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In Police Procedurals and other works of Mystery Fiction, easy ways to solve crimes will quickly be eliminated. CCTV cameras were broken, guns and cars were stolen, etc. Anytime it does look like a vital piece of evidence has been found early on it will either be quickly contradicted or somehow made inadmissible in court.

This is because easy-to-solve crimes wouldn't be too entertaining to watch. (One can assume that they happen between episodes, when we're not watching.) Also, smart criminals (who take precautions to cover their tracks) are more interesting characters than dumb ones.


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     Anime & Manga  

  • Double Subversion: Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro (it's like Scooby-Doo with a devil instead of a dog, and lots more murder) features a killer who is clearly caught on CCTV committing the crime, carrying the murder weapon which is found on her person, and who had prominent, obvious connects to her victims ( they all "unfriended" her on Faceboo... I mean Links). Yet somehow, the police are still unable to solve the crime (something to do with the crystal clear CCTV evidence, motive, lack of alibi, and clear connections to the victims being inadmissible in court!)

     Comic Books  

  • Bookhunter: The thief Kettle Stitch is very good about this. Agent Bay realizes that an otherwise-perfect book theft has resulted in a missing circulation card that can be linked to Kettle Stitch's library card. Except Kettle Stitch anticipated this, and used a counterfeit copy of someone else's card, instead of her own. So Agent Bay investigates how said library card was counterfeited, and finds that Kettle Stitch hacked into the library's patron records computer system—but his attempt to trace her location fails, and she just erases all the evidence of her hacking from the system.

  • The Circle Opens: In Shatterglass, one of the major plot elements is that Tharian religious doctrine requires that the sites where murders take place be ritually cleansed, which as a side effect renders it impossible to scry for information about the murders.
  • In the novel and movie Rising Sun the security cameras should make solving the case easy. Except the one video tape of the crucial time and place is missing, and when it's returned, it turns out to have been tampered with.
  • In the Lord Darcy stories, a character once comments that detective work in cities would be a lot easier without all the anti-scrying spells placed on homes and businesses. Darcy comments that if these were not there, detective work would be non-existent - you could just call in a journeyman sorcerer to use some basic divination spells and the case would be solved in under an hour. He also mentions that this would also eliminate all hope of personal privacy, as any interested mage could scry into your house or office whenever they wanted, which is the reason that anti-scrying spells are placed on homes and businesses in the first place.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, the clues to the murder are all there when Wimsey and Harriet arrive at their new house, but it's dark, and they have to have the chimneysweep in the next day and "all the clues got destroyed in the muddle". Or if they weren't, they're removed in the cleaning-up process - some by the murderer, under the eyes of the sleuths!
  • In the Relativity story "A Better Place", the killer checks into a hotel and is actually caught on camera. But the camera is installed at a funny angle: In the ceiling, pointed straight down, and the killer is wearing a baseball cap. As a result, his face never appears on the screen at all.
  • Played with in the first Rivers of London book, where it is reported that the only point where they should have got a clear shot of the perpetrator was actually a camera blind spot. Eventually Peter realises that there is no way there should be a camera blind spot that big in central London and double checks himself, only to find it was one of his colleagues that was caught on camera.
  • Career of Evil: Strike has the Serial Killer narrowed down to four suspects (one of whom he writes off quite quickly). The killer's inner monologues reveal that he was raised by a man who called himself his father but really wasn't, and that the killer has a son who was taken away from him. It seems like this information might narrow it down come the hero' background checks, but then it's revealed that it doesn't. All three men had a biological son who was taken away from them by his mother or another relative after they were arrested for their crimes. All three men were raised by men besides their actual father (as a result of Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, Family Relationship Switcheroo and a stepfather). Then, later, it looks as if the field of suspects is down to two due to more monologues from the unnamed killer revealing he has a live-in girlfriend who he secretly despises. Only two of the suspects hare been shown to have girlfriends, while the third lives alone. It later turns out that third one has a second alias he takes up at times, under which he does have a girlfriend.
  • Happens sometimes in Nero Wolfe. Most notably in Gambit where Wolfe's attention is focused on the only four men (besides his clients father, who has been arrested for the murder) with access to the murder victim before he collapsed of apparent poisoning, and it turns out a sixth man is guilty.

     Live-Action TV  

  • Noncriminal examples occur frequently on House: if anyone is cured near the beginning of an episode, they're either not the patient of the week, or they only seemed to be getting better. Justified, since House's team only handles the most complicated cases: "I look for zebras instead of horses because other doctors eliminate all the horses."
  • Pushing Daisies: the dead person (almost) never has complete or accurate information about the killer (many of them are murdered by masked killers, or with bombs and such that keep them from seeing the killer up close). The first victim shown in the pilot did, but that was necessary to demonstrate how the plot worked, and wasn't the only murder of the episode. The one time the victim says "My wife did it", he's a polygamist.
    • In the second season, Gustav Hoffer knew who killed him, but was so busy talking about something else that his minute ran out. Rollie Stingwell also gave them an actual name, but it turned out to be the wrong person entirely due to the killer being disguised. Erin Embry knew who her killer was, but Ned had taken a 10-Minute Retirement and sworn off necromancy for the episode, so they couldn't ask her.
    • Suverted in S1E8, where the perp gives clear, concise information that quickly leads to the killer. it's the SECOND murder, for a different reason, that's troublesome. The victim from that one also knows who killed him, but because he was drowned in a vat of taffy he's unable to coherently say the name before Ned touches him again.
  • Used frequently in Law & Order where the important evidence usually does exist, but legal mistakes in handling it means it can't be admitted in court.
    • Often beaten into the ground by the various L&O franchises, where multiple pieces of evidence are tossed for various (occasionally contradictory) reasons. The worst offender was arguably the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season 8 finale, "Screwed" where more or less ALL the evidence against the defendant was tossed because of a corrupt cop at the evidence room tipping the defense off to "questionable practices" in gaining the evidence, then "losing" the rest.
    • This was often averted in the very early days of Law & Order "Prime." There would be some ambiguity back then about whether some defendants were actually guilty. Eventually either the producers or the audience decided they wanted certainty, so after, say, season three the cops always find damning evidence that gets thrown out of court.
  • Very rare on Criminal Minds. Evidence found is usually pertinent and useful (they just don't always know what it means).
  • Rare on CSI, which can fingerprint the air.
    • There was one episode in which a literal truck load of evidence was stolen in the first five minutes. They got it back, but the chain of custody was broken so none of it could be admitted.
  • A skit on That Mitchell and Webb Look involved the police trying to find the "Identity Killer". He, among other things, put t-shirts with a photograph of himself on his victims, left his driver's license and passport on the scene, and hung out at the police station while detectives debated the case.

     Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: This seems to happen in every. Freaking. Case.
    • Cases 1-2, 1-3, and 1-4 all feature Phoenix making the exact same mistake: showing a vital piece of evidence to the person it incriminates. On two of these occasions, it results in him immediately losing the evidence in question, and only the fortuitous arrival of Detective Gumshoe keeps it from happening the third time as well.
    • In Case 1-5, everyone in the court watches a security camera video and then Phoenix and the prosecutor freak out when it turns out that the most important parts of what happened are not shown. This is also a justified instance, as the culprit was the one whose job it was to manage the cameras, so he knew how he could avoid being seen.
    • If the crime has any direct witnesses, they will almost always turn out to have completely misinterpreted what they saw. They are usually outright lying the other times.
    • Any seemingly-critical photograph taken of the crime will turn out to be entirely misleading.
    • Any drawn pictures will manage to combine bad witnesses with misleading or missing facts. So of course Larry Butz ends up drawing a critical piece of evidence for the trilogy finale.
    • To be fair, the protagonists are defense attorneys, so their entire job is to prove that the people that the police think obviously did it didn't do it. Dismantling apparent smoking guns is a key part of the job.