Preface: I don't think there is a single-word (verb) that expresses the concept I am asking for, in which case I'd settle for the least ambiguous and most common phrase or idiom that describes the following situation.

I was reading a short story from a private student of mine when I came across this line:

Lucy realized she had the proof to frame Robert [for the murders].

To frame someone is to arrange or plant evidence in such a way that an innocent person appears to be guilty in the eyes of the law. My student's sentence would be fine if Robert were innocent of the crime, or if there was no evidence that linked Robert to the murders but somehow Lucy managed to plant false evidence which resulted in his arrest.

But in my student's story, Robert isn't innocent. He did commit the two murders and the evidence Lucy found was not planted, nor false, but led to the police arresting him for the two murders.

I suggested the following solutions:

  1. Lucy realized she found the proof that nailed Robert for the murders

  2. Lucy realized she found the proof to incriminate Robert.

  3. Lucy realized she found the evidence which proved Robert's guilt.

  4. Lucy found the smoking gun that proved Robert's guilt.

Sentences 1 and 2 are fine within the plot of the story but taken out of context, they could still suggest Robert was set up by Lucy, i.e. he was innocent. Sentences 3 and 4 are, I think, the least ambiguous. My student liked the expression “smoking gun” but added:

A smoking gun is not a verb, I still have to say Lucy found the smoking gun which incriminated Robert.


If “to frame” someone is to plant evidence that ‘proves’ an innocent person is guilty, is there a verb that means: to find evidence that unequivocally proves a person is guilty? Perhaps there is an obscure legal term hidden in OED, or maybe an obsolete expression, which escapes me. Here is my student's sentence with the blank space.

Lucy realized she had the proof to _________ Robert

But I am open to other suggestions and solutions so long as its clear that the evidence shows us that Robert is guilty.

Am I right to ascertain sentences 1 and 2 are possibly ambiguous? And finally, are there other alternatives to the ones I suggested?

  • 2
    So you're looking for an antonym to exonerate. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:12
  • 12
    Not sure if convict may apply here: *When you convict someone of a crime, you find them guilty.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:14
  • 1
    @Josh61 "Lucy realized she found the evidence to convict Robert", also works but does not substitute "find evidence which condemns a guilty person" Or maybe it does??
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:19
  • 1
    If inculpate is too Latinate for you, the OED also has guilt as an obsolete verb, with a 1553 citation of “Hath he then guilted himself of murder?”
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:20
  • 2
    Would expose do in the context? Lucy realized she had the proof to expose Robert. In the sense of revealing his guilt.
    – Thinkeye
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:20

19 Answers 19


You already have the most common phrase: the evidence to prove [ or that would prove] Robert guilty.

If the word proof is important, simply the proof that Robert was guilty would work well.

  • 2
    Simple, elegant, and authoritative solution to the problem, I think.
    – anemone
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 8:24
  • 1
    Yes, yes, yes. All the other words can be used whether someone is actually guilty or not; proof is the word which means he is definitively guilty. Combine proof with any of the other words, and it still means he is guilty. (NB: Not with "frame" though, as "frame" definitively means he is not guilty and so would be a contradiction).
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    I don't see why examples 3 and 4 aren't already complete answers to the question. Let proof stand alone and it's the most authoritative. I think it's adding the different qualifiers that is creating the ambiguity. "Proof of guilt" leaves the least wiggle room. "Smoking gun" can still be used in the sentence, but proof is the operative word. So agreeing with Tim on the second sentence above. Not "the evidence to prove [or that would prove] Robert guilty," but simply the proof [of Robert's guilt].
    – W9WBH
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 21:24
  • Just showed my student all the answers, and he prefers this one. End of discussion.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 16:52

According to Merriam-Webster:

implicate: (3a) to bring into intimate or incriminating connection
evidence that implicates him in the bombing

So I would write this:

Lucy realized she found the proof that implicated Robert in the murders.

You can omit "in the murders" if it is implied by context.

  • 2
    Also, you might say "Lucy found the proof that implicated Robert in the murders." This phrasing indicates that the evidence itself connects him to the crime, without any tampering on her part.
    – recognizer
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 14:01
  • 5
    Objection, circumstantial. Correlation is not causation.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:52
  • 12
    I don't like this one, though the dictionary definitions do tend to suggest that it's ok. To my ear: to implicate is to imply, i.e. to suggest but not to prove. I believe that you could frame someone by implicating them. I much prefer the OP's word of incriminate. But then maybe you could frame someone by incriminating them too... I'm getting myself more and more confused!
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:15
  • @AndyT: To my ear, incriminating happens when you commit the crime.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 12:09
  • 1
    @Kevin - I've only just checked out incriminate's definition. It is, apparently, 1. "to accuse of or present proof of a crime or fault" or 2. to "cause to be or appear to be guilty". So your meaning matches with 2a, whereas I'm looking at 1b. But the words "accuse" and "appear to be" both allow for actual non-guilt. Hence I no longer think incriminate is better than implicate.
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:33

Convict is the correct word here. It's the strongest and most succinct, though legally speaking, Lucy would not do the convicting: that would be filled by the role of judge, jury, or relevant prosecuting attorney for the government.

Indict and implicate are too weak: especially in modern, western legal systems, the accused benefits from the presumption of innocence. If you have enough evidence to implicate someone, that might mean you have a strong hunch based on a rumor you heard. If you have enough evidence to indict someone, well, now you've got a thumbprint, a motive, and maybe some supporting evidence ... but generally you don't need proof for that. If the evidence is strong enough, then the proof may be sufficient to convict.

Note, the word convict has at least 3 meanings: The word above is a verb, with the emphasis on the last syllable, the "vict". When the emphasis is on the first syllable, "con", it refers to a person who has been convicted of a crime and has not yet finished service their punishment. An "ex-convict" is someone who has served their punishment. Finally, the verb is turned into an adjective via its past participle where one usage takes on a slightly different meaning: "John felt convicted" means (in a way) that "John felt certain and resolute", but possibly with a feeling of guilt and remorse; presumably, this sense of the word comes from the idea that John's conscience convicted John as if he had done a crime; his conviction is now a determination to set thing straight.

  • convict: trans. To prove (a person) guilty of an offence which makes him liable to legal punishment; spec. to find or declare guilty, after trial before a legal tribunal, by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge. [OED]
    – ermanen
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 17:19
  • 1
    I had to place convict in bold and add a link because it's tiring to see people posting duplicate answers. I am also fully aware you weren't the first to suggest convict, but your post seems to support convict more strongly than others.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 5:42
  • @Mari-Lou, thanks. jxh's answer is good too.
    – Otheus
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 8:34

Lucy realized she finally had enough evidence to indict Robert on the charge of murder.

Indict in·dict /inˈdīt/ verb, North American –Google
past tense: indicted; past participle: indicted

formally accuse of or charge with a serious crime.

Because of double jeopardy, one had best be sure you have all your ducks in a row before you indict a suspect. Prosecutors may spend years collecting evidence before they are willing to bring up charges.

Due to the maximum length of time one can be held without charges, suspects of crimes committed (other than those where they're caught red handed), are not placed under arrest until a case is built against them. E.g., Drew Peterson.

You only indict someone once (you think, and the DA agrees that) you have enough ["evidence that ‘proves’ them guilty"] beyond reasonable doubt. This evidence must also include a means of probable cause for said indictment.

However, to find evidence that unequivocally proves a person is guilty, is most likely to be done during discovery (assuming the detective's findings were unsubstantial).

Under the law of the United States, civil discovery is wide-ranging and can involve any material which is "reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence." –Wiki

Not even half way through discovery, Lucy realized she already had enough evidence to also indict Robert on the charge of murder.

In the US, all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The colloquial saying you're looking for is 'a smoking gun', however legally the concept does not exist and therefore any word you find is inadmissible.

See also, dead-bang. –definitions.uslegal.com

A dead-bang winner is defined as “an issue which was obvious from the trial record and would have resulted in a reversal on appeal.” James v. McKee, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102380 ( E.D. Mich. Nov. 3, 2009)

Take your shot Funboy. You got me dead-bang.The Crow

And with this new evidence, Lucy realized she had Robert dead-bang.

See also, Dead to Rights –SE

Lucy realized she had proof Robert was the murderer, dead to rights.

IMO, found is the most important word in that sentence. I can only surmise that the reasons 'uncovered evidence', 'newly found evidence', ect. are so cliche, is that your word doesn't exist (and if it does, it has no legal bearing).

  • +1 for the interesting and new terms. Your first sentence seems to imply that Lucy already had some evidence, but until the discovery there was nothing that indicated Robert was the killer, only suspicions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:55
  • @Mari-LouA - That's the reason I included also in the second example. Take for example an aggravated robbery. They might charge them with the robbery, but hold off on the assault charge, and use the first indictment as a means to acquire enough evidence to hopefully lead to a conviction on that, also. It's easy to get a search warrant for a suspected robber's house, probable cause may be much harder to get on a murder suspect's. My advice: never do two illegal things at the same time.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:17
  • @Mari-LouA - I'm a stickler for titles: Evidence that supports the argument that someone is guilty implicates them. Implication does not prove someone is guilty of a crime. That is the word you're looking for, but it's not what the title is asking for. Upon reflection, I'm going to have to upvote Tim's answer, which includes would prove.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 20:18
  • Good explanation. +1
    – Centaurus
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 22:02
  • @Mazura I think the title is fine as I see it right now - Mari-LouA is looking for such a verb (which would be an antonym for exonerate). However, such a word does not, as far as anyone on this discussion has indicated, currently exist in the English Language. I would say implicate is closer than indict to being an antonym for exonerate. Though indict captures some of the formality that implicate does not, implicate implies actual connection to the events, where indict is essentially just a claim of guilt. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:33

I agree that the verb convict pretty much means found someone is guilty of a crime. The proving part is the prosecution process itself.

If you are looking for a more direct way to apply the proof in your sample sentence, I would use committed:

Lucy realized she had proof that Robert committed the murders.

  • 1
    Yes, committed. This preserves the sense of the student's original sentence as explicated by the OP. I note that framing (e.g., contriving false evidence to aid in convicting) a guilty party is a commonplace. I also note, on another tack, that in some legal systems (e.g., Canadian) convicting and finding quilty are distinct phases. Of the others: to indict is formal, and typically can only be done by constituted authority; to implicate does not necessarily imply guilt, as others have pointed out; to convict would work, but only with a lot of added flab or phrasal imprecision.
    – JEL
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 6:56
  • Which term would you prefer between proof and evidence and why?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 19:09
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: Evidence in of itself is rarely conclusive. It is usually some fact out of a collection of facts that can be used to build a case. So you could say I have evidence that proves he committed ..., but if you just say I have evidence that he committed ... sounds much weaker, because the evidence could be circumstantial.
    – jxh
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 2:22
  • +1 @JEL for clearly and correctly noting that “framing a guilty party” can and does occur. According to “The Skeptical Juror”: “… the classic frame up [of an innocent party] is more fiction than reality. In the real world, nearly all the framing is done by the State.”
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 15:56
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: No worries! You can always award me a bounty :-)
    – jxh
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 17:57

I am tempted to propose the following:

Lucy realized she had the proof to establish Robert's guilt.

Per Merriam-Webster:

establish verb

: to cause (someone or something) to be widely known and accepted

: to put (someone or something) in a position, role, etc., that will last for a long time

: to begin or create (something that is meant to last for a long time)


Sentence 1 (with nail) sounds a bit colloquial to my non-native ears. Furthermore, I think that “nailed Robert to the murders” links Robert to the murders but is ambiguous as to whether he was the murderer, an accomplice, or perhaps even merely involved in some way (e.g. he drove the murderer to the place where the crime took place but did not know of the murderer's intent beforehand). “Nailed Robert for the murders” would be a lot closer to the intended meaning.

Sentence 2 is definitely ambiguous: incriminate can mean merely that there is enough evidence of involvement to warrant an inquiry and perhaps a trial, not proof of guilt.

With frame, there's an emphasis on spreading the false information regarding the party being guilty. A word that applies when the guilt is genuine and emphasizes the public knowledge of that guilt is expose.

Lucy realized she had the proof to expose Robert for committing the murders.

What I find a little awkward is that expose doesn't work well without adding the word committing: “expose Robert for the murders” doesn't sound right. Depending on the context, this might work:

Lucy realized she had the proof to expose Robert as the murderer.

  • 5
    "for being" -> "as"
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 13:55
  • 3
    One doesn't nail Robert to the murders, one nails him for the murders. One could also pin the murders on him.
    – Vérace
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 20:48
  • @Vérace thank you for pointing out my mistake, I hadn't realized that I used the wrong preposition. Indeed, you nail someone to the wall or to a cross but you are nail someone for a crime.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 19:41
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA both prepositions seem fine to me but mean different things. To "nail someone for the murders" would be to punish them. To "nail someone to the murders" is much less common, but perfectly understandable, meaning to unequivocably link them to the murders. As i say, it's not common, borderline neologism, but understandable. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 19:50
  • @steveverrill - it may be "understandable", but this is "language and usage" - and "nail to" in this context strikes me (as a speaker of English from birth) as incongruous. You may disagree, but there I stand and I am unanimous in that :-) "Pin" the murders on somebody could either be a justifiable attribution of guilt or a frame job IMHO.
    – Vérace
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 20:10

I think your question doesn't match your context.

Lucy realized she had the proof to _________ Robert.

The blank here is not a verb meaning "to prove his guilt".

Lucy had proof to prove-the-guilt-of Robert.

That doesn't really make sense. A better way:

Lucy realized she could prove Robert's guilt.


Lucy realized she could secure Robert's conviction.

I would suggest:

Lucy realized this was the smoking gun that would convict Robert.

This does several things. First, we're highlighting the now-valuable object in question. Second, we're using the cool phrase "smoking gun". Third, we're showing that the result of proof is a conviction. Fourth, we're acknowledging that the conviction is in the character's future still.

That phrase would need to be modified if the evidence is something she'd collected earlier and just now realized was evidence.

Lucy realized the stray cat in her apartment was the smoking gun...

One last nitpick. "Realized she found" seems awkward to me. "Realized she'd found" seems more natural and accurate to me.

  • Great post .. You're saying "prove" is in fact the answer.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 16:44
  • Which term would you prefer between proof and evidence and why?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 19:09
  • I do like this answer...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 5:54
  • 1
    Evidence is something that inclines you towards a conclusion, but doesn't get you the entire way. Proof is when you can't see anything but one conclusion as reasonable. To a court, the term evidence would make more sense, as they haven't yet determined guilt. If you asked them to examine the proof it would seem like guilt was pre-established. But to Lucy, guilt probably has been pre-determined, and this evidence is her means of proving it to a court. Because the sentence is about Lucy's thought process, it seems natural to use the term proof if that's how she views it.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 8:01


I would suggest "Lucy realized she had found the evidence which would convict Robert of murder.

convict - (vb tr/intr:) Law - To find or prove (someone) guilty of an offense or crime, especially by the verdict of a court.

  • "The jury convicted the defendant of manslaughter."

  • "There is sufficient evidence to convict him."

  • "His son is in jail, convicted of drunk driving."

convict - (vb) to prove that someone is guilty of a crime in a court of law

  • "He was convicted in federal court."
  • "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

convict is also a noun: a convict is a person convicted of and under sentence for a crime.

Postscript - Yes, your first two sentences don't mean that Robert would be convicted in a court of law.

  • @Mari-LouA - Judges and juries convict suspects. Evidence can only be said to of had convicted / aided in conviction -past tense.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:15
  • convict is the right answer for the title question.
    – jxh
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:27
  • @Mari-LouA: I agree; you can be linked to a crime even if you're 100% innocent.
    – Beta
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 2:52

What about prosecuted? In the past tense the process has completed and a successful outcome would indicate proven.

  • This doesn't fit in with the story, Lucy doesn't know if the murderer will be put on trial. She has only discovered the evidence and the motive that proves that Robert committed the two murders.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:49
  • @Mari-LouA - Culpable evidence that implicates guilt and motive legally proves nothing. Innocent until proven guilty. (If you include the word "likely to prove..." in the title, I'd leave you alone and tell you to go with implicate ;)
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:58
  • @Mazura It's the student's story, not mine :) We were both wondering if a verb existed that expressed the concept of finding the evidence that proves someone's guilt. The trial, which in any case is not mentioned in the story, is secondary. To reiterate, the proof and motive is damning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:13
  • @Mari-LouA - You sure you're not looking for an adjective to describe the proof and motive?
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:32

A somewhat old fashioned expression for this would be bring home the crime to. Your sentence would then read

Lucy realized she had the proof to bring home the crime to Robert

Examples of this usage can be found here:-

Mr. Depping turns out to have been an American criminal, and Gideon Fell must penetrate the secrets of his American associates as well as his British life in retirement in order to bring home the crime to the unlikely criminal.

or here:-

This seemed to bring home the crime now to Gaillard, and every effort was made to discover him.


I disagree with some of your premises.

Proof that frames is an oxymoron, unless you qualify proof somehow to show it is not legitimate and doesn't actually prove guilt, as in seeming proof that frames. Consider other qualifiers such as faked-up, false, circumstantial, misleading, misinterpreted. (Note: misinterpreted was added in an edit, and at least one comment below refers to the post before this edit.)

Therefore, in my opinion, your sentences 1 and 2, "proof that nailed" or "proof that incriminated" are perfectly clear and acceptable. There is no other kind of (just plain) proof.

If you still have an issue with proof being ambiguous, then focus it with a qualifier: the legitimate proof that incriminated, for example, or try iron-clad, solid, inescapable, ineluctable, absolute, or unquestionable.

  • In the original sentence, my student used the term frame, I pointed out that it was incorrect because Robert was guilty of committing the murders. The term frame is normally used to trap an innocent person. I'm pleased to hear that suggestions 1 and 2 are clear but I feel they are not wholly unambiguous. An innocent person can also be nailed or incriminated for something they did not do.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:30
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA For an innocent person, then there is no proof they committed the crime—at least, not legitimate proof. And, the word proof by itself should be understood to mean "legitimate proof". Therefore, sentences 1 and 2 are completely unambiguous. An innocent person can only be nailed or incriminated by misleading, false, trumped-up, faked, or otherwise invalid proof!
    – ErikE
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 19:11
  • @ErikE You're forgetting a very common type: misinterpreted proof; that is, something that is taken as proof, but is in fact not if you know the full context. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 19:31
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I'm not forgetting it at all because my analysis is not on the eventual disposition of an accused person within the court system, but on the meaning and ambiguity or clarity of particular sentences. Within the given sentences, the misinterpreted proof angle is not an issue. All proof, all statements, all claims and propositions, could be mistaken. if what you're saying really is an issue, then the current top answer, "proof that implicated" would also be completely ambiguous. No, words mean their usual/normal meaning in sentences until modifiers or context change them.
    – ErikE
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 20:04

As a lawyer, the sentence "Lucy realized she had the proof to convict Robert" has only 2 plausible meanings to me:

  1. Lucy is the judge (or a member of the jury) trying Robert for the crime.
  2. Lucy is the prosecutor or someone intimately involved in the prosecution, such as the investigating officer from the police.

The sentence would sound odd to me otherwise – including if Lucy were investigating in a private capacity (e.g. as an HR manager). In fact, even in sentence (2), I wouldn't choose to use the word 'convict' myself, but would instead prefer verbs like 'prove' or 'incriminate' ('smoking gun' would also work in a more colloquial setting, and I'm also partial to 'implicate' because lawyers are careful not to overstate the degree of certainty).

The reason is that in a legal context, 'to convict' is a verb intimately tied up with a verdict of guilt in a court. In that sense it is a step beyond proof that someone has committed a crime – for example, because we are often willing to accept a piece of evidence as 'proof' of something even if it would not suffice in court (either because that evidence is insufficiently probative or because it is improper in some way according to the rules of evidence), and also because a conviction is at the end of a process that begins as an exercise of discretion by the prosecutor (in common law countries like the US and England, that is) such that not all crimes are prosecuted in the first place.

(For the same reasons, I would not use the verb 'prosecute' unless Lucy is actually prosecuting Robert in court.)


If proving Robert’s guilt would require a trial (and I think it would), perhaps you could come at this from a different angle and dance around this issue by instead saying:

#3-Lucy realized she found the evidence which/that refuted Robert’s {claim of} innocence.

Refute: verb-/-to prove that (something) is not true. (Merriam-Webster)

Irrefutable could also work as an adjective to modify “evidence”:

Lucy realized she found/had [the] irrefutable evidence of Robert’s guilt.

Irrefutable: adjective-/- that cannot be refuted or disproved. (Dictionary Reference)


Institutional context is important in the meaning of words. Since crime has a legal basis, only judicial institutions can decide what is or isn't proof of guilt in the violation of a statute. Morality aside, does committing a crime make you guilty of violating a statute, or does getting prosecuted? From a legal standpoint, the latter holds, as guilt is the decree of an institution. One cannot prove their own innocence anymore than they can prove the guilt of another. Hence, convict is the appropriate term here. Typically, only courts have the authority to use this term in the manner described. Otherwise, you would simply implicate them with incriminating evidence.


law : to prove that someone is guilty of a crime in a court of law

  • This answer has already been suggested several times by @Otheus, Centaurus, Kevin Workman, MichaelS, and JesseM
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 5:02
  • True, but they fail to fully describe why institutional context is important in the meaning of words. If the question has already been adequately answered, it should be closed. Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 20:36
  • You don't close a question because it has received one or more answers! If that were the case than 70% of all questions on this site should be closed. There is no obligation on the OP (me) to accept one answer. I have, however, upvoted those answers which have been most helpful to me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 20:50
  • Yes, you do, when you have received the correct answer. Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 20:00

~~~ Lucy realized that she had the smoking gun that would nail Robert for the murders.

This conveys that Lucy had the evidence in hand, by whatever means she procured it, to convict Robert.

~~~ Lucy was responsible for finding the smoking gun that nailed Robert.

This identifies Lucy specifically as the 'finder' not creator of the evidence.

The examples I used also served tho clarify the timing off crime and conviction. I hope this helps.

  • That's interesting, finding a smoking gun, doesn't exclude the possibility that a person could be falsely accused of murder. But in my student's story Lucy did find the "smoking gun", alongside the realization that the murderer could finally be reported to the police.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:33

I looked up the opposite of exonerate:

(especially of an official body) absolve (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case.

And I found these:

  • blame
  • condemn
  • convict
  • damn
  • burden
  • accuse
  • incriminate
  • 1
    'Blame', 'Damn', 'Burden', and 'Accuse' don't mean they are proven guilty.
    – Jamin Grey
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:10

"Convict," "commit," or "prove" would all seem to be appropriate, depending on what you want to say.

"Convict" is right if you want to refer to him being found guilty in court (regardless of objective guilt, this is a finding of legal guilt). He could be convicted if framed, really did it, or didn't.

"Commit" refers to if the person objectively did the crime or not. They either committed the act, or they didn't, regardless of if they get caught or not, found guilty or not.

"Prove" is all about belief. It can prove guilt to an individual with no legal standing, or a jury, which would then result in a conviction. In either case, the person may or may not have actually done the crime.

Faking evidence to "prove" guilt would be framing.

So it really depends on the precise meaning desired. Legal, factual, or belief. Each could use different words for different meanings.


When I really ponder over the sentence after picking my word, the sentence shrinks. My word is "Blameworthy" which means responsible for wrongdoing (and deserving of censure or blame).

The first sentence that I made from your given template was - "Lucy realized she could prove that Robert is blameworthy."

But even better sentence is

Lucy realized Robert is blameworthy.

because the only way Lucy would have such a realization is when she has the proof and therefore having proof becomes implicit.

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