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Disability Alibi

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A suspect in exonerated due to not being physically capable of committing the crime.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
randomtroper89 on Nov 6th 2017 at 1:48:14 PM
Last Edited By:
StarSword on Feb 18th 2018 at 11:49:41 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

The detectives are checking every suspect, leaving no stone unturned. One stone they turn acts suspicious and has no alibi.

But wait, he couldn't have done it. He's not physically capable.

Maybe he is completely disabled, and needs special assistance for day to day life. Maybe he is otherwise incapacitated or injured so as to be unable to perform such activity as the crime featured, or perhaps he simply was in recovery from a previous injury at the time. Either way, he's probably innocent.

Of course, it's possible he had someone else do the dirty work for him. It's also possible he is only pretending to be disabled.

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    Comics 
  • In the 2006 iteration of New Warriors, a pair of detectives are trying to determine the identity of the new Night Thrasher, as he and his New Warriors are acting in deliberate violation of the Super Registration Act. Naturally, their first suspect is Donyell Taylor, the half-brother of the previous Night Thrasher, but his alibi is that he could not be engaging in vigilante actions because he lost both of his legs in an accident. Of course, it's later revealed that his supposed legless appearance is the result of an image inducer, and he is in fact the new Night Thrasher.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bob Roberts: At the end of movie, John Alijah "Bugs" Raplin is arrested for an attempt on Roberts's life, when he's shot and left unable to walk as Bugs confronts him. Bugs is released when it's revealed that due to constrictive palsy in his right hand he physically he couldn't have pulled the trigger, but he's murdered by a right wing vigilante group off camera and it's made clear that the entire attempt was faked by Roberts, who used the sympathy to sweep himself into office.

     Jokes 
  • A young boy is on trial for rape. Naturally, his mother is adamant Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal, is constantly arguing with the prosecution and the judge. Finally, she angrily opens her son's pants, grabs his dick and says:
    Mother: Your honor, do you honestly believe something can be done with a tool this size?!
    Boy (whispering): Mom, don't twiddle it like that, or we'll lose.

    Literature 
  • Alex Cross novel Cross the Line:
    • Oen subplot involves motorcycle drive by shootings,targeting unsafe drivers. Cross and Sampson question former Navy Seal Nick Condon who tells them that a quick look at his medical history will prove he can not shoot a pistol from a motorcycle, and shows them his wrist braces and the scars beneath them. His chaplain clarifies that Condon injured his wrists resulting in his discharge, he is an excellent rifle shot but couldn't hold a pistol.
    • Another subplot involves the deaths of Police Captain Tommy McGrath and his girlfriend Edita. The main suspect is disgraced cop Terry Howard, but Cross notes that Howard was never a particularly good shot, and the shoots were done with near perfect precision. Indeed the real perpetrator was a competitive shooter with perfects scores.
  • In The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov, a man has been mind wiped by someone claiming to be Fife - the most powerful nobleman on his planet. The victim doesn't remember the person's face, only the man towering over him as he was sitting. Fife proceeds to reveal his Big Secret by doing something no one has seen him do in years - stand up. Turns out he might appear a giant when sitting, but his legs are so short that, when he is standing and the victim is sitting, their eyes are on the same level.
  • Death on the Nile: Simon Doyle is exempt from suspicion for the murder of his wife, as well as those of two other witnesses, due to being shot in the leg by Jacqueline on the night of the murder. It's revealed that he actually shot himself in the leg after shooting his wife, as he and Jacqueline were working together (they faked his initial leg injury) and the actual leg injury gave him a perfect alibi. Jacqueline also committed the other two murders.
  • In the Discworld novel The Truth, Lord Vetinari gets framed for an apparent attempt to flee the city on horseback with seventy thousand dollars' worth of dollar coins, which Intrepid Reporter William de Worde realizes would weigh about a third of a ton. Since Vetinari uses a walking stick due to having been shot in the leg, de Worde realizes he'd have a pretty hard time doing all that on his own and runs an article pointing out the unlikelihood of this version of events.
  • In Jack Reacher novel One Shot and its film adaptation, a sniper shoots several seemingly random people and former army sniper James Barr is accused. One of Jack Reacher's problems with James Barr's guilt is that while Barr was a decent sniper, the killings were done by a man with exceptional skill. The shoots were from a rather awkward position when a better one was available, and the only miss conveniently preserved the bullet. It turns out that not only was James Barr framed, but the shooter choose the position not to kill random people but a specific person to hide among a random spree.
  • Judge Dee: One story has Mr. Wang claim he killed Mr. Twan and carried his body up a hill before chopping off his fingers with an apothecary's knife. The judge sees through this right away (both men being old and frail) as well as identifying the real culprit (Wang's huge but mentally-retarded son). He gives Wang a chance by stating that with his father in jail, the son will have no one to protect him, causing Wang to confess his son killed Mr. Twan as a result of a misunderstanding (the mutilation was an entirely separate event, essentially a Yubitsume gone wrong). The judge assures him that he'll see to it that his son is well taken care of, and take the circumstances for Wang's attempted perjury into account at the trial.
  • Lord Darcy: In one story, a suspect is cleared of the actual murder (if not another crime) when it's confirmed that he's not faking his paralysis, and thus could not have climbed the stairway to the murder scene.
  • The Exbrayat novel "Le Sage de Sauvenat": An old man is sent to trial for the murder of an all-around Hate Sink (wifebeater, swindler, likely sold out his uncle to the Nazis...). However, during the trial another villager reveals the old guy is so near-sighted he couldn't have shot the victim like he claimed (to his acute embarrassment). He ends up doing time for perjury anyway, but is still seen as worthy of respect by the village.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Subverted in one of Mitty's daydreams, about being a grandiose and heroic person, he finds himself as the defendant in a murder trial. His defense lawyer argues that Mitty could not have shot the victim because his right arm was injured. Mitty cuts him short by boasting that he "could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with [his] left hand."
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Subverted in the story, "The Man with the Twisted Lip". Watson asks how a crippled beggar could have killed a man in his prime, but Holmes explains the beggar merely got a limp, his arms are strong enough. The ending reveals a more convincing reason why he is innocent, he [[actually is the man he is accused of killing.
    • In the story "The Adventure of Black Peter": The first suspect in Peter's murder is a man who broke into his house. He claims he was looking for information about his missing father. Holmes is quick to point out to the police that such a small guy could hardly have impaled a man with a harpoon.
    • In the story "The Three Students", a university professor is certain that one of his three scholarship students went into his office and started copying down the exam text before being interrupted. Holmes quickly figures out only someone of his height or taller could have seen the papers on the desk from the window.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: During the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus notes that the victim, Mayella Ewell, has bruises on the right side of her face which suggests they were inflicted with the left hand, Tom Robinson is unable to use his left hand due to a childhood injury involving a cotton gin, and Mayella's abusive father Bob is left-handed. Despite the obvious implications, the racist jury convict Tom anyway, since he is a black man accused of a crime against a white woman.

     Live Action TV 
  • During the "Miniature Killer" arc of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, one suspect (the son of a murdered rock star) is cleared when they confirm that he faints at the sight of blood, therefore couldn't have left the crime scene let alone use some of the blood to adjust the miniature to fit it.
  • Diagnosis: Murder:
    • In one episode a woman kills her lover in a fit of rage after learning he's been unfaithful, and her mother (who has a terminal illness) attempts to take the fall to spare her daughter from jail. Mark, however, refuses to believe her, as the mother's condition makes her physically incapable of carrying her own bags, let alone swinging a blunt instrument with enough force to kill.
    • Another episode has a mafia agent being killed in a car-bombing shortly after a trial against him collapses. The first suspect is an old man with a previous conviction for bomb-making and ties to an Asian crime family that have a rivalry with the mafia, but when questioned he points out that he's blind and has tremors in his hands that would make building a bomb impossible now. However it didn't prevent him from teaching bomb-making to the real murderer: a politician whose lover was killed during a mafia-ordered hit.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Family Portrait", Lucien discovers that Patrick Tyneman couldn't have committed the second murder because his hypertension is so bad, he would have blacked out if he had bent over to pick up the brick that was used as a weapon.
  • Elementary:
    • In the season one episode "Flight Risk", Holmes and Watson investigate a plane crash. After determining one of the victims was dead before even boarding the plane, they look into a man who was seen in a photo arguing with the victim outside of the hanger, who Watson notes has an insulin pump. When they speak to this man, they determine by the way he fumbles around with his pill bottle that he is not capable of beating a man to death.
    • In the season one episode "One Way to Get Off", Holmes and Watson look into a series of deaths matching the MO of a convicted killer. The find a suspect and Sherlock realizes he is the man is half blind by the way he arranges his stuff on the shelves, the marks on the ceiling from practicing his depth perception, and proves this by throwing an orange at the man which he does not catch. He concludes this makes him innocent, one of the deaths was a shot in the dark following a struggle, not something a man with poor depth perception could do.
    • In the season two episode "Dead Clade Walking", Holmes and Watson investigate a death related to a fossil that would prove the theory that dinosaurs survived the K-T meteor impace. Holmes rounds up skeptics of this theory, asks them for DNA samples, and the match turns out to be a wheelchair bound man named Andrew Donnelly. Gregson is skeptical how this is possible, and the man is further exonerated by his lawyer providing an air tight alibi. Turns out the real killer is the museum curator Holmes and Watson talked to earlier, who co-authored a book with Donnelly, and they both had used the tool that was the murder weapon.
    • In the season two episode "The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville" Holmes and Watson look into a number of bite related deaths, with teeth marks that match that of a killer who died in prison. After determining that this is because the killer's teeth were a model for the dentures, they investigate the dental assistant named Divac, a sex offender taking chemical castration. Watson determines his innocence by noting that a mirror was shattered at the crime scene and the blood was not the victims. If this had happened to Divac his bones, brittle from the treatment, would have shattered.
    • In the season four episode "Ready or Not" Holmes and Watson look into a missing doctor named Vincent, who they determine was a survivalist renting space in a doomsday bunker, run by a former Marine named Ronnie Wright. When they visit the bunker, Holmes determines that the bunker is an ill prepared fraud, and finds a bloodstain belonging to Vincent. Ronnie Wright admits to disposing of the body, but claims he couldn't have killed him, because a bad rotator cuff prevents him from swinging a weapon overhead. He admits that he was injured while on his high school swim team, and that he was unable to enlist in the marines.
  • Inverted in an episode of The Good Wife while Cary Agos is working as an ADA. In response to an inconsistency in the blood evidence pointed out by Alicia, Cary brings in an expert witness who points out that lupus, which the defendant has, can cause one's blood type to change.
  • Inverted on the short-lived detective show Half Nelson: Rocky investigates a murder where a man was murdered before being robbed. He notes the amount of time the killer got in and out, and he (played by five foot four inch Joe Pesci) tests the timeline and gets in and out in less time. He concludes that the perpetrator is either shorter than him or has a back problem. He later plays golf with someone who can't make a swing without suffering from immense back pain and realizes he's the guilty party.
  • Monk:
    • Season One episode "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale" has Monk investigate a murder supposedly committed by a mastermind known as Dale the Whale, who is physically incapable of committing the murder due to being morbidly obese. Subverted in that Monk is trying to prove that he ordered the murder to be committed and not that he killed the victim himself.
    • Subverted in season two episode "Mr. Monk Goes To The Circus". A man is murdered by a masked ninja who performs several impressive acrobatic feats in front of many witnesses. Monk's primary suspect is a trapeze artist who had a grudge against the victim and possesses the skills to have killed someone in such a way, but is wheelchair-bound after breaking her foot in a botched stunt shortly before the murder was committed. It turns out she faked breaking her foot during the stunt, killed the victim, and then went back and broke her foot for real.
  • Sherlock: Season four episode "The Final Problem", when given three brothers who are suspects in a murder, Sherlock crosses out two of the brothers as the murderer due to their physical conditions. One of them wore glasses so could no fire the rifle, as the rifle having a scope and a strong recoil would result in his glasses shattering. The other brother was a drunk and did not possess the accuracy to fire the weapon. This leaves the third brother who was indeed the murderer.

    Visual Novel 
  • Overlooked in the third case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where a young boy is charged with shooting a man. The gun in question had a strong recoil, and usually only heavily trained police officers are capable of using it without breaking something, so it was unlikely the defendant (who was a pianist and likely never held a gun in his life) could shoot it properly. No one brings this up though, and it is believed the defendant was guilty.
  • Case 4 of New Dangan Ronpa V3: The murder happened in a virtual world, that Miu altered, and planned to murder Ouma in it. To make sure her plan would work, she altered his avatar so that when her avatar touched his, he'd be paralyzed. During the trial, when the player tries to defend Ouma, this is pointed out, making Ouma virtually and physically incapable of strangling her.

     Web Original 
  • Sword Art Online Abridged: Played for Laughs Kirito proves that Schmidt couldn't have murdered his friend and fellow adventurer Griselda because Schmidt possesses neither the physical skill nor the wits to actually defeat a veteran player like Griselda.

     Western Animation 
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, Season 4 "Operation: C.L.U.E.S.", when someone stabbed Numbuh 3's Rainbow Monkey doll in the back with a fork during dinner, Numbuh 2 accuses his grandma of doing it due to being old and mean. His grandma admits she would have done it too if it wasn't for her back, her arthritis, that funny little crick in her neck, and her bunion.
  • In The Simpsons episode, "Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2", Groundskeeper Willie is cleared as a potential suspect due to being medically certified to be unable to use a gun from playing too much Space Invaders in his youth.

    Real Life 
  • A monk was accused and found guilty of getting a tavern owner's daughter pregnant. Decades later, it was discover that the "monk" was actually a woman who kept silent to protect the identity of the real father.
  • Double amputee former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had this used against him at his trial over killing his girlfriend. He admitted to have shot her, but only because he thought she was a burglar. However from the angle the shots went through a door, they were fired by someone standing at full height. This was used to suggest that Pistorius couldn't have have fired the shot without putting his prosthetic legs on, and if he did he couldn't have been as scared and impulsive as he claimed .

Feedback: 62 replies

Nov 6th 2017 at 1:50:50 PM

Your English needs major help. None of it is correct, to the point that the title you've given this (Couldn't Not Have Done It) is the exact opposite of the trope you're proposing.

Nov 6th 2017 at 1:59:57 PM

Change title to Physically Could Not Do It; change content to:

The detectives are checking every suspect, leaving no stone unturned. One stone they turn acts suspicious and has no alibi.

But wait, he couldn't have done it. He's not physically capable.

Maybe he is completely disabled, maybe he is otherwise incapacitated or injured so as to be unable to perform such activity as the crime featured, or perhaps he simply was in recovery from a previous injury at the time. Either way, he's probably innocent.

Of course, it's possible he had someone else do the dirty work for him. It's also possible he is only pretending to be disabled.

Literature

  • In Alex Cross novel Cross the Line, Cross and Sampson question former Navy Seal Nick Condon about a number of motorcycle drive by shootings, targeting unsafe drivers. He tells them that a quick look at his medical history will prove he can not shoot a pistol from a motorcycle, and shows them his wrist braces and the scars beneath them. His chaplain clarifies that Condon injured his wrists resulting in his discharge, he is an excellent rifle shot but couldn't hold a pistol.

Live Action TV

  • Elementary:
    • In the season one episode "Flight Risk", Holmes and Watson investigate a plane crash. After determining one of the victims was dead before even boarding the plane, they look into a man who was seen in a photo arguing with the victim outside of the hanger, who Watson notes has an insulin pump. When they speak to this man, they determine by the way he fumbles around with his pill bottle that he is not capable of beating a man to death.
    • In the season two episode "Dead Clade Walking", Holmes and Watson investigate a death related to a fossil that would prove the theory that dinosaurs survived the K-T meteor impace. Holmes rounds up skeptics of this theory, and asks them for DNA samples. A match turns out to be a wheelchair bound man named Andrew Donnelly. Gregson is skeptical how this is possible, and the man is further exonerated by his lawyer providing an air tight alibi. Bell is able to collect a sample of the only man who refused. Turns out the real killer is the museum curator Holmes and Watson talked to earlier, who co-authored a book with Donnelly, and they both had used the tool that was the murder weapon.
    • In the season two episode "The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville" Holmes and Watson look into a number of bite related deaths, with teeth marks that match that of a killer who died in prison. After determining that this is because the killer's teeth were a model for the dentures, they investigate the dental assistant named Divac, a sex offender taking chemical castration. Watson determines his innocence by noting that a mirror was shattered at the crime scene and the blood was not the victims. If this had happened to Divac his bones, brittle from the treatment, would have shattered.
    • In the season four episode "Ready or Not" Holmes and Watson look into a missing doctor named Vincent, who they determine was a survivalist renting space in a doomsday bunker, run by a former Marine named Ronnie Wright. When they visit the bunker, Holmes determines that the bunker is an ill prepared fraud, and finds a bloodstain belonging to Vincent. Ronnie Wright admits to disposing of the body, but claims he couldn't have killed him, because a bad rotator cuff prevents him from swinging a weapon overhead. He admits that he was injured while on his high school swim team, and that he was unable to enlist in the marines.

Nov 6th 2017 at 2:35:10 PM

Subverted in To Kill A Mockingbird: During the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus notes that the victim, Mayella Ewell, has bruises on the right side of her face which suggests they were inflicted with the left hand, Tom Robinson is unable to use his left hand due to a childhood injury involving a cotton gin, and Mayella's abusive father Bob is left-handed. Despite the obvious implications, the racist jury convict Tom anyway, since he is a black man accused of a crime against a white woman.

Nov 6th 2017 at 7:09:36 PM

  • Sword Art Online Abridged: Played For Laughs Kirito proves that Schmidt couldn't have murdered his friend and fellow adventurer Griselda because Schmidt possesses neither the physical skill nor the wits to actually defeat a veteran player like Griselda.

Possible page quote:

Kirito: "Ah, a valid point. But tell me: do you think Schmidt would have trusted a stranger to do the job?"
Cainz: "Well, no..."
Kirito: "Then you must think Schmidt is skilled enough to take Griselda one-on-one? Or perhaps, smart enough to catch her unawares?"
Cainz: [Beat] ...Oh my God, Schmidt's not the killer.
Schmidt: "OH COME ON!!!"

Nov 6th 2017 at 5:05:00 PM

The example is okay, but I'm not sure about the quote. What do you think of this:

Wright: He was killed with a hatchet. Right? The person who did it would have had to swing the hatchet over his head. You said you're a doctor— do you know about impingement syndrome?
Watson: Inflammation of the tendons in the rotator cuff caused by repeated stress. Why?
Wright: I messed up my shoulders swimming in high school. I couldn't have swung a hatchet if I wanted to. I was never in... the Marines, okay? They turned me down because of my shoulders when I tried to sign up.

Nov 6th 2017 at 5:18:02 PM

I think the Sword Art one is funnier, and less wordy is better

Nov 6th 2017 at 5:46:43 PM

Fixed the Sword Art namespace, Web Original -> Web Video

Nov 6th 2017 at 6:11:20 PM

Literature

  • Subverted in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. In one of Mitty's daydreams about being a grandiose and heroic person, he finds himself as the defendant in a murder trial. His defense lawyer argues that Mitty could not have shot the victim because his right arm was injured. Mitty cuts him short by boasting that he "could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with [his] left hand."

Nov 6th 2017 at 7:10:01 PM

Fixed the quote. Totally forgot about one line, which makes the quote work a lot smoother, IMO.

Nov 6th 2017 at 7:13:39 PM

Live Action Television

  • Monk:
    • An early episode has Monk investigate a murder supposedly committed by a mastermind known as Dale the Whale. Dale the Whale is physically incapable of committing the murder due to being morbidly obese. Subverted in that Monk is trying to prove that he ordered the murder to be committed and not that he killed the victim himself.
    • Another murder victim has a likely suspect, but he turns out to have died years earlier. Being The Ditz, Disher does not give this as the only or even first reason for his innocence.

Nov 6th 2017 at 7:21:48 PM

I'm not sure if the second should count.

Nov 6th 2017 at 10:23:21 PM

  • In Death On The Nile, Simon Doyle is exempt from suspicion for the murder of his wife, as well as those of two other witnesses, due to being shot in the leg by Jacqueline on the night of the murder. It's revealed that he actually shot himself in the leg after shooting his wife, as he and Jacqueline were working together (they faked his initial leg injury) and the actual leg injury gave him a perfect alibi. Jacqueline also committed the other two murders.

Nov 7th 2017 at 7:53:55 AM

In "The Adventure of Black Peter", the first suspect in Peter's murder is a man who broke into his house. He claims he was looking for infrormation about his missing father. Holmes is quick to point out to the police that such a small guy could hardly have impaled a man with a harpoon.

Nov 7th 2017 at 2:48:24 AM

A Real Life example cited under Silent Scapegoat concerns a monk who was accused and found guilty of getting a tavern owner's daughter pregnant. Decades later, it was discover that the "monk" was actually a woman who kept silent to protect the identity of the real father.

Nov 7th 2017 at 6:42:15 AM

^^ You've misspelled Sherlock Holmes.

Nov 7th 2017 at 8:10:16 AM

also in real life, former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had this used against him at his trial over killing his girlfriend: he's a double amputee and eventually said that he may have shot her, but only because he thought she was a burglar breaking in since South Africa (where they lived) is a dangerous place. However, the shots were fired through a door by someone standing at full height (from the angle they go through the wood) — evidence used to suggest that Pistorius couldn't have been as scared and impulsive as he claimed because he clearly thought to put his prosthetic legs on, either that or he couldn't have fired the gun.

Nov 7th 2017 at 8:22:55 AM

Nov 7th 2017 at 8:29:10 AM

Lord Darcy: In one story, a suspect is cleared of the actual murder (if not another crime) when it's confirmed that he's not faking his paralysis, and thus could not have climbed the stairway to the murder scene.

Nov 7th 2017 at 8:44:39 AM

Many murder mysteries specifically mention this when the victim was killed by physically violent means (stabbing, drowning...) to keep the number of suspects high. Usually takes the form of the detective asking the coroner if a woman could have done it, the coroner answering that she could have if under a strong emotion (such as, say, murderous intent).

  • Judge Dee: One story has Mr. Wang claim he killed Mr. Twan and carried his body up a hill before chopping off his fingers with an apothecary's knife. The judge sees through this right away (both men being old and frail) as well as identifying the real culprit (Wang's huge but mentally-retarded son). He gives Wang a chance by stating that with his father in jail, the son will have no one to protect him, causing Wang to confess his son killed Mr. Twan as a result of a misunderstanding (the mutilation was an entirely separate event, essentially a Yubitsume gone wrong). The judge assures him that he'll see to it that his son is well taken care of, and take the circumstances for Wang's attempted perjury into account at the trial.
  • One Midsomer Murders has a kid mastermind several murders, using his mentally-disturbed uncle to carry out the actual work.

Nov 7th 2017 at 2:25:58 PM

Going to suggest this for a title: "Physically Could Not Have Dunnit"

Since "Dunnit" (as in Who Dunnit) automatically connotates a mystery solution.

Nov 7th 2017 at 3:32:37 PM

  • In Sherlock episode "The Final Problem", when given three brothers who are suspects in a murder, Sherlock crosses out two of the brothers as the murderer due to their physical conditions. One of them wore glasses so could no fire the rifle, as the rifle having a scope and a strong recoil would result in his glasses shattering. The other brother was a drunk and did not possess the accuracy to fire the weapon. This leaves the third brother who was indeed the murderer.

  • In The Simpsons episode, "Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2", Groundskeeper Willie is cleared as a potential suspect due to being medically certified to be unable to use a gun from playing too much Space Invaders in his youth.

Nov 7th 2017 at 4:36:07 PM

Sorry, rt89, all I got is an inversion: the suspect is nailed because of his disability, rather than precluded.

Nov 7th 2017 at 5:09:32 PM

That's okay, you can submit it.

Nov 7th 2017 at 7:05:59 PM

Is there a related trope where the suspect could not have committed the crime due to being dead when it occurred?

Nov 8th 2017 at 1:21:50 AM

^ There is Suspect Existence Failure, but that's often about a person who is killed later.

Nov 8th 2017 at 2:00:54 AM

  • Subverted in another Sherlock Holmes story, "The Man with the Twisted Lip". Watson asks how a crippled beggar could have killed a man in his prime, but Holmes explains the beggar merely got a limp, his arms are strong enough. The ending reveals a more convincing reason why he is innocent.
  • In The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov, a man has been mind wiped by someone claiming to be Fife - the most powerful nobleman on his planet. The victim doesn't remember the person's face, only the man towering over him as he was sitting. Fife proceeds to reveal his Big Secret by doing something no one has seen him do in years - stand up. Turns out he might appear a giant when sitting, but his legs are so short that, when he is standing and the victim is sitting, their eyes are on the same level.

Nov 8th 2017 at 6:51:50 PM

  • At the end of Bob Roberts, John Alijah "Bugs" Raplin is arrested for an attempt on Roberts's life, when he's shot and left unable to walk as Bugs confronts him. Bugs is released when it's revealed that he couldn't have pulled the trigger, but he's murdered by a right wing vigilante group off camera and it's made clear that the entire attempt was faked by Roberts, who used the sympathy to sweep himself into office.

Nov 9th 2017 at 5:46:23 AM

The Bob Roberts example needs a little more context. Why couldn't Bugs have pulled the trigger?

Nov 9th 2017 at 1:40:36 PM

Yet another Holmes story: in The Three Students, a university professor is certain that one of his three scholarship students went into his office and started copying down the exam text before being interrupted. Holmes quickly figures out only someone of his height or taller could have seen the papers on the desk from the window.

Nov 10th 2017 at 10:50:59 AM

How about Physically Unlikely Suspect for the name?

Nov 12th 2017 at 11:33:29 PM

  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Family Portrait", Lucien discovers that Patrick Tyneman couldn't have committed the second murder because his hypertension is so bad, he would have blacked out if he had bent over to pick up the brick that was used as a weapon.

Nov 14th 2017 at 2:33:46 PM

So we have two canidates for the quote. Which one do think think is better

Kirito: "...do you think Schmidt would have trusted a stranger to do the job?"
Cainz: "Well, no..."
Kirito: "Then you must think Schmidt is skilled enough to take Griselda one-on-one? Or perhaps, smart enough to catch her unawares?"
Cainz: [Beat] ...Oh my God, Schmidt's not the killer.
Schmidt: "OH COME ON!!!"
Sword Art Online Abridged, Episode Six

Wright: The person who did it would have had to swing the hatchet over his head ... do you know about impingement syndrome?
Watson: Inflammation of the tendons in the rotator cuff caused by repeated stress. Why?
Wright: I messed up my shoulders swimming in high school. I couldn't have swung a hatchet if I wanted to.
Elementary, "Ready or Not"

Nov 14th 2017 at 7:21:21 PM

Live Action Television

  • Inverted on the short-lived detective show Half Nelson. Rocky investigates a murder where a man was murdered before being robbed and the killer got in and out within a short amount of time. Rocky (played by five foot four inch Joe Pesci) tests the timeline and gets in and out in less time. He concludes that the perpetrator is either shorter than him or has a back problem. He later plays golf with someone who can't make a swing without suffering from immense back pain and realizes he's the guilty party.

Nov 14th 2017 at 8:44:02 PM

Occasionally, the suspect was possessed by something out of supernatural reasons, which granted them inhuman strength and made them completely oblivious to what they had done.

Nov 18th 2017 at 8:59:29 PM

A Russian joke:

  • A young boy is on trial for rape. Naturally, his mother is adamant Mama Didnt Raise No Criminal, is constantly arguing with the prosecution, the judge... finally, she angrily opens her son's pants, grabs his dick and says:
    Mother: Your honor, do you honestly believe something can be done with a tool this size?!
    Boy (whispering): Mom, don't twiddle it like that, or we'll lose.

Nov 17th 2017 at 9:10:38 PM

^ "we're lose"? Shouldn't it be "we lose"?

Real Life first entry: "it was discover" > "it was discovered"

Nov 18th 2017 at 5:51:59 PM

  • During the "Miniature Killer" arc of CSI Crime Scene Investigation, one suspect (the son of a murdered rock star) is cleared when they confirm that he faints at the sight of blood, and therefore couldn't have left the crime scene. Let alone use some of the blood to adjust the miniature to fit it.

Nov 18th 2017 at 6:14:37 PM

  • Seemingly overlooked in the third case of Apollo Justice Ace Attorney, where a young boy is charged with shooting a man. The gun in question had a strong recoil, and usually only heavily trained police officers are capable of using it without breaking something, so it was unlikely the defendant (who was a pianist and likely never held a gun in his life) could shoot it properly. No one brings this up though, and it is believed the defendant was guilty.

Nov 18th 2017 at 11:52:00 PM

Monk also has a subversion in another episode.

  • Subverted in "Mr. Monk Goes To The Circus". A man is murdered by a masked ninja who performs several impressive acrobatic feats in front of many witnesses. Monk's primary suspect is a trapeze artist who had a grudge against the victim and possesses the skills to have killed someone in such a way, but is wheelchair-bound after breaking her foot in a botched stunt shortly before the murder was committed. It turns out she faked breaking her foot during the stunt, killed the victim, and then went back and broke her foot for real.

Nov 21st 2017 at 7:16:48 PM

Why wasn't my Half Nelson example added?

Nov 22nd 2017 at 7:46:49 PM

^Sorry, I didn't quite understand it. Why would having back problems help the perpetrator. Do you mean that he got back problems in the process of the crime.

Nov 23rd 2017 at 7:10:52 AM

I thought it was pretty clear. Since the perpetrator took longer than someone who's five foot four, he had to be either shorter or had a back problem. The inversion is that instead of the physical issue proving he didn't do it, the issue proves that he did.

Nov 23rd 2017 at 3:51:28 PM

  • In one episode of Diagnosis Murder, a woman kills her lover in a fit of rage after learning he's been unfaithful, and her mother (who has a terminal illness) attempts to take the fall to spare her daughter from jail. Mark, however, refuses to believe her, as the mother's condition makes her physically incapable of carrying her own bags, let alone swinging a blunt instrument with enough force to kill.

Nov 23rd 2017 at 6:03:05 PM

@B Kelly 95: Because the writeup stated that he got out in a short amount of time, you implied being short would somehow make him do it faster. I assumed that meant there were a lot of tight spaces getting in and out, which a short man could easily get through, and a tall person would get back problems in the process.

Nov 24th 2017 at 2:11:54 PM

The Exbrayat novel "Le Sage de Sauvenat" has this as a major plot point: An old man is sent to trial for the murder of an all-around Hate Sink (wifebeater, swindler, likely sold out his uncle to the Nazis...). However, during the trial another villager reveals the old guy is so near-sighted he couldn't have shot the victim like he claimed (to his acute embarrassment). He ends up doing time for perjury anyway, but is still seen as worthy of respect by the village.

Nov 24th 2017 at 3:44:54 PM

Nov 25th 2017 at 7:10:02 AM

  • Case 4 of New Dangan Ronpa V 3: The murder happened in a virtual world, that Miu altered, and planned to murder Ouma in it. To make sure her plan would work, she altered his avatar so that when her avatar touched his, he'd be paralyzed. During the trial, when the player tries to defend Ouma, this is pointed out, making Ouma virtually and physically incapable of strangling her.

Dec 2nd 2017 at 3:06:15 PM

So we have one vote for "Physically Could Not Have Dunnit", one for "Physically Unlikely Suspect", and two for "Disability Alibi". Any other suggestions?

Dec 4th 2017 at 8:48:49 AM

I'm adding my vote for Disability Alibi. It's short, sweet, and to the point.

Dec 11th 2017 at 8:18:43 PM

In the Discworld novel The Truth, Lord Vetinari gets framed for an apparent attempt to flee the city on horseback with seventy thousand dollars' worth of dollar coins, which Intrepid Reporter William de Worde realizes would weigh about a third of a ton. Since Vetinari uses a walking stick due to having been shot in the leg, de Worde realizes he'd have a pretty hard time doing all that on his own and runs an article pointing out the unlikelihood of this version of events.

Dec 11th 2017 at 11:42:42 PM

Another Diagnosis Murder example:

  • Another episode has a mafia agent being killed in a car-bombing shortly after a trial against him collapses. The first suspect is an old man with a previous conviction for bomb-making and ties to an Asian crime family that have a rivalry with the mafia, but when questioned he points out that he's blind and has tremors in his hands that would make building a bomb impossible now. However it didn't prevent him from teaching bomb-making to the real murderer: a politician whose lover was killed during a mafia-ordered hit.

Dec 13th 2017 at 9:39:47 AM

TV:

  • Inverted in an episode of The Good Wife while Cary Agos is working as an ADA. In response to an inconsistency in the blood evidence pointed out by Alicia, Cary brings in an expert witness who points out that lupus, which the defendant has, can cause one's blood type to change.

Dec 14th 2017 at 11:17:07 PM

Comic Books

  • In the 2006 iteration of New Warriors, a pair of detectives are trying to determine the identity of the new Night Thrasher, as he and his New Warriors are acting in deliberate violation of the Super Registration Act. Naturally, their first suspect is Donyell Taylor, the half-brother of the previous Night Thrasher, but his alibi is that he could not be engaging in vigilante actions because he lost both of his legs in an accident. Of course, it's later revealed that his supposed legless appearance is the result of an image inducer, and he is in fact the new Night Thrasher.

Feb 17th 2018 at 6:14:24 PM

What do the Veronica Mars examples have to do with this? There was nothing about a disability involved with either.

Feb 18th 2018 at 11:50:13 AM

I have no idea, maybe somebody confused this with the "killed over infidelity" draft. Regardless, this thing's been dead for the minimum two months and it's basically ready. I'm going to kill the VM examples and launch it.

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