The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, also known as the “Devil Made Me Do It” case, remains one of the most intriguing and controversial legal proceedings in American history. This landmark trial took place in Brookfield, Connecticut in 1981 and became the first known court case in which the defense sought to prove innocence based on the claim of demonic possession. The shocking murder of Alan Bono, Johnson’s landlord, and the subsequent claim of possession captivated the nation and raised profound questions about the existence of evil forces and their influence on human behavior.
The Haunting and Exorcism
The events leading up to the trial began with the Glatzel family and their terrifying ordeal. Eight-year-old David Glatzel allegedly played host to a malevolent demon that unleashed a series of ominous occurrences. After witnessing their son’s distressing experiences, the Glatzel family enlisted the help of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Desperate to find a solution, the Glatzel family and the Warrens sought the intervention of the Catholic Church and requested a formal exorcism for David. Multiple priests were involved in the process, which lasted for several days. According to witnesses, a demon eventually left David’s body and seemingly took residence within Arne Cheyenne Johnson. These incredible events were chronicled in Gerald Brittle’s book, The Devil In Connecticut.
The Murder and Johnson’s Defense
Several months after the exorcism, tragedy struck when Arne Cheyenne Johnson fatally stabbed his landlord, Alan Bono, during a heated argument. Johnson’s defense lawyer, Martin Minnella, made the bold claim that his client was not in control of his actions at the time of the murder. He argued that Johnson had been possessed by the same demon that had tormented David Glatzel.
Minnella attempted to present a defense of not guilty by reason of demonic possession, a plea that had never before been used in an American courtroom. He cited two British court cases that had allowed such a defense. However, Judge Robert Callahan rejected the plea, stating that the existence of demonic possession could not be scientifically or objectively proven. The defense was barred from presenting any evidence related to possession, and Johnson’s case took a different turn.
The Trial and Media Sensation
The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson attracted widespread media attention, both nationally and internationally. The notion that a man could commit a murder under the influence of demonic possession fascinated the public and sparked intense debate. The media frenzy surrounding the trial painted a picture of a sensational courtroom drama, with the Warrens and their claims of the supernatural at its center.
Despite the exclusion of the possession defense, the trial continued with a plea of self-defense. The jury ultimately found Johnson guilty of first-degree manslaughter on November 24, 1981. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, of which he served only five due to good behavior.
Controversy and Criticism
The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson has remained a topic of controversy and speculation. While some believe that Johnson was genuinely possessed and not responsible for his actions, others dismiss the entire story as a hoax or a fabrication.
Critics argue that the involvement of the Warrens, known for their work in paranormal investigations, tainted the case and turned it into a media spectacle. They claim that the defense of demonic possession was merely a ploy for attention and financial gain. The Glatzel family itself has been divided over the years, with some members disputing the supernatural claims and accusing the Warrens of exploiting their situation.
Cultural Impact and Legacy
The trial and its supernatural elements have left a lasting impact on popular culture. It inspired the book The Devil in Connecticut by Gerald Brittle, which was later reissued and gained renewed attention. The story also served as the basis for the television movie The Demon Murder Case.
Most recently, the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson has been adapted into a film titled The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Released in 2021, the movie further explores the supernatural aspects of the case and delves into the complexities of possession and its consequences.
The Unanswered Questions
Decades after the trial, the question of whether Arne Cheyenne Johnson was genuinely possessed or simply using a defense tactic remains unanswered. Skeptics argue that the supernatural claims are unfounded and that there must have been other factors contributing to Johnson’s violent actions.
The Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson raises profound philosophical and legal questions about the limits of personal responsibility and the influence of external forces on human behavior. It challenges our understanding of the supernatural and forces us to confront the mysteries that lie beyond our comprehension.
Regardless of one’s beliefs or skepticism, the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson continues to captivate and intrigue, leaving us with an enduring fascination with the thin line between the natural and the supernatural, the human and the demonic.