‘The Devil on Trial’ tells the story of the famous court case of 1981: ‘The devil made me do it!’  


On Tuesday, Oct. 17, “The Devil On Trial” premiered on Netflix. It’s a documentary that talks about the only time “demonic possession” has been used as a defense in a murder case in a U.S. murder trial.  

The story starts from the beginning of the case, accounting all events leading to the trial. It starts with the Glatzel family and their story about one of their sons, David, who was possessed by a demon in 1980 at the age of 11. David’s mother, Judith Glatzel — mostly referred to in the documentary as Judy — called upon Ed and Lorraine Warren, two world-renowned demonologists and ghost hunters for help.  

Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the house and tried to give the best advice they could. Eventually, the pair found evidence of David’s demonic possession and his family were able convince the church to perform an exorcism on David. During this exorcism, the demon entered Arne Johnson’s body. Arne was David’s sister’s boyfriend, but by the time it was discovered that he was possessed it was already too late. 

Jonhson killed a man called Alan Bono. When arrested by deputies, he didn’t seem to remember what he did and said he was possessed. On Oct. 28, 1981, Johnson and his attorney presented to trial that he would plead not guilty and his defense was that “the Devil made me do it,” or demonic possession. This case became famous fairly quickly; after all, it would be the first time in the history of the U. S. court system that someone would use demonic possession as a defense. The trial became very well known as the “Devil made me do it” case.  

Johnson was found guilty and sent to maximum security prison for 10 years. The Glatzel family, who already been through so much, became angry and ready to tell the world its story. Judy Glatzel, with the help of the Warrens, went to many talk shows, and talked to big celebrities about everything that happened and David’s struggles with his demonic possession. This attention caused more and more people to be interested in the story, causing Ed and Lorraine to propose to write David’s story. 

David’s story was told by Ed and Lorraine in a much scarier light. It brought more public eyes to the story now created and became one of the most popular series of horror movies watched: “The Conjuring.”  

This short documentary was definitely full of plot twists. It was dense and full of information yet fast and dynamic at the same time. It shows evidence of demonic possession and activity for those who believe in the paranormal world and for those who don’t, a lot of intriguing questions rose to mind.  

It’s easy to speculate that most are on the fence about paranormal behaviors and activities, as  there’s no way of completely proving them, just like there’s no way to completely disprove them. Viewing this documentary is scary and unsettling, yet I was unable to stop watching until the very end.  

“The Devil on Trial” is definitely something worth checking out, especially if you are a true crime fan and/or enjoy paranormal explanations and stories. Who knows, maybe you will become a true believer in paranormal activity. Either way, you will definitely be on the edge of your seat!  

Rating: 4.5/5 

Leave a Reply