EntertainmentNetflix's new hit. A terrible story that's hard to believe

Netflix's new hit. A terrible story that's hard to believe

"The Devil on Trial" - Netflix's new hit
"The Devil on Trial" - Netflix's new hit
Images source: © Press materials

6:54 PM EDT, October 19, 2023, updated: 8:15 AM EDT, October 20, 2023

On October 17 on the streaming platform Netflix, a documentary titled "The Devil on Trial" appeared. The production, using reconstructions and home recordings, describes the story of the alleged possession of a young boy and the brutal murder he committed.

"The Devil on Trial" is based on facts. It tells about the first and only case when "possession by a demon" was officially used as a line of defense in a murder trial in the United States.

The murder took place in 1981. A young, 19-year-old man Arne Cheyenne Johnson pulled out a knife during an argument and stabbed the victim several times in the chest and abdomen. As witnesses testified, he growled like an animal during the fight (this detail was later used in his defense). One of many senseless murders only gained fame when the case went to court.

Arne Cheyenne Johnson claimed that at the time he committed the murder, he was possessed by the devil. This defense was also adopted by his lawyers. In court, they argued that the defendant is not responsible for his actions because someone else was controlling him. Throughout the trial, the defendant repeated: "the devil made me do it".

Johnson's defense ultimately did not succeed, but the process itself became an example of the fact that everyone has the right to a fair trial, and the accused can adopt any line of defense beneficial to him.

The document presents interviews with both Johnson and his family, as well as other people involved in this case. The film also uses reenactments and recordings from a home archive.

Quite unexpectedly, "The Devil on Trial" has become Netflix's most popular title this week. It has surpassed, among others, cinema productions with Will Smith's "Twin" and a narrative slasher from Sweden's "Conference". In the US (Eastern Time), the documentary currently ranks second behind the box-office hit "Uncharted".

See also