Witch Hunt

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This article is more than 7 years old.

On the night John Stoll was roused from his bed and carted off to jail, he had no idea what was in store.

"Aren't you worried?" his lawyer wondered.

"Hell no, I ain't worried," John answered. "I didn't do this. You can't convict me of something I didn't do."

Stoll was incarcerated for more than two decades before The Innocence Project proved he was telling the truth.


John Stoll was not alone. In a startling indictment of the American justice system, Witch Hunt chronicles how dozens of innocent working-class parents in Bakersfield, California, were convicted of horrific sex abuse crimes during the 1980's. Thanks to an atmosphere of "cowboy law enforcement" perpetuated under the watch of Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels, key child witnesses were encouraged to lie on the stand as they described disturbing testimony of sexual and Satanic rituals. Often, it was their own parents who were put behind bars.

Through new interviews, archival footage and narration by executive producer Sean Penn, Witch Hunt illustrates a universal point: when power is allowed to exist without oversight, the rights of everyday citizens can become lost for decades.