Given that the majority of Dahmer’s victims were African-American, there were considerable racial tensions, and his trial began on 13 January 1992 under the strictest of security, which included an eight-foot barrier of bullet-proof glass, that separated him from the gallery. The inclusion of only one African-American on the jury provoked further unrest, but fortunately this was contained and short-lived. His father Lionel and his second wife attended the trial throughout.
Despite having confessed to the killings during police interrogation, Dahmer initially pleaded not guilty to all charges. However, against the advice of his legal counsel, he changed his plea to guilty by virtue of insanity. His defence then offered every gruesome detail of his behaviour, as proof that only someone insane could commit such terrible acts. But the jury chose to believe the prosecutor’s assertion that Dahmer was fully aware that his acts were evil and that he chose to commit them anyway. They returned after only five hours deliberation to find him guilty, but sane, on all counts, on 17 February 1992.
Dahmer was sentenced to fifteen consecutive life terms, a total of 957 years in prison.