Orgy of Evidence

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Danny Witwer: I worked homicide before 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.

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.

In Real Life, of course, this is unlikely to work as it does in fiction.[1] Any defense made in court that, "I wouldn't be that stupid", is an Epic Fail. 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 Genre Savvy; 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.

Examples of Orgy of Evidence include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Daredevil: Born Again, this phenomenon was what finally convinced Matt Murdock that the recent misfortunes he had suffered was being caused by the Kingpin rather than simply being a string of bad luck. Most of his sufferings are subtly engineered problems concerning his taxes, his career and his friends- someone blowing up his house tends to be a little more suspicious.

Murdock: "You shouldn't have signed it, Kingpin. Now I'm coming for you."

  • 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 neko de 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.

Film[edit | hide]

[viewing the crime scene of Leo Crow's murder]
Danny Witwer: I worked homicide before 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.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • Deliberately invoked in the Discworld novel Jingo where a vast amount of stereoypical 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 in his eyes proof 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 for 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. In the end, Tycho is found not guilty after other clues come up, like the fact that Corran himself walks into the room and declares that Tycho didn't kill him.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in The Goodies episode "Daylight Robbery on the Orient Express" where the clues they find include a a Union Jack waistcoat, a pair of glasses, and a beard...

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Ace Attorney games, this happens a few times. For instance, in the fourth case of the second game, a character has been murdered and is found with your defendant's knife in his chest while one of the bloodied buttons on his costume was found in your defendant's pants. This is considered too incriminating and casts suspicion upon another character with a motive to frame your defendant. As it turns out, she did plant that evidence to frame him, but the defendant actually is the murderer after all.
  • 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.
  1. ie. in Real Life, the police will likely fall for it