Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jeffrey Dahmer

The Insanity Defense

On July 13, 1992, Dahmer ignored his lawyer's advice and changed his plea to guilty, but that he was insane. According to Don Davis in The Milwaukee Murders, "the declaration turned the case on its head. Now, instead of having to prove his man did not commit the murders, defense attorney Gerald Boyle would unroll one of the goriest tapestries ever seen in an American courtroom. His task was to convince the jury that Dahmer was crazy, because only an insane person would do the things he did."

Mike McCann, on the other hand, needed to prove that Dahmer was not legally insane — that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but did it anyway. In others words, Dahmer was an evil psychopath who lured his victims and murdered them in cold blood.

The pool of prospective jurors was warned, "You're going to hear about things you probably didn't know existed in the real world. In this case," Boyle told them, "you're going to hear about sexual conduct before death, during death, and after death. Will you be so disgusted by that you won't be able to listen?" Together, Boyle and McCann discarded potential jurors who were prejudiced against homosexuals or who didn't have any use for psychiatrists.

Anne Schwartz remembers the second day of jury selection before the prospective jurors were called into the room. Boyle held up a tabloid newspaper that read "Milwaukee Cannibal Killer Eats His Cellmate." "We all laughed," Schwartz recalled, "especially Jeffrey Dahmer... He was an attractive man when he laughed... I could see how so many were taken in by him."

On January 29, 1992, the jury and two alternates were selected. Only one black person was selected, which caused a protest among the family members. The entire case had seriously polarized the community along racial lines, from the moment the public heard Glenda Cleveland's story, through the discovery that most of his victims were black. Now, it seemed as though this jury of six white men and seven white women was just another example of racial injustice.


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