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Disability Alibi

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The detectives are checking every suspect in a murder or other serious crime, leaving no stone unturned. One suspect was near the victim, they act suspicious when questioned and they have no alibi.

But wait, he couldn't have done it. He couldn't have killed the person, as 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, because he couldn't have done it.

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. Or maybe he is disabled, but he used some mechanical contraption to kill the victim or do other physical actions. Maybe they are disabled, but they conned or tricked the victim into putting themselves in a vulnerable position.

Subtrope of The Alibi. See Varying Competency Alibi when a character is either too competent or incompetent to commit the deed.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Case Closed has done this quite a few times.
    • The opening case in the first volume has the culprit fakes his recovery from injury, which is quickly revealed by his family physician.
    • There's one case where a wife of a man bound to a wheelchair because of his injury dies from a supposed robbery. The husband's injury is genuine, and even with his recovery, he couldn't have done it either since the angle of the penetrating bullet wound suggests that the robber is much taller than the wife while the husband isn't. He is really the culprit, and the way he accomplishes the bullet wound angle despite his condition is to take advantage of the wife's obsession with shooting stars. She'll look up to the sky if there's one, this way the husband can shoot her from behind at an elevated angle in his wheelchair.
  • Detective School Q's "Satsugekka Murder Case" involves a doctor who is bedridden due to accidentally eating a raw puffer fish whose poison hasn't been completely cleaned yet making his muscles paralyzed from the neck down. Naturally, people don't suspect him. He turns out to not be completely paralyzed, and the Q-Class is able to prove that by making him dodge a surprise attack. Heavily subverted that while he fakes his recovery status from the puffer fish poisoning, he can't move his legsnote  so he's still unable to commit the crime. In fact, he is used as a scapegoat by the real culprit who poses as a voluntary hitman in constant communication with him. The doctor faking his guilt over the crime is part of the real killer's instruction to him.

    Comic Books 
  • Blacksad: In "Arctic Nation", Blacksad is investigating a possible suspect in the kidnapping of little Kylie, the son of a rich old bigot named Oldsmill. When he actually meets with the two, Oldsmill assures Blacksad there's no way his son could've done anything of the sort, due to him being severely and obviously mentally challenged (this is a bit that is somewhat lost in translation, as the original French text used the descriptor "taré", which can mean either psychotic or mentally handicapped).
  • The Maze Agency: In one issue's Summation Gathering, a suspect is cleared because she only has one eye, and thus lacks the depth perception needed for the precise marksmanship used to commit the murder.
  • 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.
  • The Mighty Thor: A heroic version: in the early issues, the Thunder God's civilian alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, has a limp and uses a walking stick. On at least one occasion, this convinces someone that he couldn't possibly be Thor because he's too weak and frail. (The walking stick is actually a disguised Mjolnir.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As a tragic irony in Above Suspicion (1995), his last film role prior to the accident which left him paralyzed, Christopher Reeve played a police officer who is shot and paralyzed from the waist down. He uses this as a means to get away with murdering people who wronged him because no one can prove a wheelchair-bound man is capable of it. It's revealed his disability is faked, though.
  • Bob Roberts: At the end of the movie, John Alijah "Bugs" Raplin is arrested for an attempt on Roberts' 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 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.
  • In The Case of the Bloody Iris, Jennifer realises that Andrea cannot be the Serial Killer because of his phobia about blood. He almost fainted when she cut her finger on a can opener and so could not have messily stabbed several women to death.
  • The Three Stooges: In the short Disorder in the Court, dancer Gail Weathers is being accused of murdering a man named Kirk Robin. Her defense attorney presents the handgun that killed Robin to the courtroom and says that the trigger is rusted and it would take "the strength of a mule" to pull the trigger, so Gail (being a woman) would not have the strength to do it. Hilarity ensues when he asks Curly to be the man who demonstrates the trigger’s toughness, and (against the lawyer's reassurance to Curly that it's not) the revolver turns out to still be loaded.

  • 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.

  • Alex Cross novel Cross the Line: A 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 cannot 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.
  • 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 the children's historical fiction book Dovey Coe, the title character, a 12-year-old girl, is accused of murdering an older boy by hitting him in the head with a heavy metal cash register. She seems sure to be convicted, as she and the murdered boy were known to dislike each other and she was found alone in the store with the body. However, she is proven innocent when her lawyer asks her to pick up the cash register and she is not strong enough to lift it off the table.
  • 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 Charles Exbrayat novel Le Sage de Sauvenat has an old man who is sent to trial for the murder of an all-around Hate Sink (wife beater, 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.
  • Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse: Downplayed, but Monk dismisses Gregorio Dumas as a suspect due to how he's too fat and out-of-shape to have outrun Sparky the firehouse dog long enough to have reached the murder weapon.
  • 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 that while the beggar has 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 that only someone of his own height or taller could have seen the papers on the desk from the window, which eliminates the shortest student as a suspect.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: During the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus's defence of Tom hinges on the fact that the victim, Mayella Ewell, testified that her attacker held her down with one arm and beat her with the other, and she 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 arm due to a childhood injury involving a cotton gin, and Mayella's father Bob is left-handed and a known abuser. Despite the obvious implications, the racist jury convicts Tom anyway, since he is a black man accused of a crime against a white woman.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Bones has a woman excluded from killing a man she was following because she had to give up at the park when one of the hiking trails he took had plants she was allergic to (the idea that she could have taken an antihistamine doesn't occur to anyone).
  • Burke's Law: An animal version occurs in "Who Killed the Highest Bidder?" The victim is fatally clawed with a jaguar's paw. The detectives are initially unsure if the claws belong to a live jaguar or were taken from a taxidermy exhibit. They accuse an animal trainer who is sleeping with the victim's widow of using his jaguar as an Animal Assassin, but it turns out that the animal was declawed two years ago.
  • Class of '09: Poet investigates a suspect in serial murders of women who's been cleared multiple times due to using a wheelchair. She learns he's very much capable despite this and really is the killer though.
  • In the Lifetime Movie of the Week Closer And Closer, a paraplegic mystery writer is being stalked by a Serial Killer who has taken her latest novel too seriously. The killer turns out to be a friend of hers who is a fellow paraplegic—and, unlike many examples here, he is not faking or exaggerating his condition. He wheedled his way into his victims' homes by claiming to need help, then used the strength of his arms to strangle them.
  • One two-part episode of Criminal Minds has the team arrive at the suspected unsub's home, only to discover that both of the brothers are disabled: one is paralyzed from the neck down (but mentally above-average), while the other is mentally challenged (but physically strong and capable of following his brother's instructions). This doesn't do anything to dissuade the team from believing they're guilty (especially as more and more evidence is found on the property), but they do point out how unlikely it's going to be to get a conviction, considering a jury will probably be swayed by their conditions. This causes the brother of one of the victims to kill the paralyzed mastermind, leading to a Downer Ending.
  • 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, he couldn't have left the crime scene, let alone use some of the blood to adjust the miniature to fit it.
  • Inverted in an episode of CSI: Miami, in that a disability included a man as a suspect. A rapist was killed, and the evidence suggested his attacker was physically weak, pointing to his victim rather than her retired athlete boyfriend. Then it turns out that the boyfriend has an old injury that limits how far he can rotate his arm, meaning he would have been forced to attack the rapist in the same manner his girlfriend would have.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Double Subverted in "DOA for a Day" when the Navy Seal son of a judge has motive for killing his father's murderer. When the detectives arrive to question him, they discover he's a triple amputee, but he tells them he still could've done it...20 different ways.
    • In "Cavallino Rampante," a perp known for his electronic inventions is considered a suspect in a string of Ferrari thefts until the cops arrive at his apartment and discover that he's aged, quite weak, and dependent upon a wheelchair.
  • Diagnosis: Murder:
    • In "Murder, Country Style", a woman kills her lover in a fit of rage after learning he's been unfaithful, and her mother attempts to take the fall to spare her daughter from jail. Mark, however, finds the mother's confession difficult to believe, as she has a terminal illness that has left her physically incapable of carrying her own bags, let alone swinging a blunt instrument with enough force to kill.
    • "Murder in the Courthouse" 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 has a rivalry with the Mafia; but when questioned, he points out that old age has left him blind and with tremors in his hands, which would make building a bomb impossible now. Mark notes, however, that he could still be connected to the case since neither of his disabilities prevent him from teaching bomb-making to someone else.
  • 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 that 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, whom 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. They find a suspect, a Generic Ethnic Crime Gang mook, but Sherlock realizes Victor Nardin is half-blind by the way he arranges his stuff on the shelves and the marks on the ceiling from practicing his depth perception by bouncing a ball off it. He proves this by throwing an orange at the man, which he does not catch. Sherlock 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 "While You Were Sleeping", the prime suspect of an Inheritance Murder is in a medically-induced coma. It turns out she's faking it with the help of her doctor for an alibi.
    • In "The Leviathan", a Gentleman Thief is suspected of the robbery and murder before Sherlock finds out that he's been in a (real) coma for years.
    • 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 impact. 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 about how this is possible, and the man is further exonerated by his lawyer providing an airtight alibi. Turns out the real killer is the museum curator Holmes and Watson met 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 those 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 victim's. 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, whom 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.
    • In "Dead Man's Tale", one suspect, a 14-year-old girl, is exonerated because she's too small and thin to have run a man through with a sword.
  • Father Brown: Of the humanly possible variety in "The Wrath of Baron Samdi". The assumption is made early on that the door glass was broken in order to unlock the door, but Father Brown belatedly realizes the glass is too small and too far from the handle for any reasonably-proportioned person's arms to reach it.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Impudents", Jim is investigating a shooting death on board an ocean liner, and seems to have an airtight case against a suspect who has motive, means, and opportunity. However, he discovers that the suspect suffers from a crippling phobia of guns and could never have even picked up the gun, let alone fired it.
  • Forever:
    • Henry determines that the victim in "Diamonds Are Forever" couldn't have committed a jewelry store robbery because he had a shoulder injury which would have made it impossible for him to smash an overhead security camera.
    • In "The Last Death of Henry Morgan," when Jo and Henry go to question Aubrey Griffin they discover that he is wheelchair-bound and never leaves his home. He could, however, pay someone else to steal the "Caesar dagger" for him.
  • 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.
  • Hawaii Five-O: The police discover a man accused of rape can't have done it due to an injury having rendered him permanently impotent. Turns out the man was deliberately framing himself, because he considered hiding his impotency to be more important than his freedom.
  • Inverted on the short-lived detective show Half Nelson: Rocky investigates a case where a man was murdered before being robbed. He notes the amount of time the killer took to get 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.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "Jack in the Box", Maddy successfully campaigns to free a man she believes to have been wrongly imprisoned for murder. Immediately following this, the elderly husband of the victim, a retired comedian, is found shot dead in his nuclear fall-out shelter. The otherwise empty bunker is locked from the inside, which would suggest that the man shot himself, but he has crippling arthritis in his hands and could barely pour a drink, much less pull a trigger.
  • Law & Order:
    • Law & Order: Criminal Intent:
      • In one episode, the Victim of the Week is the shrewish soon-to-be-ex-wife of an equally shrewish Captain Ersatz of Stephen Hawking who fell down a flight of stairs. The mathematician is counted out because his Multiple Sclerosis is too advanced; he needs a wheelchair to move around, which is outfitted with a special alarm that goes off if he moves too much (because the only way it would happen is if he fell off the chair). It ends up being a subversion: at the denouement, Goren is able to prove that the man still had just enough physical capability left in him to reach for the switch that shut down the alarm and push his wife.
      • In "In the Wee Small Hours", Goren and Logan discover that their main suspect is innocent of at least one of the murders because a shoulder injury means that he could not have lifted his arm to deliver the overhead blow that killed the victim.
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
      • An episode has Benson and Stabler investigating a child rape case. They track down one convicted sex offender, only to have him drop his pants. Turns out he had himself voluntarily castrated rather than risk prison again.
      • Another episode has Munch and Fin track down a convicted rapist who is now out of prison because a recent crime matches his previous MO. It turns out that he was attacked with acid in prison and is no longer able to, in his words, "rape a frigging ant."
      • The episode "Payback" has two. Their murder victim was using the name of a male prostitute, and the squad initially wonders if the wife of one of his clients killed him. They are informed one wife is in a wheelchair, ruling her out. Then they learn their victim was actually a war criminal killed by one of his victims. One of them is blind (it looks as if a liquid was thrown in her face), ruling her out as well.
      • "Sacrifice" has a man shot to death late in the episode. The gun used to kill him has a trigger so tight Stabler visibly winces pulling it, and he quickly comments that Wesley (who has an injury) could not have pulled the trigger. The fact that Wesley is saying he did do it makes them realize he's covering for someone.
      • In "Inconceivable," the team is trying to find out who stole a cryotank of frozen embryos from a fertility clinic, so they interview clients with grudges against the clinic, including a woman with dwarfism... who points out, "I think someone would have noticed if the thief were four foot one."
  • Parodied several times in a row in the Married... with Children episode "Al Bundy, Shoe Dick" where he plays a private detective. At the Summation Gathering, Al lays out how the missing diamond was stolen and accuses the family members of its deceased owner of being complicit. One of them turns out to have two hook hands after Al accuses him of having snatched the stone, and another turns out to be mentally challenged after Al pegs him as the criminal mastermind. (It was the Femme Fatale all along.)
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Drawing Dead", Fleur determines that Barrett Lounds' arthritis was so bad that he could not have drawn the last issue of the Aequitas comic, or wielded the Hollywood Glasscutter to cut a perfectly circular hole in the glass. Unfortunately, this is a case of Acquitted Too Late.
  • Monk:
    • Subverted in the pilot episode, "Mr. Monk and The Candidate." When the police track down the owner of the rifle that was used in the assassination attempt on a mayoral candidate, he fits all of the particulars Monk deduced - an ex-Green Beret who stands 6'3'' - except he's in a wheelchair and couldn't have shot anyone. This turns out to be a ruse that he employs to distract the police long enough to make his getaway.
    • The 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 so morbidly obese he can't even leave his room, much less murder somebody. He blackmailed somebody else into killing the victim for him and Framing the Guilty Party just to mock the police.
    • Subverted in the 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. Natasia Lovara, a trapeze artist who had a grudge against the victim and possesses the skills to have killed someone in such a way, 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 knowing that the police would look at her as the primary suspect and want an X-ray.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect": Monk's mail bombing suspect, Brian Babbage, has been in a coma for four months, having been hit by a truck while trying to bait Stottlemeyer and Disher into a car chase, but Monk insists that Brian is responsible for the package bomb that was mailed three days ago. Turns out that Brian had glued the bombs to the inside of various mailboxes throughout the San Francisco area and was planning on being arrested on another charge and in jail by the time the glue wore out and the bombs dropped where people would find them — the crash and coma had been a "lucky" accident.
  • Murderville: How Kevin Rivera is disqualified from being the murderer in "Most Likely to Commit Murder". His carpal tunnel syndrome would make it impossible for him to have thrown a CD into Seth's neck.
  • NCIS: In “Wide Awake”, all evidence of who the episode's murderer is points to an insomniac Marine and the hypnotist she's been using to combat her sleep problems until Jimmy reads the Marine's medical files and discovers that she's severely allergic to peanuts. Why is this important? The Victim of the Week loved to feed the food in question to his pet crows, so his house (where he was also shot to death) was littered with peanut shells and peanut dust. If the Marine was hypnotized into committing the murder, she would have gone into severe anaphylactic shock and would have also died at the crime scene because she wouldn't be able to control her body, rendering her unable to get medical help.
  • In the NUMB3RS episode "Traffic", somebody is attacking cars on the freeway with various weapons, which has resulted in several injuries and a few deaths. The FBI figures out that the culprit is someone who's received brain damage from a car accident which has made it difficult to control their anger impulses, and they find one suspect that matches this profile. It turns out that the same accident also left him with a non-functional hand and a barely-functioning leg (either from other sustained injuries or as a further result of the brain damage), meaning that he's not physically capable of using any of the weapons involved in the attacks. That, combined with finding no weapon evidence at his house, exonerates him of any suspicion.
  • The Practice: One episode has the firm defending a homeless man with one leg against the charge of mugging someone. The defense basically boiled down to "come on, the guy has one leg and can't even afford crutches, he couldn't possibly have done it." The jury agrees and he is found not guilty. Subverted when the defendant nearly immediately afterward admits to his lawyers that he did indeed do it, if for no other reason than to prove to his fellow homeless amputees that they are capable of defending themselves.
  • Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell parodies this in a commercial for Vera, in which Vera suddenly realises her suspect couldn't have fired a shotgun because he has no arms or legs.
  • Sherlock: Season four episode "The Final Problem". Sherlock is given three brothers who are suspects in a murder. He crosses out two of the brothers as the murderer due to their physical conditions. One of them wears glasses and could not fire the rifle, as the rifle having a scope and a strong recoil would result in his glasses shattering. The other brother is a drunk and does not possess the accuracy to fire the weapon. This leaves the third brother who is indeed the murderer.
  • Vera: In "Tuesday's Child", Vera works out that one suspect who was involved in the disposal of a body could not have been acting alone because he had a broken arm at the time (the result of the same accident that killed the victim):
    "Unless you're the world's greatest one-armed gravedigger!"
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Which Eye Jack", the killer's attempt to frame another suspect falls apart because the man she tried to frame, Short Fuse, was missing an arm and could not have been holding a candle and trying to open a door at the same time as she claimed.
  • The X-Files episode "The Amazing Maleeni": When Mulder goes to the bank to accuse Albert Maleeni of impersonating his twin brother, Maleeni concisely rebuts the accusation by moving his wheelchair out from behind his desk and revealing that he's lost both legs from the knee down. It turns out to be a false alibi: his story about the accident in which he lost his legs is a lie, and it's a trick wheelchair that lets him tuck his legs away without there seeming to be anywhere they could be hidden.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Book of Genesis, Rachel steals several household idols from her father. note  By this time, Jacob and his wives had left Laban's property, in hopes of starting a new life of their own. Laban comes storming after them, demanding to know where his idols are. Jacob replies that he doesn't have them, and allows Laban to look, promising him that whoever stole them would be executed. Rachel had hidden the idols in her seat and gave the excuse that she couldn't get up because she was on her period. Laban doesn't question her; he probably figured that she was uncomfortable, and also (even though this was before the Mosaic Law specifically saying so was written down) menstrual blood (and the woman it was coming from, and anything she touched) were considered spiritually "unclean," and that ritual impurity could be passed onto anyone who touched her. So he didn't think to move her and eventually left Jacob and family alone. Some think that Rachel's later Death by Childbirth was inadvertently prophesied by Jacob, or was a divine punishment for stealing the idols.
  • The Talmud describes Daniel and his companions as eunuchs, which came in handy to discredit charges of sexual immorality that they faced at one point.

    Video Games 
  • In the first case of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Holmes is looking for a killer who is breaking people's necks with their bare hands. He crosses the widow of victim number two off the list of suspects when, during his interview with her, she needs his help to pry open the lid of a tin of toffee.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the third case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, Acro claims he couldn't be the culprit because he's in a wheelchair. Phoenix has to prove that he could get around that limitation (turns out he lured the victim to a spot below a building and then dropped a heavy bust from his window).
    • Overlooked in the third case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where a blind fourteen-year-old 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 the prosecutor has a good reason to believe the defendant is guilty because he's not actually blind.
  • Case 4 of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: The murder happened in a virtual world, that Miu altered, and planned to murder Kokichi in it. To make sure her plan would work, she altered his avatar so that when her avatar touched his, he'd be paralyzed. The plan backfired and Miu died instead. During the trial, when the player tries to defend Kokichi, this is used as his alibi. Turns out he talked Gonta into doing it.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: This gets used to exclude Snake from his own supposed death after he's supposedly killed by his implanted bomb which mangled the remains in grisly detail including a piece of bone sticking out from his left arm...which is actually impossible due to him having an artificial left arm, which is the proof needed for Clover to believe he's still alive. Inverted on the same note when Junpei deduces that only Ace could be Snake's "killer" because the dead man isn't Snake, but was dressed up as him which played into Ace's prosopagnosia and drove him to get "Guy X" killed.
  • During Chapter 3 of Process of Elimination, the detectives figure out that the culprit needed to be standing on an elevated surface to commit the murder. They also know that the culprit had knocked out Wato with a chair from the office after running into him in the hall. After narrowing the potential culprits down to Techie and Workaholic Detective, the others immediately shoot down the latter accusing the former on the grounds that Techie couldn't have committed the crime due to being in a wheelchair and thus unable to stand. They also point out that even if he was faking it, he could have simply used his wheelchair to stand on and wouldn't have needed to grab a chair from the office.
  • Beatrice Frega from Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane is completely blind, and this is used by the defense to argue that she couldn't have committed the murder she's accused of. It turns out she had her familiar commit the crime (and as a bonus, she can see through his eyes at all times).

    Web Original 
  • Played for Laughs in Sword Art Online Abridged, when Kirito explains why Schmitt couldn't be the culprit in a murder mystery, in the most humiliating way possible.
    Kirito: Tell me, do you think Schmitt would have trusted a stranger enough to do the job?
    Kains: Well, no...
    Kirito: Well then, you must think Schmitt was skilled enough to have killed Griselda one-on-one, or perhaps smart enough to catch her unawares?
    Kains: ...Oh my god, Schmitt's not the killer.
    Schmitt: Aw, come on!

    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 Gravity Falls episode "Headhunters", a wax figure of Grunkle Stan is beheaded with a left-handed axe. One of the suspects is immediately dismissed when his left arm is shown to be in a cast and sling.
  • 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. Well, either that, or he contracted arthritis from fighting actual space invaders. It could be either one.

    Real Life 
  • A monk was accused and found guilty of getting a tavern owner's daughter pregnant. Decades later, it was discovered that the "monk" was actually a woman who kept silent to protect the identity of the real father.
  • Inverted in the case of double amputee and former Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who was put on trial for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He admitted to having shot her, claiming he thought she was a burglar, but 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 fired the shot without putting his prosthetic legs on, and if he took the time to do that, he couldn't have been as scared and impulsive as he claimed.
  • One of the pieces of "evidence" sometimes cited in conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination is an argument that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't have made it from the upper floor of the library to where he was intercepted in the time available. The History Channel tested it in a documentary on the assassination, showing this notion to be false: their Oswald stand-in didn't even have to walk very fast.


Video Example(s):


Bitsy Has Wealthy Fingers

When Bitsy is accused of being the one trying to poison Ambrose with steak sauce when steak sauce packets are found in her pockets, Abby points out Bitsy couldn't have done it because she's physically unable to due to being so fragile and needing to have others do things for her.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisabilityAlibi

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