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What is the SODDI Defense?

The SODDI is one of the most commonly employed defenses in jury trials involving violent crimes. SODDI is an acronym, which stands for "some other dude did it" or "some other dude done it," and is thus derived from the way criminal defendants, rather than judges, lawyers or law professors talk. The term "SODDI" is used in situations where the Defense does not know who "the other dude" is. The term "TODDI" is used when the Defense knows who "the other dude" is, with TODDI standing for "The other dude did it." "The other dude" is most commonly a co-defendant.

The SODDI defense is employed in situations where the Defense cannot deny that a crime occurred, such as a homicide, or a rape or assault, which left visible injuries. In such a situation, the Defense must try to shift blame upon another actor. The SODDI defense is strengthened when it is combined with an alibi defense and/or a mistaken identity defense.

The Commonwealth is not required to prove a defendant had motive to commit a crime, and, therefore, a defendant's lack of motive is not a defense. In other words, a judge is not going to instruct a jury to acquit simply because there is no evidence that a defendant had a motive. Nevertheless, motive can still be an issue with a great deal of persuasive power in a criminal trial. For example, consider the common scenario of a homicide trial in which the "victim" was a drug dealer with a long history of violence and disregarding the rights of others. Not only would many people have a motive to kill this thug, but chances are he would have enemies, who were also ready, willing and able to commit a murder. The Defense would want to suggest that many others had a motive to commit the murder, while the defendant himself did not have any particular beef with the decedent.

A famous attempted use of the SODDI defense arose in the 1995 O.J. Simpson double murder trial. The Defense argued that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman could have been killed by hitmen tied to drug dealers, because Nicole's drug-addicted friend Faye Resnick had ripped off drug dealers. Judge Lance Ito ruled that there was insufficient evidence to suggest such a scenario and, therefore, did not allow the Defense to present evidence of Resnick's drug addiction.


Matt McClenahen is a defense attorney and Penn State alumnus in State College, Pennsylvania, who limits his practice to criminal law.  http://www.mattmlaw.com/About-Attorney-McClenahen/

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