Donald Trump issued over 140 presidential pardons and commutations late Tuesday in what was likely his final act as US President. While most of the pardons had been well-discussed in media beforehand — including former White House strategist Steve Bannon and rapper L’il Wayne — Trump also offered a surprising posthumous absolution to notorious Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
The Dahmer pardon, while posthumous and largely ineffectual, is certain to come under scrutiny in the coming days.
Dahmer, who died in a prison attack in 1994, shocked and captivated America in 1991 when it was revealed that he had murdered up to 17 people — mostly young, gay men — and had confessed to cannibalizing several of them. Dahmer infamously had four severed heads and more ghoulish trophies scattered around his apartment at the time of his arrest.
“I think that the record shows that Dahmer’s victims — who I am sure were loved by their families — were not so great,” the outgoing president explained in a statement. “These young men had been led astray of normal society and had chosen alternative and sometimes extremely alternative lifestyles, having relegated themselves to wanting to be photographed naked by other men and to possibly engage in same-sex intercourse with people who were considerably older than themselves, activities which this administration finds aberrant in nature. Mr. Dahmer should have remained free under the same type of justifiable homicide defense that often exonerates our boys in blue.”
Posthumous pardons weren’t always a part of the presidential landscape; Gerald Ford broke that trend by pardoning Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1975. Trump previously posthumously pardoned the late suffragist Susan B. Anthony and boxer Jack Johnson, pardons also expected to come under scrutiny over time.