jeffrey dahmer


On May 23, 1989, Dahmer's lawyer Gerald Boyle and Assistant D.A. Gale Shelton presented their arguments to Judge William Gardner. Shelton wanted a prison sentence of at least five years. "In my judgment it is absolutely crystal clear that the prognosis for treatment of Mr. Dahmer within the community is extremely bleak... His perception that what he did wrong here was choosing too young a victim, and that that's all he did wrong, is a part of the problem... He appeared to be cooperative and receptive, but anything that goes below the surface indicates that the deep-seated anger and deep-seated psychological problems that he is unwilling or incapable of dealing with."

Three psychologists examined him and concurred that Dahmer was manipulative, resistant and evasive. Hospitalization and intensive treatment was recommended.

Boyle, the defense attorney argued that Dahmer was sick and needed treatment, not prison. He praised the fact that he had held a job. "We don't have a multiple offender here. I believe that he was caught before it got to the point where it would have gotten worse, which means that it is a blessing in disguise."

Dahmer himself spoke in his own defense, blaming his behavior on alcoholism. He was articulate and convincing, for someone who had secretly murdered several men by that time. "What I have done is very serious. I've never been in this position before. Nothing this awful. This is a nightmare come true for me. If anything would shock me out of my past behavior patterns, it's this.

"The one thing I have in my mind that is stable and that gives me some source of pride is my job. I've come very close to losing it because of my actions, which I take full responsibility for... All I can do is beg you, please spare my job. Please give me a chance to show that I can, that I can tread the straight and narrow and not get involved in any situation like this ever again... This enticing a child was the climax of my idiocy... I do want help. I do want to turn my life around."

A marvelous performance by a true psychopath! The judge fell for it, stayed his sentence, and put Dahmer on probation for five years. He was ordered to spend one year in the House of Correction under "work release," which allowed him to go to work during the day and return to the jail at night.

Boyle's defense consisted of some forty-five witnesses that would attest to various aspects of Dahmer's bizarre behavior and to try to show that Dahmer's sexual and mental disorders prevented him from understanding the nature of his crime. Every hideous detail of what Dahmer allegedly did with his victims and every nightmarish thing that ever entered his head was fair game. The goal was to convince the jury that such alleged actions and such alleged thoughts did not happen with a man that was sane.

Boyle threw the question out to the jury? "Was he evil or was he sick?" Had the jury at that point in time taken a vote, it's very possible that they would have agreed with Boyle.

Finally, it was McCann's turn to present his case. Dahmer, he told them, was a "master manipulator and deceiver who knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way, able to turn his urges on and off as easily as flipping a light switch. Did he attack other soldiers while he was in the army? Other students while at Ohio State University? The deaths, he said were not the acts of a madman, but the result of meticulous planning." (Davis).

Two detectives took turns reading the 160-page confession. It was a catalog of sexual perversion. Detective Dennis Murphy stated that Dahmer "felt a tremendous amount of guilt because of his actions. He felt thoroughly evil." Then he quoted from Dahmer's own confession: "It's hard for me to believe that a human being could have done what I've done, but I know that I did it." He claimed that his fear of being caught was overwhelmed by his excitement of being completely in control.

The battle of psychiatrists over whether Dahmer was legally responsible and able to control his actions seemed to confuse the jury.

Finally, in his summation, Boyle drew a chart for the jury that took the form of a wheel. The hub of the wheel was Jeff Dahmer and all of the spokes coming out from the wheel were the elements of his deviance. He read them off quickly:

"Skulls in locker, cannibalism, sexual urges, drilling, making zombies, necrophilia, drinking alcohol all the time, trying to create a shrine, lobotomies, defleshing, calling taxidermists, going to grave yards, masturbating.....This is Jeffrey Dahmer, a runaway train on a track of madness..."

McCann rebutted, "He wasn't a runaway train, he was the engineer!" He was satisfying his extraordinary sexual cravings. "Ladies and gentlemen, he's fooled a lot of people. Please don't let this murderous killer fool you."

The jury deliberated for five hours and decided that Jeff Dahmer did not deserve to spend the rest of his life in a hospital, but in a prison cell. On all fifteen counts, Dahmer was found guilty and sane.

Anne Schwartz, who covered the Dahmer story for the Milwaukee Journal from its discovery through the trial, was "astonished at how normal this man looked and sounded...The day Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced, I heard him read his statement to the court calmly and eloquently, and I wondered how easily I could have been conned.