested in hiding evidence of itself would have just picked them up.
- In the Lincoln Rhyme short story, A Textbook Case, the killer left behind a near-mountain of contradictory evidence. Simply categorizing the various kinds of evidence, before any sort of analysis could occur, would give the killer plenty of time to cover their tracks.
- Shadow Police: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Sefton realises that the cryptic clues planted in the Sherlock Holmes Museum were a deliberate blind so that the police would focus on them, and not on what was missing. Quill even refers to it as "an orgy of evidence".
- One of the 1980s Hardy Boys books ("Blood Relations") has Joe and Frank approached by Greg and Mike Rawley, who are convinced their mother, Linda, is going to be killed by their stepfather. Given he's Walter Rawley, an old friend of the family's, the brothers are unsure. They keep it up, finding some evidence after Linda is kidnapped. Frank goes missing as well with Joe a detective who's been hunting Walter for a while coming to rescue Linda. At which point it turns out Linda and her sons were using Frank and Joe to make it look like Walter was the bad guy so they had an excuse for killing him in "self-defense" and get his fortune. And the "detective" is Linda's real husband and Greg and Mike's dad. At which point, Frank manages to bust in with Fenton, their friends and the real cops. Frank explains he was struck mid-way through on how easy and obvious the case was shaping up as "we've never had to do so little work" to crack it. He thus "flipped it around" to consider Walter the innocent and realized how much more made sense.
- Parodied in The Goodies episode "Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express", where the clues they find include a Union Jack waistcoat, a pair of glasses, and a beard...
- CSI: New York: In "Prey", the CSI team investigate a murder with a large amount of strange evidence, all of it designed to simulate evidence encountered at early crime scenes.
- An episode of The Avengers, "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues", has John Steed go up against a killer who plants clues over each of his hits, and then poses as a detective attempting to "solve" each of the murders he himself committed.
- Can go both ways on Columbo.
- Often, the killer will go out of their way to leave behind evidence to throw off the scent or frame an innocent suspect. Other times, they'll do their best to erase evidence. But in either case, Columbo will find it odd that so much "evidence" is piling up so easily and that leads him to figure out the truth.
- In "Publish or Perish", Miles Greenleaf arranges for his hitman to plant an orgy of evidence against himself while he 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).
- Glee, or specifically Sue Sylvester, does this with her leaking of the New Directions set list to the opposing glee clubs.
Principal Figgins: Sue, the directors, both from the Jane Addams Academy and Haverbrook School for the Deaf, have informed me that you gave them the New Directions' set list.
Sue: You have no proof.
Figgins: The set lists were on Cheerios' letterhead.
Sue: I didn't do it.
Figgins: They say, "From the desk of Sue Sylvester."
Sue: Circumstantial evidence.
Figgins: They're written in your handwriting!
Figgins: Sue, there is an orgy of evidence stacked against you!
Sue: Well, you've clearly made up your mind not to be impartial in this case.
- Burke's Law: In "Who Killed Marty Kelso?", the murderer plants a cufflink at the scene to implicate an innocent man. After the police fail to find it, she plants its mate. When Burke finds both of them, he figures that one cufflink is a clue and two is an obvious frameup.
- Once Upon a Time: In "The Cricket Game", there's so much reason to believe that Regina killed Archie that Emma, quite possibly the person in Storybrooke most familiar with this world's law enforcement and crime, finds it difficult to believe that Regina's actually guilty.
- In Elementary Sherlock believes that Detective Bell is being framed because the suspect is an experienced police officer who would know better than to make so many basic mistakes. He might get sloppy on one or two things but would not do something as stupid as hide the murder weapon in his own home in a place where the police were bound to search.
- Andromeda has a variation on this, where Tyr is in a locked room alone with a planetary president he blames for killing tens of thousands of Tyr's people, when two shots are fired from Tyr's weapon, killing the man instantly. Tyr's defense is essentially that if he had actually planned to assassinate the president, he wouldn't have gotten caught. "And I have... some small experience in these matters." He then starts listing off virtually untraceable means of assassination with discussion of their pros and cons until Dylan stops him. Later on, Andromeda reconstructs the events and realizes that Tyr's gun fired at the floor. The only reason the victim was killed was because all guns here use miniature guided missiles instead of regular bullets. Still, someone as experienced as Tyr would've fired at the target.
- Legend of the Seeker: The plot of the episode "Confession", after Kahlan finds a man she had confessed to killing resistance members somehow was not really guilty. Richard, along with another woman, also suffer this before it's over. It doesn't help that the real murderer has a magical artifact that allows him to transfer some of his memories (such as those of the murders) to another person.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Fit for Murder", Barnaby and Jones find a large amount of incriminating evidence when they search the house and vehicle of a pair of suspects. Barnaby points out the murders were methodical and carefully premeditated, and scarcely the work of someone who leave incriminating evidence (that they had no reason to keep) where any search would reveal it.
- In the first season finale, Will Graham is able to deduce that he is being framed because while he might believe he was capable of murdering Abigail Hobbs, he couldn't possibly accept that he also murdered the victims of the copycat killer (a.k.a Hannibal Lecter).
- Will Graham actually uses the trope name in the second season premiere when admitting to Jack Crawford that Hannibal Lecter's frame-up was successful because it avoided a glut of incriminating evidence in favor of just enough to convince Crawford.
- Comes up later when Will predicts that evidence in the barn where Miriam Lass was found will exonerate Lecter. Lecter, however, anticipated this and left evidence that could implicate himself...but could also be interpreted as implicating Chilton.
- In a series 3 episode of Death in Paradise, the Victim of the Week has been poisoned, and nobody has been able to find the poison or work out how it has been administered. The killer then plants the poison at the scene of the crime to try and frame somebody else, but this inadvertently gives the police the information they need to solve the case.
- Monk has used this trope several times:
- In "Mr. Monk and the Rapper", only Natalie, not the police or even Monk, realizes that someone is trying too hard to make Murderuss take the fall for the car bombing that killed Extra Large, which include: the use of a white gold pocket watch as the timer (a signature trademark of Murderuss's), lyrics from a suggestive song by Murderuss called "Car Bomb", a blasting cap stolen from a construction site near Murderuss's house, and footprints of a shoe brand that he wears at the scene of the limo driver's murder, after he's killed by the real attacker to keep from talking to the police. Natalie deduces this as she reasons that if Murderuss were responsible, he wouldn't be dropping so many obvious clues behind that pointed to himself (he would have probably used a generic pocket watch instead of his trademark type; stolen the blasting cap from somewhere away from his house; not worn his trademark shoe brand when he killed the driver; nor written the song "Car Bomb").
- In "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale," this trope is invoked almost on purpose. Dale "the Whale" Biederbeck has his physician Dr. Christiaan Vezza kill judge Catherine Lavinio and stage the scene to make it look like Dale himself did it... because bedridden Dale, who is so morbidly obese he hasn't left his bed in nine years, is the only suspect who could not have possibly done it. Dr. Vezza does it by wearing large boots to leave big footprints behind. He kills the judge with a baseball bat with the engraved initials "DB". He also deliberately sets off a smoke alarm and dons his own empathy suit (a giant fat suit) so that a passing neighborhood girl sees a "very, VERY fat man" disabling the alarm. Lastly, he fakes a 911 call, impersonating the judge's voice to deliver the ace in the hole.
- In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show," Monk is convinced that Pablo Ortiz is innocent in spite of the fact there's an orgy of forensic evidence against him. This turns out to be because the orgy of forensic evidence is actually against Julian Hodge, the real killer, but a forensics tech was bribed into relabeling the blood samples so they appeared to be Ortiz's.
- Subverted on Scream Queens (2015) as Dean Munsch plants slews of evidence to make it look like her ex-husband's mistress killed him. To her shock, the detectives are too lazy and incompetent to notice any of it and Munsch is nearly arrested herself.
- Diagnosis: Murder has Dr. Sloan realize that the suspect was being framed because there is "a mountain of evidence" left behind, which he finds suspicious. This leads him to the killer who is arrested by the police, even though Sloan has no real evidence to tie him to the crime and the mountain of evidence hasn't been proven fake.
- CSI: In "The List", the team investigates the murder of an ex-cop who was in prison for murdering his wife. Over the course of the investigation, it becomes apparent that the original case against him was based on an orgy of evidence.
- Rizzoli & Isles: In "Burden of Proof", Jane initially is convinced of the prosecutor's guilt. However, the sheer amount of evidence that turns up against him eventually convinces her that he is the victim of a very thorough frame-up. note
- Father Brown: During The Summation in "The Brewer's Daughter", Father Brown points out that the sheer amount evidence uncovered was unlikely unless the murderer was attempting a frame-up. The killer was attempting to invoke this trope by framing herself, and relying on Father Brown to then uncover the evidence she had left implicating a second suspect.
- More than one Perry Mason case hinged upon Perry finding the clinching piece of evidence against his client (or pointing to a Red Herring) after a thorough search had been conducted by Lt. Tragg.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Night Fears", the killer floods the police with a bunch of false clues pointing towards a psychopath, hoping that this will drown out the one legitimate clue pointing towards him.
- Shooter: Swagger tries to use this as evidence he didn't commit the assassination, as he'd never have left that much evidence lying around.
- On American Gods Shadow and Wednesday are arrested for a robbery they committed in a previous episode. The police detective has them dead to rights but is worried because the evidence is primarily satellite photos of the crime in progress. The technology used is state-of-the-art and is what governments use to track terrorist masterminds. She wants to know why someone with access to top secret surveillance satellites would use it to track two small time crooks. She is right to be worried since the source of the evidence was Mr. World who had Wednesday arrested so he could offer him a deal that would prevent the coming war between the Old Gods and the New Gods. All the cops are massacred by Mr. Wood so there are no witnesses to the meeting.
- Double Subversion in Knights of the Old Republic: in the Sunry case, his medal was quite obviously planted at the scene, put into the hands of the victim. However, that was the Sith's counterattack to the Republic's coverup of what really happened.
- Assassin's Creed: Unity: A murder mystery involves a warden, who was apparently killed by a local crime gang over his debts, despite the gang's leader swearing they didn't do it. It was actually his deputy, who gives himself away by mentioning a vital clue no-one could've known about.
- Most Ace Attorney cases stack the deck against you and your client this way. The fourth case of the second game gives a clever twist on it, however: the victim is found with your defendant's knife in his chest and a torn, bloodied button from his costume lodged in the defendant's trousers. Even the non-too-bright local detective suspects a frame job. As it turns out, someone did try to frame him, but your defendant really is guilty, albeit by hiring an assassin rather than committing the murder directly.
- Danganronpa's framejobs almost always turn out like this.
- Danganronpa: The third case in the first game looks so damning that one character starts calling it a setup before the trial has begun. A whole story is spun where the frame target wears a ridiculous and out-of-character cardboard costume, attacks people with progressively lethal weapons, runs into a dead end and vanishes, and swiftly relocates a corpse when it is left alone for only a minute. And this is all while completely escaping detection from the entire cast, only to wind up trapped inside a locker later on.
- Super Danganronpa 2: The second case in the second game, meanwhile, ends up making the patsy an impossibility as far as suspects go because of all the inconsistencies in her characterization with the evidence left behind. The blood soaked corpse was moved to block a door (forcing the scapegoat to leave behind footprints through sand), and yet the scapegoat didn't have any blood on their clothing or body. Also, the culprit tried to leave behind the scapegoat's Trademark Favorite Food at the scene of the crime, but they got the details wrong and chose a variant that the scapegoat doesn't eat.
- This trope is name-dropped repeatedly on various CinemaSins reviews, although in the context of the video it is used to describe the film-makers' ham-fisted attempts at driving the audience into assuming a specific mindset, e.g. using an over-abundance of typically boyish toys and/or furnishings to establish that a room belongs to a boy. As with other uses of the trope, the film-makers plant too much evidence, making the set-up less convincing.
- In the The Legend of Korra episode "The Terror Within", Aiwei sets this up on a random guard when investigating how the villains infiltrated the ironclad-security city of Zaofu and almost succeeded in abducting Korra. It sets off Mako's suspicion first, since his job is a police detective back at Republic City. The rest of the team becomes suspicious after Varrick tells them that a setup is what he would do, using a previous example of him doing this to Mako in the previous season.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Rarity Investigates"", there's a lot of evidence for the Frame-Up, with the real culprit, Wind Rider, even disguising their voice to sound like Rainbow Dash. But Rarity, who doesn't believe Rainbow is guilty from the start, notices that the clump of Rainbow's mane in the envelope the forged note was in was cleanly cut, since no-pony looses a chunk of hair that big.