For the 1937 film, see The Frame-Up.

In the USA, a frame-up (frameup) or setup is the act of framing someone, that is, providing false evidence or false testimony in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime.[1]

Sometimes, the person who is framing someone else is the actual perpetrator of the crime. In other cases it is an attempt by law enforcement to get around due process. Motives include getting rid of political dissidents or "correcting" what they see as the court's mistake. Some lawbreakers will try to claim they were framed as a defense strategy.

Frameups in labor disputes sometimes swing public opinion one way or the other. In Massachusetts, during the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, police acting on a tip discovered dynamite and blamed it on the union. National media echoed an anti-union message. Later, the police revealed that the dynamite had been wrapped in a magazine addressed to the son of the former mayor. The man had received an unexplained payment from the largest of the employers. Exposed, the plot swung public sympathy to the union.[2]

Frameups are often part of conspiracy theories. For example, there were frameup accusations in the anthrax incident involving the United States Postal Service.[3]

A frameup where a police officer shoots an unarmed suspect and then places a weapon near the body is a form of police misconduct known as a "throw down" used to justify the shooting.[4]

Frameups in fiction

Frameups are often used as a fictional device. An innocent party trying to prove that they have been framed for a crime is a popular theme in literature, film, and television. An example of such a storyline is the TV series, The Fugitive, later remade into a 1993 film starring Harrison Ford as the doctor trying to prove that it was not he who killed his wife, but rather a one-armed man who set him up.[5][6]

Another TV show that used the theme was The Dukes of Hazzard, in which the protagonists (Bo and Luke Duke) were constantly being set up by the County Commissioner (Boss Hogg) and Sheriff (Rosco P. Coltrane). The "Duke boys" were always thwarting Boss and Rosco's schemes, and Boss was always concocting methods of getting the Dukes out of his hair and into prison, only to have the Dukes win out in the end every time.[7]

On the TV show 24, the protagonist of the show, Jack Bauer, is framed in Seasons 1 and 5. In Day 1, he was selected to be the scapegoat for David Palmer's attempted assassination which was orchestrated by Serbian businessmen with ties to European & American mercenaries. In Day 5, he was framed again twice by a corrupt U.S. President for his friends' murders (David Palmer, and Michelle Dessler) in a massive government conspiracy to secure oil interests in Central Asia. Later in Season 6, Jack found out his father and his brother were complicit in that conspiracy to frame him and secure American interests. In Day 6, he finds out his father's and brother's involvement after they arranged to eliminate him. In Day 7, Bauer was framed yet again by operatives from a private military company (Starkwood) after he was getting close to interrogating one of their moles and finding out their involvement in a terrorist plot targeted against the White House by an African general and his men. Eventually, Bauer's name was cleared and he set out dismantling the conspiracy which has also corrupted the US government. The mastermind behind the private sector conspiracy was eventually caught by Jack and the FBI, also discovering that he masterminded the conspiracy in Day 5.[8]

In the film Mission Impossible, Ethan Hunt, the hero, was framed by a mole in the CIA by killing Ethan's associates and leaving him alive in a mole hunt, thus confirming to the CIA he's the mole. Hunt is able to expose the conspiracy by smoking out the mole (who was his boss) and his supervisor, arms dealer Max, who tried to auction a CIA NOC (Non-official cover) list to terrorists.[9]

On the TV show Prison Break, a former criminal named Lincoln Burrows is framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother and thrown in prison; awaiting the death penalty. Burrows's brother, Michael Scofield, hatches an ingenious escape plan to break him out. It turns out a group of multinationals who are influencing the U.S. government, framed Burrows because his father was going to expose their illegal dealings. Several Secret Service agents, and the Vice President are involved in the conspiracy. Burrows and Scofield try to expose the conspiracy while on the run.[10]

In the film The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne, a former CIA black ops assassin, is forced out of hiding when unknown conspirators kill his girlfriend and frame him for the murder of several CIA officers. A past mission haunts him as he finds who set him up. Eventually, he finds out his former boss (Alexander Conklin)'s supervisor, Ward Abott, assigned Bourne the haunting mission to kill a Russian diplomat named Vladimir Neski. Thus, Neski was killed because he was going to expose Abott as a mole in the CIA, stealing money and sharing it with Gretkov, a Russian oil businessman. Abott had Gretkov hire a Russian FSB agent named Kirill to kill the CIA officers who were unraveling the plot and framed Bourne for it. Bourne records a conversation between Gretkov and Abott when they confront each other, implicating Abott in the conspiracy. Abott commits suicide as Bourne survives an attempt on his life by Kirill, by killing him. In the end, Gretkov is arrested and Bourne apologizes to Neksi's daughter for killing her parents.[11]

In the video game, Driver: Parallel Lines, T.K. starts working for a New York gang in the 1970s. By the last 70s mission, T.K. is framed for the kidnapping and murder of Rafael Martinez.

In a Hong Kong film Chinese Midnight Express, a corrupted police officer framed a journalist for hiding drugs.

In Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is revealed that Peter Pettigrew framed Sirius Black for the murder of Peter himself, and he was the one who not only betrayed his friends The Marauders but that he also framed Sirius for murdering 13 people (including Harry's parents).

In The Simpsons, Krusty the Clown was framed for robbing the Kwik-E-Mart by Sideshow Bob.

The movie L.A. Confidential depicts a "throw down" when a police officer shoots an apparent kidnapper and rapist and then places a different gun in the hand of the body.

In Time Crisis 5, former VSSE agent Robert Baxter murders internal auditor Christy Ryan and frames his old friend Keith Martin for the murder. It wasn't until Keith revealed the contents of Christy's case, stolen by Wild Dog, to confirm Robert's betrayal of the VSSE.

See also


'Some notable frame-ups


  1. "frame-up - Definitions from". Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  2. Peter Carlson (1983). Roughneck, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood. p. 163.
  3. "The 9/11 Anthrax frame-up". Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  4. "689 F. 2d 1220 - Webster v. City of Houston". 28 October 1982. paragraph 29. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  5. "The Fugitive (1963)". Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  6. "The Fugitive (1993)". Retrieved 2008-07-13.
  7. "The Dukes of Hazard (1979-1985)". Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  8. "24 (2001)". Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  9. "Mission: Impossible (1996)". Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  10. "Prison Break (2005)". Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  11. "The Bourne Supremacy (2002)". Retrieved 2010-12-20.
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