Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jeffrey Dahmer

Evil or Sick?

Boyle's defense consisted of some 45 witnesses that would attest to various aspects of Dahmer's bizarre behavior and 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.

Dahmer in court
Dahmer in court

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 insanity defense.

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.