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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.