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Hearing On What To Do With Jeffrey Dahmer's Brain
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STATE OF WISCONSIN CIRCUIT COURT
COLUMBIA COUNTY BRANCH I
In The Matter Of The )
Estate of: ) MOTION HEARING
JEFFREY L. DAHMER, ) Case No. 94-PR-175
HON. DANIEL S. GEORGE Presiding
MR. ROBERT B. FENNIG, Attorney at Law
on behalf of Decedent's Mother, Joyce Flint.
MR. LIONEL DAHMER, Decedent's Father
appearing pro se via telephone.
DATE: October 3, 1995
TIME: 11:00 a.m.
THE COURT: All right. This is in the matter of the Estate of Jeffrey L. Dahmer. It's Case Number 94-PR-175. Appearing here today on a motion is Attorney Robert Fennig, is that correct?
MR. FENNIG: That's correct.
THE COURT: And you are appearing on behalf of Mr. Dahmer's mother --
MR. FENNIG: Joyce Flint.
THE COURT: -- Joyce Flint. And telephonically we have the father of Jeffrey Dahmer appearing personally. Your name is Lionel Dahmer, correct?
MR. DAHMER: Correct.
THE COURT: And are you there with an attorney, or are you on your own?
MR. DAHMER: I am on my own.
THE COURT: Okay.
Any other appearances on behalf of any other party? Appears to be no other interested parties present in the courtroom.
We have a motion brought on by Mr. Fennig on behalf of Ms. Flint to have Jeffrey Dahmer's brain, as I understand it, turned over for purposes of scientific research. And based on correspondence that I have received from Lionel Dahmer, that is opposed by him.
Is that correct, Mr. Dahmer?
MR. DAHMER: That is correct, Judge.
THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Fennig, before we went on the record here today I provided you with copies of the correspondence that the Court had received from Lionel Dahmer. Although they had been received some days ago, I had not had an opportunity to see them until today, having been out of the office for the last week.
Have you had an opportunity to review them?
MR. FENNIG: I have looked at them in the short time that I've been here. And I didn't get any of these sent to my office either, so this came as a -- no surprise, but it -- I didn't get any other notice that there would be opposition to the motion.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. FENNIG: If I may?
THE COURT: Hang on just a moment.
Mr. Dahmer, I want to touch base with you momentarily. Are you hearing Mr. Fennig?
MR. DAHMER: Barely. I can pick up a little bit of what he's saying. I think he said that he did not receive any correspondence. Of course, I've been at a business meeting, and I have sent you two pieces of information, faxes, on September 8th and October 1st.
THE COURT: Okay. The -- those have been received by the Court. But like I indicated, I didn't read them until today and they were provided to Mr. Fennig today.
Mr. Fennig, are you prepared to go forward on your motion?
MR. FENNIG: Yes. Would it accommodate Mr. Dahmer, if I got closer to the bar?
THE COURT: It may help to some degree. That's a fairly good microphone system, but it's not perfect obviously.
(Mr. Fennig approaches Bench)
MR. FENNIG: Mr. Dahmer, tell me if you can hear me better now.
MR. DAHMER: That's better.
THE COURT: Okay. Go ahead then.
MR. DAHMER: Not perfect, but better.
MR. FENNIG: Well, we'll use what we have.
This motion, as the papers indicate, is brought by Joyce Flint, the natural mother of the decedent in this matter.
After the autopsy there remained brain and other tissue that was kept under the care and supervision of Dr. Robert W. Huntington at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. And he had these tissues under lock and key in one of the University Hospitals in Madison.
Attempts were made to contact him by my client back in June with the thought of submitting this tissue for scientific study. It was indicated by Dr. Huntington that he would not release the tissue unless there was some authoritative decision made in that regard.
Mrs. Flint had been trying to contact Mr. Dahmer by telephone, and she used other parties to attempt to contact him. She never got a response by any of her phone calls. Now from what I have read from Mr. Dahmer, he denies getting any phone calls.
MR. DAHMER: That's not true.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. FENNIG: Would you let me finish, Mr. Dahmer?
MR. DAHMER: I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to respond in kind during the speaking.
THE COURT: Okay. Let me explain how we will run the procedure here today.
First of all, Mr. Fennig is going to be allowed to present his argument. Then, Mr. Dahmer, I will hear from you before rendering any kind of decision. Because Mr. Fennig is the moving party, he will then have a final rebuttal opportunity after you have spoken.
MR. DAHMER: Okay, that's fine.
THE COURT: If you can keep your comments until I address you, and then I will hear your argument in total.
MR. DAHMER: The only problem I have is remembering -- if it gets too long -- remembering where I was going to respond.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. DAHMER: Okay.
MR. FENNIG: I'll keep it quite brief. The -- based on nonresponses from Mr. Dahmer to Ms. Flint, it was suggested by contacting my office and I represented her back in November immediately after the situation at the -- at the jail. And I advised her that I would call Dr. Huntington and find out what it took to see to it that there may be a possibility of this occurring and under what circumstances Dr. Huntington would agree to it.
I was then made aware that Mrs. Flint had contacted the Georgetown University Medical Center, and this was made by reference from some folks out in California. And Dr. Pincus has a widely known reputation in pathological neurological study.
I was -- I was advised that Dr. Pincus had grant money to take care of the transportation and the research at hand.
I wrote to Dr. Huntington about this, and he said he would accept that if I could get a Court order with respect to that. I -- when I was here on the September 6th motion that was brought by all the claimants in the estate, I then secured a court date for this motion and mailed it to all the interested parties as shown on my certificate of mailing. That was sent out, I believe, on the 12th. And Mr. Dahmer -- Mr. Dahmer got that, by acknowledgment in his letter, on the 18th. I contacted Dr. Huntington and advised him what Dr. Pincus was available -- I mean Dr. Pincus was available to accept this tissue. I contacted Dr. Huntington who asked me for authority from Dr. Pincus. Dr. Pincus give gave me a fax which I am showing to the Court now.
THE COURT: Let's have it marked as an exhibit.
MR. FENNIG: And it's, I believe, short enough to read.
THE COURT: Are there any other exhibits contemplated?
MR. FENNIG: Just one more.
THE COURT: Have it marked.
THE COURT: Okay. The first exhibit, for your benefit, Mr. Dahmer, is on letterhead from the Georgetown University Medical Center and bears the signature of Dr. -- I'm assuming doctor? Yes.
MR. FENNIG: Pincus.
THE COURT: There it is, Jonathan Pincus.
"I am grateful for this opportunity to study the brain of Jeffrey Daumer (sic). It represents an unparalleled chance to possibly determine what neurological factors could have contributed to his bizarre criminal behavior.
"We will be glad to examine the brain tissue microscopically at Georgetown University. My grant will guarantee payment for the safe transportation of the brain in formaldehyde to my office at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C."
That's the extent of that exhibit. Go on, Mr. Fennig.
MR. FENNIG: Well, in answer, after I transmitted that fax of that letter to Dr. Huntington, he called me. We had a conversation, and I requested something in writing from his office with respect do Dr. Pincus' offer. And that is Exhibit 2. And that I believe is short enough to read, as well. If you would?
THE COURT: Exhibit Number 2 has been given to the Court. It is on University of Wisconsin Madison Medical School letterhead, bears the signature of Robert Huntington who is identified as an associate professor and who did the post-mortem. It reads as follows:
"Dear Attorney Fennig, Thank you for forwarding the letter for Dr. Pincus. My original thought was to have the brain carefully studied at McLean Hospital in Boston. I am not acquainted with Dr. Pincus and his studies.
"The brain of Mr. Dahmer is to be studied carefully, as I would hope, I would also hope that scrupulous care be exercised against any premature conclusions.
"Mr. Dahmer's brain should, I would submit, be carefully compared against the range of brains from persons who exhibited normal and those showing severely antisocial behavior. In other words, I submit that concluding anything from this one brain by itself is perilous and antiscientific. If Dr. Pincus observes such scientific conditions, I would see no problem, on my part alone, in submitting that brain to his study. Sincerely." And this bears Huntington's signature.
MR. FENNIG: Now the matter with respect to Mrs. Flint is that we have - - we have gone through the cremation process, which happened within the past two or three weeks. And this ultimate disposition of what is left of the remains of her son would bring final closure to her, at least. And -- and I believe there would be no other means to do it better than this.
It would satisfy her. It would not be in -- against any interests of the public. In fact, I think the public may benefit from it. And I don't believe it would be in the -- against any interests of Mr. Dahmer, the decedent himself, to have this done.
If you recall, by the means of his will --
And I bring that up because Mr. Lionel Dahmer made reference to it stating that any -- any such disposal, either by cremation or the way we are asking for it, would be against what he set forth in his will. Mr. -- He also indicated that he didn't want to have any funeral services. And Mr. Dahmer had, if you will recall, had a memorial service within a couple of days after his death.
The point is, really, closure for Mrs. Flint. I think this would put her at rest. It would satisfy her to the point that some good has come out of all of this bad news in the last couple of years.
And for that reason her request is not outrageous. Her request is for the scientific -- whatever scientific good can be made of this and I think deserves consideration by the Court.
THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Dahmer, I will hear from you.
MR. DAHMER: Okay. As to Joyce Flint contacting me personally, as she had said, she has had no response to her personal attempts. There were no personal attempts. I addressed that in my October 1st fax to you, Judge.
THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Dahmer, just for your information and to shorten up any kind of argument that we might have here, the fact that Joyce Flint may or may not have attempted to get your position on this matter or any kind of negotiations really has nothing to do with the Court's decision and isn't important to me.
MR. DAHMER: I feel it's irrelevant, too. But I just wanted to answer that, remember when I broke in just a little bit ago.
THE COURT: Right. Okay, go ahead. On the merits of the matter then.
MR. DAHMER: Okay. I think I probably summarized the main point of disregarding Jeff's instructions in his last testament, and I feel that that should take precedent. It's not a matter, I feel, of whether I do or don't want scientific study. I personally have strong feelings regarding the nonefficacious character of that proposal. But that's neither here nor there. I feel -- I feel that the main point is what his last wishes were, and to violate that would be legally wrong.
THE COURT: Okay. Mr. --
MR. DAHMER: I could go on and on regarding the efficacious or nonefficacious character of the study, but I would rather -- I'm more of a writing person as opposed to an articulate on the spot verbal person, and I would rather put that in writing. But I want to emphasize at this moment the compliance with his last testament, as for anyone.
THE COURT: Mr. Fennig?
MR. FENNIG: If I can refer to his last testament. Page two of his Will, paragraph 4, he stated, "Upon my death I wish for the body to be cremated as soon as possible. I do not want a funeral ceremony to be performed before or after the cremation. No open casket. No headstone or marker."
If you will recall, Mr. -- Mr. Dahmer saw to a memorial service within days of the death of Jeffrey. And if he wants to go literally, he violated what he is now claiming would be a violation of the intentions of the decedent. So I think that's close to being doublespeak.
So, I think we do have a very good possibility that possibly something good can come of this by this scientific study. And for that reason, the motion has been made.
THE COURT: Mr. Dahmer, I'll give you one brief opportunity to respond if you wish.
MR. DAHMER: Okay. As to the funeral service, it was a private memorial service for my immediate family. And if he wants to argue to that point and seize upon that point, then he may want to prosecute me regarding that. But we are talking about the disposal of the wishes of Jeff for cremation of his body. The brain is part of his body. That's all.
THE COURT: Okay. The Court has heard argument concerning this matter. And I have received -- or actually will state now that I will receive Exhibit 1 and 2 from the two respective physicians or doctors involved in this matter, Dr. Huntington and Dr. Pincus.
The Court recognizes a rather unusual situation here. It's one that I have certainly never encountered before and probably won't again.
We do have competing interests from the two parents of the deceased. Those positions have been expressed here today. There is in essence a balancing test that the Court needs to perform.
I recognize the statement of the wishes of Jeffrey Dahmer. It was contained in a document entitled his Last Will and Testament. And although it is not technically a legal will from the standpoint of disposition of any of his property, it's not officially been admitted to probate. In fact, there was a stipulation and agreement by all parties that it wouldn't constitute a legal will of sorts with any sort of dispositive effect on what to do with his remains. Nonetheless, it is an expression that the Court gives some consideration to of the deceased's wishes as to what's to be done with his body.
And that certainly is a factor that the Court takes into consideration here.
I am also concerned with the issue of closure. This is a difficult situation in our human existence, so to speak. It's a rather evil chapter. And I believe that it would be beneficial to the public and to all concerned that there be closure, and that this matter be resolved once and for all, and that we move on.
There also obviously is some interest from a scientific standpoint. And perhaps there is some good that could come from an otherwise particularly vile series of events. Perhaps there is some type of scientific research that could be conducted that might shed some kind of light on why acts of this nature occurred.
However, the Court is again looking at a balancing kind of test there in terms of the potential good and bad that could come from the research. There is -- or there are many different types of scientific research that can be conducted and many different levels of research that can occur from good to bad in range.
The Court is extremely concerned over the potential for exploitation of this type of research. I am very concerned and I have made some notes of my own, which pretty much coincided with the kinds of concerns raised by Dr. Huntington.
I am very fearful over the type of inquiry that's going to be made into this analysis. What sort of comparisons are going to be made? What sort of samples of population we are dealing with in terms of comparing the tissue from Mr. Dahmer's brain to other types of brains, brains from other individuals. I don't know what is contemplated, and I am extremely concerned about the propriety of the handling of this issue and the avoidance of exploitation from the standpoint of any kind of pop research, pop psychology, that kind of thing.
So what I would like to do, Mr. Fennig, is I would like something from Dr. Pincus that would enlighten this Court in greater detail as to where we are going with this. Preferably I would like an opportunity to have him testify, which could be done by telephone just as Mr. Dahmer is participating here today. What I would like you to do is contact Mr. Pincus -- or Dr. Pincus and find out what his availability is and find out whether he would be willing to submit a more detailed analytical approach as to what direction he intends to take with his analysis, and preferably whether he would be willing to testify by telephone.
And after hearing that I would be inclined to make a decision with respect to what to do with this material. Because at this point to just carte blanche say, here you go, do with it as you wish, is beyond what this Court is willing to tolerate. And we could end up with a situation that digresses considerably from the purpose that is contemplated.
So, Mr. Dahmer, --
MR. DAHMER: Yes?
THE COURT: -- I will be getting some kind of feedback from Attorney Fennig concerning Dr. Pincus' position, at which time we will be doing some scheduling of another hearing of this nature. And between now and then I would also invite you to, as you indicated during your argument here today --
MR. DAHMER: Yes.
THE COURT: -- you would like to present further written argument to me, feeling that you can do so in a more effective manner than speaking --
MR. DAHMER: Well, the fact is I've been sitting up at night in a motel room typing.
THE COURT: I recognize the difficulty in terms of responding --
MR. DAHMER: Thank you.
THE COURT: -- extemporaneously here today. So between now and the next hearing, if in fact we are to have another hearing -- I would contemplate such depending on what Dr. Pincus is going to tell us. Between now and then you may submit anything in writing.
You have received notice from Mr. Fennig of today's proceedings, correct?
MR. DAHMER: Yes.
THE COURT: So you have his address. Anything you send to the Court should likewise be copied to Mr. Fennig.
MR. DAHMER: I certainly will.
THE COURT: That will terminate then today's proceedings. Mr. Fennig, if you would contact my scheduling clerk after you've received information from Dr. Pincus and arrange for another hearing of this nature, she will be able to accommodate you. Any questions?
MR. FENNIG: Just one thing. I think what I will also get will be a vitae with respect to Dr. Pincus' qualifications.
MR. DAHMER: I'm sorry. I can't hear that.
THE COURT: What he's saying is he would attempt to get a vitae -- curriculum vitae, a resume, whatever you want to call it -- from Dr. Pincus. That would be very helpful for the Court, as well.
MR. FENNIG: And I will send it to Mr. Dahmer prior to the hearing.
THE COURT: Anything Mr. Fennig sends to the Court will likewise be sent to you, Mr. Dahmer. I assume he has your proper address.
MR. DAHMER: Yes, it is. Thank you.
THE COURT: That will conclude today's proceedings.
MR. DAHMER: Thank you, Judge.
MR. FENNIG: Thank you.
(Off the record at 11:27 a.m.)
GERALYN E. SCHRAB, RMR
Official Court Reporter
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