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"'I speak without fear of contradiction...' is the opening sentence of the ideal debriefing."
Uh-oh, you did something bad! Looks like someone will have to take the blame. But who?
Why, how about someone who can't defend themselves? Someone who has no active way to clear their name after you've framed them? Someone whom nothing can happen if they are framed, and thus there is little to no guilt in doing so?
Like a dead guy, whom you may have killed yourself!
In a sense this ploy can only really work in a Fascist but Inefficient state, since a real detective will find a deceased fall guy to be a wee bit too convenient for serious crimes.
See also the Blame Game.
Anime and Manga
- Used by Lelouch in Code Geass. Taken to its extreme at the end of R2, when he sets himself up as the ultimate fall guy, and has Suzaku assassinate him to bring world peace.
- In Schindler's List, a Nazi officer is looking for a thief and shoots a man in cold blood to tell the Jews he isn't playing. The dead man promptly gets blamed for the theft.
- Minority Report: Used to fool the Precrime murder precognition. Normally, murders cannot be committed because they are predicted by pre-cogs and the police stop them before they happen; sometimes, a pre-cog sees images of a murder that's already happened, which is dismissed as a worthless "echo". The villain hires one of the Crazy Homeless People to try and (inevitably) get caught killing a woman he wants out of the way so he can do it himself later (reenacting the attempted murder exactly) and pretend that the prediction of this murder is an echo.
- Clear and Present Danger: The President threatens to do this to the recently deceased former boss and mentor of Jack Ryan in The Movie and blame him for the illegal actions the President ordered.
- In Saw VI, Detective Mark Hoffman names the recently deceased Agent Strahm as being the latest Jigsaw killer. It doesn't work.
- The Shooter: Heavily zigzagged in this mid 90s Dolph Lundgren film. (Hidden Assassin in the US). Lundgren is an Intelligence agent working for America. He and his partner start the film by being assigned to secretly capture an infamous female assassin who is suspected of being hired to attack an international treaty convention in Prague. During the course of multiple fights, chases, and escapes she convinces him that she's innocent, and a conspiracy was going to kill her and use her as the fall guy for their plan. She then becomes his Love Interest. They work together to bring down the conspiracy, but she gets killed along the way, and it turns out that Dolph's partner is involved in the conspiracy, (reluctantly, IIRC) and is the sniper set to attack the convention. After Dolph saves the day, the good guys in his department decide to save his partner's reputation, (and the partner's pension for his wife and children) by pinning the blame on the dead female assassin, and letting the partner officially have died a hero. It's that kind of movie. Little wonder that Dolph's last action is to say Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
- In Swimming with Sharks young studio assistant Guy snaps when he realizes that his boss has been lying about passing word about Guy's good work up the chain of command, so he breaks into his boss' house to torment him and get revenge. Towards the end Guy's Love Interest (who the boss had also had a relationship with) shows up and begs for him to leave the Hollywood studio scene behind and come with her. Instead Guy and the boss kill her, blame her for the boss' injury and torture, and Guy's advancement up the ranks is now secure.
- In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Demons one of the villains convinces a character who is undergoing an existential crisis to commit suicide and write note in which he claims to be guilty of crimes actually commited by the villains. Some Fauxlosophic Narration ensues as the characters ponders whether 'tis nobler to be or not to be the fall guy.
- The Mad Hatter Mystery: A variant occurs in this John Dickson Carr novel; the killer tries to frame the mad hatter, knowing that the dead man is the mad hatter.
- In Hunting Badger, robbers murder a talk show host and fake a suicide note with a confession.
- In the Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, Cain defuses an argument between Inquisition and Mechanicus personnel over who had leaked the existence of the Shadowlight to Chaos forces by blaming it on the late renegade Inquisitor Killian. Based on the logic he used when designating the already-punished scapegoat, he might even have been right.
Live Action TV
- Castle, episode one "Flowers For Your Grave": the real killer sets up a mentally challenged guy because said guy wouldn't be able to defend himself, afford a private attorney, and is an easy to believe scapegoat.
- It's also uncovered that the serial killer in "Tick... Tick... Tick..." / "Boom!" has this as his recurring MO.
- The plot of the Columbo episode Negative Reaction has a photographer kill his wife, then kill another guy, making it look like the latter killed the former.
- Used in the Monk episode Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike.
- The Usual Suspects: At least enough for the real Keyser Soze to get away.
- Dexter: Dexter had doubts about the success of framing Doakes as the Bay Harbor Butcher... at least until he got blown up and wouldn't be around to make a fuss.
- On Burn Notice, a rival spy posing as Michael Westen steals a lot of money from a druglord, then has to kill an assassin looking for him. Westen's plan to get the druglord off his back is to make the dead assassin look like the real thief.
- On NYPD Blue a stick-up man who snitched for Simone told him and Sipowicz that an old unsolved murder had been committed by a notorious killer who was recently deceased. Sipowicz scoffed, pointing out that snitches all over the city had been trying to pin murders on the killer since his death, but the stick-up man knew details of the crime that were consistent with the evidence. It comes full circle at the end of the episode, when the stick-up man has been shot and tells Simone, "Don't let 'em pin no bodies on me. I got no unaccounted-fors," before dying himself.
- Used by Alex on Nikita. She knows Division's found out Nikita has a mole, and she's just been forced to kill Thom in self-defense, so she figures she might as well let them think it was him.
- On NCIS Agent Michelle Lee shot and killed Agent Langer and framed him as the mole revealing secret military information, in order to cover her own guilt.
- Used in Sons of Anarchy. ATF agent Stahl finds herself wrongfully shooting an escaping prisoner in the back. Scared that it might torch her career (or worse), she initially frames Gemma Teller for the crime. However, through a series of deals going sour and rash moves, the frame job becomes impractical... so Stahl seizes an opportunity to shoot her own partner during a firefight, then frames her for the whole mess, including framing Gemma. She confessed all of it just before she died, too !
- Used several times in the first season of Boardwalk Empire. Corrupt Politician Nucky Thompson attempts to aid Margaret Schroeder, a poor & pregnant immigrant who came to him for help, but is enraged that her husband Hans subsequently beat her into the hospital, (and a miscarriage) and went gambling with the money Nucky gave her. Nucky has his brother/sheriff Eli and his men kill Hans and blame him for a crime committed by Shell-Shocked Veteran Jimmy, who is Like a Son to Nucky. Then, at the end of the season, Nucky's men wipe out the D'Alessio brothers, a group of hired thugs causing him problems, and then blames them both for their own crimes and ones committed by Nucky's administration.
- Used frequently in Paranoia, where, quoted above, even the main corebook notes that being the only one alive at the debriefing stops your (self-flattering) story from being contradicted. Even The Computer does eventually get suspicious about sole survivors, though, so one suggested alternative is to bribe/blackmail some of your teammates into supporting your story. And in a pinch, you can always just make up a culprit and ask for permission to go hunt them down.
- In Macbeth, the titular character frames his two guards for the murder of King Duncan, then kills them, while saying it was ordered by Duncan's sons, who flee for their lives and look even guiltier (although they get theirs in the end).
- At the beginning of Skies of Arcadia, Alfonso attempts to avoid blame for losing to the heroes by killing his vice-captain and claiming that the latter betrayed him. Alfonso's superiors see through the ruse.
- In Tactics Ogre, at the end of the second Lawful chapter, Leonard is killed after assassinating the Duke. With his dying breath, he tells Denim to scapegoat him for all of the evil deeds of the Walsta Liberation Army, thus reuniting the Walstanian liberation forces under his command.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Legion version of the quest "I Put a Spell on You" has the Courier doing this to Private Davey Crenshaw
- In the final case of the first Ace Attorney Investigations game, the Big Bad plans on doing this with one of the victims. Lang is especially outraged by his doing so. Earlier on, in the fourth case, Mack Rell and Byrne Faraday are set up to make it look like they killed each other, but the real murderer decides to try to frame Gumshoe instead.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, it's strongly suggested that the drug addict alleged to have killed Satoko's aunt was a deceased fall guy for Satoshi.
- Quercus Alba tries this twice in Ace Attorney Investigations. First he tries to blame the smuggling ring solely on assistant-Bahbalese ambassador and co-conspirator Manny Coachen. Later, he pins Manny's murder on his dragon, Shih-na/Callisto Yew (who wasn't dead but already placed under arrest for another crime).
- In Futurama this is Zap Brannigan's MO; he uses Bread and Circuses to ensure the loyalty of his crew, talks them into a Heroic Sacrifice and then escapes and takes all the glory.
- The main crew of Metalocalypse uses this when they find out that they've been embezzling from themselves.
- King of the Hill: In the episode "A Fire Fighting We Will Go," a dead elderly man is blamed for inadvertently burning down the firehouse that Dale burned down. Everybody in the group just agrees with the argument, except for Boomhauer, but nobody understands him.
- A guy in Illinois murdered his wife and another man and tried to blame it on the dead man. He got away with it until his mistress came forward and helped convict him.
- Adulteresses betray people? What is the world coming to!