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.
- 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.
- A heroic version: in the early Thor comics, 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.)
- 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.
- 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:
- 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 killing shots 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 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' 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 convict Tom anyway, since he is a black man accused of a crime against a white woman.
- 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.
- 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 retarded (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.
- Diagnosis: Murder:
- In one episode 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 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 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 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.
- The FBI: 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 discover that the suspect suffers from a crippling phobia of guns and could never have even picked up the gun, let alone fired it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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. Doesn't mean he can't order someone to commit it for him and plant evidence pointing back to him.
- 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. Natasia Lovara 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 knowing that the police would look at her as the primary suspect and want an X-ray.
- "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" managed to pull it Up to Eleven, where Monk's mail bombing suspect, Brian Babbage, is in a coma from when he got hit by a pickup truck while trying to bait Stottlemeyer and Disher into a car chase. 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 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 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 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.
- 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!"
- 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 his the strength of his arms to strangle them.
- Law & Order:
- In one episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent the Victim of the Week was 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, and he needs a wheelchair to move around which is also 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). 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.
- An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 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 SVU 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the third case of the second game, Acro claims he couldnt be the culprit because hes in a wheelchair. Phoenix has to prove that he could get around that limitation.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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 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.