Why Didn't Jeffrey Dahmer Wear His Infamous Glasses During His Trial?

History writes that on July 22, 1991, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested after one of his would-be victims, Tracy Edwards, escaped from Dahmer's apartment. Per Biography, the Milwaukee-based murderer began killing back in 1978. Although Dahmer often got into legal trouble for sexual crimes, he managed to keep his murders secret for years. Eventually, he killed 17 men within a 13-year span. However, as Crime Museum points out, Dahmer became infamous not because of the number of people he killed, but for how he mutilated his victims' corpses. Crime + Investigation UK states that Dahmer engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism. He also attempted to make his victims into zombies by pouring acid into their skulls.

Upon his arrest, as another article from Biography explains, officers found Polaroid snapshots of dismembered bodies and various body parts stored in Dahmer's apartment. Britannica states that Dahmer's victims were primarily gay men of racial minorities. For this reason, there has been controversy regarding Dahmer's case, as many believe that he got away with his crimes for so long due to systematic racism (via AP News). Moreover, Dahmer's looks only added to this theory; he was a clean-cut, unassuming white man living in a Black neighborhood. Many believe this enabled police to turn a blind eye to the victims and Dahmer for years.

Nevertheless, as A&E reports, in September 1991, Dahmer pled not guilty to 15 charges of murder. By 1992, he had changed his plea to guilty by reason of insanity. In January of that year, Dahmer's trial began. However, one thing was missing when Dahmer arrived in court: his glasses (per Deseret News).

He wanted to avoid the jury

A&E explains that by changing his plea to guilty by reason of insanity, this changed the course of Dahmer's trial. Now, it had to be proved that Dahmer was in fact not insane while he committed his horrific crimes. Per Crime + Investigation UK, his defense claimed that only someone who was out of their mind could do what Dahmer did. His lawyer, Gerald Boyle, stated that Dahmer was "not an evil man, (he) was a sick man" (per The Washington post). Nevertheless, he admitted that his client had performed necrophilia and gruesome science experiments. The prosecution, on the other hand, alleged that Dahmer knew exactly what he was doing.

As The Guardian points out, Dahmer was known for wearing large metal-rimmed aviator-style glasses. However, he is pictured without them in mugshots, and Deseret News writes that he did not wear them during his trial. His stepmother, Shari Dahmer, explained why to "Inside Edition." She stated (via Deseret News), "He's not wearing glasses so that he can't see people. He panics." Crime + Investigation UK reports that Shari and Dahmer's father, Lionel, were present for his trial. In February 1992, Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms in prison (per Biography).

A&E reports that 10 out of 12 jurors concluded that Jeffrey Dahmer was not suffering from any mental illness and was, therefore, sane. According to Deseret News, the only time he wore his glasses was during his sentencing. He was later sent to the Columbia Correctional Institute, where he was murdered by another inmate, Christopher Scarver, in November 1994 (via History).

Other serial killers have worn similar glasses

According to The Guardian, Dahmer's aviator glasses have become popular in media, pop culture, and fashion. In the 2017 film "My Friend Dahmer" (via IMDb), actor Ross Lynch portrays the killer in his high school years. Dahmer's high school friend, John "Derf" Backderf, wrote a graphic novel the movie is based on (per the Phoenix New Times). In an interview, Backderf noted that while the film was shooting, he found Lynch dressed as Dahmer in glasses unnerving. He told the Phoenix New Times, "One time in particular, I was chatting with Ross between scenes when he was in his full Dahmer get-up, and it freaked me out. I said, 'Dude, you HAVE to take off those glasses or I can't talk to you.'"

The Guardian reports that Dahmer is far from the only serial killer who has donned distinctive glasses. Dennis Rader and Ed Kemper had distinctive aviator-style eyewear. However, this has been attributed to the time period. Many killers, including Dahmer, were active in the 1970s and '80s. The Guardian points out that aviator glasses were especially fashionable during those particular years.

According to Slate, the glasses may have even allowed Dahmer to appear as a normal and honest man. The magazine 20/20 reported in 2013 that Dahmer's influence had made aviator glasses especially trendy. Despite their association with Dahmer and his crimes, people still want to wear and buy them. With the release of Netflix's "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," rapper Rick Ross tweeted, "Locate me a pair of Dahmer shades" (per XXL Magazine). Some agreed with this sentiment, while others criticized the tweet.