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"You know what this murder weapon needs? My fingerprints!"
Unskippable's commentary on The Getaway's use of this trope.

A subtrope of The Corpse Stops Here, wherein a person not only is the first to find the body, but takes that extra little bit of effort necessary to get their fingerprints all over the murder weapon lying right next to the bloody body. Preferably, of course, they do this while an unrelated person is walking by so they can see the innocent person with a bloody knife in his hand staring at a dead body with a giant knife wound in it. This behavior might be justified if the finder thinks the killer might still be in the vicinity and grabs the weapon for self-defense purposes, but no one ever seems to consider that explanation.

In a similar situation, if present during the murder, the killer will hand the dupe the murder weapon (while said killer is wearing gloves or made other precautions) to invoke this.

As a general rule, this trope only applies to the actual murder weapon. Characters who are just holding random implements for whatever reason more clearly fall under The Corpse Stops Here.

Examples of Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the Yoroiden Samurai Troopers (Ronin Warriors) OVA, which takes place in New York City, Touma Hashiba (Rowen) visits the apartment of a photographer, only to discover him dead. Being a smart cookie, he pulls out the bloody knife...and stands staring, as a secondary character sees this, and runs away, screaming bloody murder (couldn't resist).
    • Which is very unusual, considering Touma is said to have an IQ of 250... also, the witness is the victim's sister, Luna.
      • In a weird way though this makes sense, Touma has always been shown to be highly intelligent, but severely lacking in common sense.
  • In Getter Robo Armageddon, Ryouma ends up snatching the gun used to kill Professor Saotome in an attempt to kill his murderer, Hayato. When Genki discovers Ryouma with the gun over her father's body, Ryouma tries to plead his innocence, but it doesn't work.

Comics

  • The very first Batman story ("The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" in Detective Comics #27) uses this trope. A son finds his father stabbed and dying, and reaches down and pulls the knife out of his back, ensuring he is found crouched over the body with the murder weapon in his hand.

Films

  • This occurs in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Conveniently, a photographer is present to take an incriminating photo at the exact moment Cary Grant pulls the knife out of the victim's back. The look on Grant's face doesn't help, either.
    • Especially when someone takes a photo of you at that point and your guilty-looking mug is on the front page of every newspaper in the USA!
      • It also helps that the body falls on him and he doesn't really get what's happening until after removing the knife...
  • Libby Parsons falls into this one in Double Jeopardy, although to be fair she hadn't seen a body yet, just a lot of blood.
  • In Goldeneye, after being outed as a traitor to the Russian Defense Minister, The Dragon Ourumov take out Bond's gun and shoots him dead along with the guard. He then empties the gun and throws it to Bond, while reciting the story he's going to say. Bond catches the gun out of the air and pockets it, knowing full well that it doesn't matter. After all, it's already his gun. Bond manages to get away before Ourumov can finish his gambit and shoot him for "killing the minister".
  • In Beverly Hills Cop III, Axel is meeting with Uncle Dave, when he's interrupted by the Big Bad, who shoots Dave (he gets better). He then hands the gun to Axel, who is initially reluctant to touch the weapon. The guy just shrugs and points out that the weapon belongs to Axel, so his prints are on it anyway. Axel manages to run away before he's shot.
  • Occurs briefly in the first Final Destination film where the protagonist witness his teacher with a knife in her chest and briefly tries to wrestle it out before leaving.

Literature

  • Happens twice with the same victim in one of the Cadfael novels: once when a young man sees his friend standing over the arrow-shot corpse with a bow in hand, and again when the young man's father catches him in the process of removing the arrows to conceal the evidence.
  • In book three of A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion is falsely accused of poisoning Joffrey at a wedding feast where hundreds of people witness that he happened to be the closest person in proximity to the victim at the time, and also happened to be the one pouring the wine in question. It is later used against him that he was seen directly afterwards picking up the goblet of poisoned wine and pouring the contents out onto the ground, as well.

Live Action TV

  • An episode of Crossing Jordan had a man do this with a suicide victim, taking the knife out of her chest and putting it back. Needless to say, this complicated what would otherwise have been a simple case.
  • In Supernatural at least once Dean has picked up a bloody knife from a murder site. This may help explain why the FBI think they're serial killers. That, and they are very often actually killing people (vampires, shapeshifters, and demon-possessed "people", but still people to the law).
  • Heroes: When Hiro goes to meet Isaac the painter in the first episode, Isaac is already dead, and... Hiro picks up the pistol lying on the ground near the dead body. It's a bit more understandable in that he was afraid out of his mind that the murderer was still in the room and wanted some semblance of a means to defend himself.
  • Subverted in Burn Notice -- the framee reaches down to pick up the murder weapon, only for Michael to yell at him not to do it. He takes Michael's advice.
    • Later played straight when Michael comes across a fatally wounded Max, with a gun laying next to the body. Justified: not only is the real killer still there, but he opens fire on Michael. Since Michael is unarmed, he picks up the perfectly functional gun and returns fire.
  • Happens to Inspector Morse when he's being framed by Emperor Palpatine Hugo deVries in "Masonic Mysteries". Morse even lampshades the trope by mentioning that the first person to find the body is usually guilty (which has turned out to be the case in some previous Morse mysteries) and curses his own incredible stupidity in picking up the knife like some brainless civvie.

Video Games

  • In the first Ace Attorney game, Edgeworth picked up a gun after a person used it in an attempt to frame him for murder. Not as bad as picking up a weapon right next to a dead body, especially since he didn't realize what was happening, but still a pretty bad idea to get your fingerprints on a gun when any witnesses would hear two gunshots and see the man with you falling overboard.
    • You would think that, as a criminal prosecutor himself, he'd know better. He must have been really shocked. Canon explanation: Yeah, he actually was pretty shocked. The last time he saw a man shot in front of him, he was a child, the victim was his father, and he thought he did it.
      • Not only this, but he was called out by a man who was suspected of killing his father. It's easy to see how Edgeworth would have been in severe shock and lost his judgement.
    • Also in that game, Lana Skye pulled a knife out of a dead man's chest and was then seen putting a different knife in. She actually had a strong reason for doing this.
    • In Investigations, Kay picks up a murder weapon in a dark room, although she indicates she didn't know what it was, and couldn't see the body.
  • An Egregious example of the subtrope occurs in the Guy Ritchie inspired videogame The Getaway. As the protagonist runs out into the street to find his wife shot, he drops his own gun only to paw the dropped murder weapon for a second. Why? Well, as Unskippable phrased it "You know what this murder weapon needs? My fingerprints!"
  • Justified in A Tale of Two Kingdoms. Early in the game, the protagonist, unarmed, walks into a room right after a murder. The assassin attacks him, and he has to find something to defend himself with quickly. Guess what the only weapon within reach is.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 video "Meet the Spy", when the BLU Sniper's body is thrust on the table, the BLU Scout does the logical thing and pull out the Butterfly Knife in his back and start messing with it. Of course, the BLU scout is actually the RED Spy in disguise, but the spirit of the meme is still there.

Webcomics

Western Animation

  • In The Venture Brothers, this is part of Lance and Dale Hale's recollection of their father's murder. Lance can hardly restrain himself as he describes Dale instantly forgetting twenty years of detective training and picking up the shotgun with his bare hands. Lance claims he instinctively reached to stop him, and that's why both brothers' fingerprints were found on it. It's implied that this is a big fat lie and that the two of them really did murder their father -- they played on this trope as part of their innocent act.
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