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Disability Alibi

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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.

Subtrope of The Alibi.


Examples

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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.
  • 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 used 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.

     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 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.
    • 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. 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, 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.
  • Hawaii Five-O: The police discovers 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 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.
    • Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Patient" managed to pull it Up to Eleven when the only apparent suspect of a mail-bomb spree was a man that got in a car crash and had been in coma for several months by the time the bombs started to appear. Turns out that the man 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 be in jail by the time the glue failed and the bombs dropped where people would find them — the crash had been a "lucky" accident.
  • The Practice: One episode had 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 his 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.
  • 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 arms, meaning he would have been forced to attack the rapist in the same manner his girlfriend would have been expected to.
  • 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 retarded after Al pegs him as the criminal mastermind. (It was the Femme Fatale all along).

    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 
  • 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 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 discovered 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.
  • 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.

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