Psychiatric Testimony of Jeffrey Dahmer

DEFENSE WITNESSES Dr. Fred Berlin – Director of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at John Hopkins University; Maudsley Hospital in London; DSM-III-R subcommitee for the definition of sexual disorders Dr. Berlin testified that Jeff Dahmer was unable to conform his conduct at the time that he committed the crimes because he was suffering from Paraphilia, or more specifically, Necrophilia, a mental disease. He described Dahmer’s affliction as being a ‘cancer of the mind’, a ‘broken mind’, and thought it facile to insinuate that the man could simply resolve to stop thinking of sex with dead bodies and the thoughts would go away. ‘We cannot always choose what to have on our minds,’ he said.

Necrophilia, he explained, is not a matter of freewill. Prosecutor McCann, in his cross examination, after attacking both the comptetence and integrity of the witness, focused on what he saw as errors in the way Dr. Berlin conducted his evaluation of Dahmer. ‘How long did you talk about family history?’ ‘Fifteen minutes.’ ‘From zero to age eighteen?’ ‘I’m not writing a biography of him.’ ‘What did you then talk about after family history?’ ‘Personal history.’ ‘How long did that take?’ ‘Half an hour. My examination covered five hours in all, maybe six. I’m not trying to be evasive.’ ‘The record indicates four hours and forty-five minutes. If you spent forty-five minutes talking about family and personal history, that leaves four hours, so you spent fifteen minutes on each homicide.’

The cross examination of Dr. Berlin continued in this manner, Mr. McCann eventually getting the doctor to admit that Dahmer was a liar, which, in this instance, was quite beneficial for the prosecution, as most of his conclusions were drawn from conversations with Jeff. During cross examination, Dr. Berlin was given the opportunity to clarify, explaining to the court that one does not have to be ‘dumb or stupid’ in order to be mentally disturbed. Dahmer could be cunning, deceptive, and a liar as well, and still have a mental illness. Dr. Judith Becker – Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Arizona, specializing in the evaluation and treatment of paraphiliacs. Dr. Becker, in her testimony, discussed for the most part Dahmer’s childhood, citing numerous instances that she felt were of severe, and devastating, consequence to him, both physically and emotionally. What resulted, according to the doctor, was a deeply disturbed individual, whose perceptions of the world were distorted, and interactions with the world minimal. Though very insightful, Dr. Becker had little of scientific value to offer. Dr. Carl Wahlstrom Dr. Wahlstrom testified that ‘Mr. Dahmer is a thirty-one year old white male with a long history of serious mental illness which was essentially untreated… His personality structure is extremely primitive,’ and ‘he has bizarre and delusional ideas.’

Dr. Wahlstrom illustrated this last point using Dahmer’s own words, ‘ If they had their own thought processes they might remember that they had to leave, or lived somewhere else.’ The desire to turn a human being into a zombie, who would remain a personal, and life long companion, together with the intention of creating what Brian Master’s termed a ‘power-bestowing’ temple from human remains, clearly indicated that Dahmer was severely delusional, and therefore psychotic. He felt that the mental disease from which Dahmer suffered was severe, and ‘requires continuous treatment.’ PSYCHIATRISTS APPOINTED BY THE STATE The following two psychiatrists, Dr. Palermo and Dr. Freedman, were appointed by the judge for the purpose of providing the jury with an ‘objective’ assessment of Jeff Dahmer’s mental state at the time he committed the crimes. Dr. George Palermo – Forensic psychiatrist, with experience working in both the United States and Italy. Dr. Palermo concluded that, because Dahmer had been teased by his peers as a child, and had chosen never to defend himself, he had internalized feelings of hostility. It was his opinion that, because of his ‘chronic’ inability to form relationships, and his frustrated homosexual desires, Jeff Dahmer had developed into a Sexual Sadist. He stated that ‘Aggressive, hostile tendencies led to his murderous behavior. His sexual drives functioned as a channel through which destructive power was expressed.’ Dr. Palermo denied that there was any evidence to support a diagnosis of Necrophilia, and that Dahmer displayed none of the symptoms of a Necrophile. Dr. Palermo, in conclusion, told the court that the murders were the result of ‘pent up aggression within himself. He killed those men because he wanted to kill the source of his homosexual attraction to them. In killing them, he killed what he hated in himself.’

Dr. Palermo did not believe that Dahmer murdered for friendship, but in order to keep a potential victim silent. ‘He killed because when they woke up they would be angry with him.’ Dr. Palermo also added, however, ‘Strange to say, he’s not such a bad person.’ Dr. Samuel Friedman Dr. Friedman testified that it was a longing for companionship that caused Dahmer to kill. He spoke kindly of Jeff, describing him as ‘Amiable, pleasant to be with, curtious, with a sense of humor, conventionally handsome and charming in manner, he was, and still is, a bright young man.’ He described how Dahmer had gone to great lengths to provide insight as to why he had committed such terrible deeds, but all to no avail. Dahmer, he said, almost ‘pleaded’ with him to provide an explanation. ‘I hope,’ he said, ‘that something can be done to reconstruct this individual, who certainly has the assests of youth and intelligence.’ Despite all of this, however, Dr. Friedman concluded that Dahmer was sane because he had the opportunity to behave differently, and instead, he chose to kill, strategically planning the murders, in order to commit them successfully. On cross examination, Dr. Friedman was asked if it would be possible for a person ‘to make elaborate and logical plans and choices towards the achievement of an ultimately insane purpose.’ Dr. Friedman was not required to answer the question after an objection by Mr. McCann was sustained. However, after a series of similar questions, and questions rephrased, Dr. Friedman did admit that the exercise of free choice did not invalidate a diagnosis of mental illness, and that Dahmer’s personality disorder did, in fact, amount to a mental disease. PROSECUTION WITNESSES Dr. Fred Fosdel Dr. Fosdel testified to his belief that Dahmer was without mental disease or defect at the time he committed the murders. He described Jeff as a cruel, calculating, and cunning killer who prayed on weak and lonely men at the time that they were most vulnerable and in need of anonymous sexual release. Dr. Fosdel portrayed Dahmer as being utterly unconcerned and unaffected by the heinousness of his acts.

On cross examination, Mr. Boyle asked the doctor if he believed that Jeff was a Necrophile, to which he responded, ‘Yes, but that is not his primary sexual preference.’ Boyle then asked Fosdel what term would be used to describe someone that ‘preferred people in a comatose state, knocked out,’ and was told that ‘There’s no name for it.’ Boyle, using a copy of the DSM-III-R, read through the various catagories, getting Dr. Fosdel to admit to all of the disorders that Dahmer did not have and, by elimination, leaving his disorder unidentified. After a long pause, Dr. Fosdel responded by saying, ‘I concede that he has a mental disease.’ He would not, however, concede that Dahmer was insane. According to Dr. Fosdel, the disease did not interfere with Dahmer’s ability to conform. Mr. Boyle then moved on to the following line of questioning. ‘What about his desire to create a zombie? Do you consider that delusional thinking?’ ‘No, it was a very practical and reasonable attempt to achieve his aim.’ ‘Have you ever met a case of home-made labotomy before?’ ‘No, I think this is the first time internationally. Mr. Dahmer is setting some precendents here.’ ‘It couldn’t have worked, could it? You’re a doctor, you must know.’ ‘It’s possible.’ ‘Did you ask him how long he was going to keep the zombie? Do you believe he would have created a zombie, and never have killed again? ‘Absolutely. That would have been the solution to his problem. Absolutely.’ Dr. Park Dietz – Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Dietz testified that he did not believe Dahmer to be suffering from any mental disease or defect at the time that he committed the crimes. ‘Dahmer went to great lengths to be alone with his victim and to have no witnesses.’ He explained that there was ample evidence that Dahmer was well prepared for each murder, therefore his crimes were not impulsive. He felt that Jeff’s habit of becoming intoxicated prior to committing each of the murders was significant, stating, ‘If he had a compulsion to kill, he would not have to drink alcohol.

He had to drink alcohol to overcome his inhibition, to do the crime which he would rather not do.’ Dr. Dietz agreed with earlier testimony that Paraphilia is not something that one chooses, stating, ‘We cannot choose what we find sexy.’ He did not, however, believe that a man afflicted with such a disorder was unable to choose whether or not he would act upon his desires. ‘The Paraphile is as free as any other human being to choose whether to commit a crime to gratify his wishes. Paraphilia provides no more than a motive for what a person would like to do. If you say Paraphiles are compelled, then you have to say that we are all compelled to do what we want.’ Dr. Dietz did not believe that Dahmer could be classified as a Sadist. ‘He did no t torture and took steps to prevent suffering.’ He also offered an explanation for why Jeff would masterbate while holding the severed head of a victim in one hand, ‘It facilitated the fantasy of the entire person, the fantasy of the living person to whom the head belonged, which cut out awareness that the rest of the body was missing and that the head was severed.’ Dietz denied that this was delusional thinking. In regard to the last two murders, Dr. Dietz admitted that Dahmer was not in a state to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law, however. This was ascribed to alcohol intoxication, not a mental disease, and therefore does not qualify, under Wisconsin Statute, as insanity. Dr. Dietz concluded that Jeff’s abnormality of mind did not substantially affect his mental or emotional processes.

Mr. Boyle asked on question during cross examination, to which Dietz was unable to adequately respond. If what the doctor had said was true, that it was alcoholism alone that was responsible for his inability to control his behavior in the month prior to his arrest, and there was no disease which contributed to it, would Jeff have continued to kill had he quit drinking alcohol before he met Tracy Edwards? (Jeff and Tracy met for the first time at a mall. This was approximately one month prior to the night that Tracy escaped from Dahmer’s apartment.)

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