A fictionalized composite of several celebrated murder cases, particularly the Stielow case, in which an innocent man is convicted and sentenced to death on purely speculative evidence. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
With his wife about to give birth, out-of-work labourer John Doe ( Harry De More ) asks a wealthy farmer ( George Berrell ) for a job. A few days after employing John, however, the farmer and his sister are found dead, and all the evidence points to their new worker. After grilling John for two days, a detective, eager for reward money, coerces him into confessing, and he is quickly sentenced to death. A lawyer who attended the trial, however, is convinced of John's innocence. To prove it, she feigns interest in hiring the detective and, just as she had hoped, in trying to impress her, he proudly talks about forcing a confession out of John. With this new information, a judge grants a stay just as John is about to be executed, and then, later, clears him of all guilt while a peddler is convicted of the murders.
This 1916 silent drama was directed by Lois Weber and produced by The Universal Film Manufacturing Company. The People vs. John Doe only partially survives.
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