The insanity defense has been used by the accused in courts since the 13th century. Suppose a defendant pleads not guilty because of insanity.

In that case, the person essentially claims to suffer from an utter lack of awareness of the act of crime committed and cannot be subjected to any legal consequences.

As the crime happens, the perpetrator is mentally unable to make sound judgments, control impulse behavior, and have rational thoughts.

To be considered legally insane, a person must be deprived of understanding and memory that the mental capacity to be aware of the act of crime is no more than an infant or animal. 

When Arne Cheyenne Johnson was put to trial for the murder of Alan Bono in February 1981, he pleaded guilty but was mentally ill.

The peculiarity of the defense argument was that the insanity was not the result of the poor mental condition by medical standards but because the accused had been possessed by more than three dozen demons when the murder happened.

His lawyer argued demonic possession rendered his client mentally incapacitate during the killing.


10 /10 The Murder

Alan Bono was a 40-year-old manager of a kennel. Arne Cheyenne Johnson was a 19-year-old who worked for a tree surgeon.

On February 16, 1981, the two men were involved in an argument over a broken stereo belonging to the former and a failed repair by the latter.

When Bono turned the stereo on after the repair, the sound was too loud for his liking.

After some complaining remarks in the apartment above the kennel, they walked into the woods where Bono ended up dead from stab wounds at the hands of Johnson.

9 /10 A Day Of Drinking

Before the afternoon of the murder, Johnson and Bono were happily sharing stories and carafes of red wine at that Mug’ N’ Munch Café.

Debbie and other family members accompanied the men. After some drinking and lunch, everyone went back to Bono’s apartment.

The neighbors noticed something terrible had just happened when they heard loud noises outside, followed by two men, a police officer, and an ambulance driver, running toward Bono, who at that time was already dead of stab wounds below the rib cage.

8 /10 The Evidence

At the scene of the crime, investigators found a 5-inch blade belonging to Johnson. It was the same knife he used at his job as a tree surgeon.

Johnson was indicted on March 19 on the charge of first-degree murder. No other piece of evidence was made public.

The trial was pretty much over for Johnson as the evidence, and the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death indicated his guilt.

There seemed to be nothing that could help exonerate him except the involvement of demonic possession.

TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo

7 /10 Challenging The Demons

Arne Cheyenne Johnson moved into the home of his girlfriend Debbie Glatzel in May 1980, a month before her brother David claimed to have been tormented by a demon.

Fearing for David’s wellbeing, his family sought help from the Catholic Church and the famous demonologist couple Ed and Loraine Warren.

According to the couple, David was then subjected to rites of exorcism, which were performed to expel 42 demons from his body.

During one such rite, Johnson challenged the demons to enter his body instead. Some witnesses in the trial would later testify that the demons answered the challenge.


6 /10 Take Me On

By the time Johnson said, “Take me on” to the demons, David had been possessed for about a year. Johnson was only trying to help his girlfriend’s brother.

Lorraine Warren later testified she wanted to warn him, but he just wouldn’t listen. Ed Warren, also a witness for the defense, said that Johnson did something no one with any working knowledge of demonologists would do.

Johnson testified on his behalf, claiming Bono was drunk and the one who provoked an argument between them.

5 /10 Demonic Possession

Johnson’s attorney Martin Minella saw an opportunity to save his client from a seemingly impossible case to win.

The whole “demonic possession” accounts from Johnson’s family and Lorraine and Ed Warren brought the attorney a newly acquired confidence.

Minella once said that he could put the pope on, and he would tell anybody that demons possessed his client.

More than that, he was confident about the potential marketability of the case, whether from book deals or movies. Minella claimed that top producers were interested in making the story.

4 /10 The Murder Got Lost

If not for the alleged involvement of demons, the murder of Alan Bono and the subsequent trial of Arne Johnson would have been entirely different.

As soon as words got out that the defense used demonic possession argument, the attorney was bombarded with phone calls from Hollywood producers and book publishers.

Before the murder case, the lives of people in Brookfield were pretty much untouched by all sorts of complexity and sophistication seen in the more polished parts of the country.

They were here to know about the murder, but their inquiry got lost somewhere along the way.


3 /10 Not A Legal Defense

Just as quick as the demonic possession argument came to the surface, it was almost immediately shot down by the court.

Judge Robert J. Callahan, who would later become Chief Justice of Connecticut Supreme Court, dismissed the demonic possession argument.

The judge admitted he was not sure whether or not demon possession could happen, but for sure, he knew it was not a valid legal defense; in addition, such an argument would be unnecessarily confusing the jury.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Walter Flanagan stuck with the most straightforward explanation possible that Johnson stabbed Bono to death because he wanted to do it.


2 /10 Short-Lived Argument

The defendant’s attorney Martin Minella cited two British court cases that had allowed defense based on demonic possession.

It was a criminal trial that drew nationwide attention, but for the wrong reasons. There was little focus on the victim or the accused but more on the defense argument.

The judge refused such tactic, explaining to the attorney if the assertion could not be objectively proven.

Minella switched to self-defense instead, and the crowd of media dwindled. But throughout the months before that, the case was a shockwave for the nation.

1 /10 Guilty Of Manslaughter

After 17 hours of deliberation over three days, the jury found Arne Cheyenne Johnson guilty of first-degree manslaughter and awarded him a sentence of 10 to 20 years on November 24, 1981.

The jury didn’t think Johnson wanted to kill Bono – the intention was to injure him, although, in the end, the victim ultimately died from the injury.

There were never demons involved in the jury deliberation. Johnson was released after four years at the Connecticut Correctional Institute in Somers for good behavior.

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