Sign In
  • InsideTrack
  • April 25, 2012

    50-year Members: Boyle and McCann Share Unique History, Including Infamous Case

    Gerald Boyle and E. Michael McCann took center stage as the nation watched the Dahmer trial in 1992. They are among many lawyers who forged impressive careers in politics and law after taking the oath in 1962, and this year celebrate 50 years as State Bar members.

    May 2, 2012 – Most people know Jerry Boyle as the lawyer who represented Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who made Milwaukee nationally infamous 20 years ago. Others know Mike McCann as the Milwaukee County district attorney who helped put Dahmer behind bars.

    In this article, Boyle and McCann, both 50-year State Bar of Wisconsin members this year, discuss some career highlights. The State Bar will recognize those lawyers that took the oath in 1962 at the 50-year Member Recognition Luncheon May 15 at the Delafield Hotel.

    Gerald Boyle

    Gerald Boyle

    A fateful election

    Jerry Boyle, who carries a healthy balance of confidence and self-deprecating humor, is well-known in the legal community for criminal defense. But he could have been on the other side.

    In 1968, Boyle was a high-ranking prosecutor in Milwaukee County. But he lost a primary election to become Milwaukee County district attorney, falling to a colleague named Mike McCann. McCann, 31 years old when elected, went on to be Milwaukee’s DA for 38 years.

    “In many ways, I owe my success as a defense lawyer to Mike McCann for beating me in that 1968 election,” said Boyle, noting that his private practice turned out quite well. “But Mike was the right man for the job. His dedication to that office can’t be matched.”

    That election wasn’t the last duel between Boyle and McCann, friends who both note a mutual respect for each other as trial attorneys.

    The two squared off just a year later in the 1969 trial of August Bergenthal, a Milwaukee millionaire charged with murdering another millionaire, Russell D.L. Wirth. McCann, who had just started as Milwaukee’s new district attorney, was the prosecutor on the case.

    A newspaper account noted that Judge Hugh O’Connell, former Milwaukee County DA, “spent a good part of the trial serving as a referee for the rising young stars.” Bergenthal was convicted.

    In 1992, McCann and Boyle took center stage again as the nation followed the gruesome tale and subsequent two-week trial of serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, who had confessed to killing 17 boys and young men. Police found dismembered bodies in his Milwaukee apartment.

    In an article previewing the trial, a reporter had noted that both McCann and Boyle were the same age (55 at the time of trial), Irish Catholic, and natives of Chicago.

    “In addition, both attorneys are viewed by colleagues as excellent communicators who enjoy the limelight and often assign the tedious technical details of trial work to underlings. Both have appearances that could be described as rumpled,” the reporter wrote.

    “The Dahmer case was certainly the biggest one of my career,” said Boyle, who had argued unsuccessfully that Dahmer was insane. “That was quite an experience,” said McCann, who noted that prosecuting murder involves intense effort. “But this was a serial killer.”

    E. Michael McCann

    E. Michael McCann

    The career prosecutor

    McCann (Georgetown 1962) says the intense work as Milwaukee County DA kept him up some nights, and away from his family. “I worked seven days a week, and would get emergency calls in the middle of the night. But that’s the path I chose,” McCann said.

    The work was satisfying, he says, noting that he was drawn to trial practice early on. At Georgetown, he often watched great attorneys in action, including the famous trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, who represented many high-profile clients.

    McCann started in the Milwaukee County DA’s office as prosecutor in 1963, but left to try private practice a year later. After 15 months, McCann returned to the Milwaukee DA’s office in 1966. Two years later, after winning the 1968 election at age 31, McCann was in charge.

    “I missed the fast action and activity in the DA’s office,” McCann said. “I enjoyed the intensity, and the humanity of it, working with victims, witnesses, defendants. I liked every aspect of it.”

    McCann became the longest running DA in the country, winning re-election the next four decades until his retirement in 2006, the year he lost his only felony trial. Boyle was on the other end of that case, representing one of three Milwaukee cops accused of brutally beating a man named Frank Jude Jr.

    Among his many accomplishments, McCann led successful criminal homicide prosecutions against corporations for reckless acts causing death, one involving a methane gas explosion that killed three people, another involving a Milwaukee laboratory that misread pap smears.

    “I tried to maintain the integrity and high ideals of the office,” said McCann, who also secured convictions against Dahmer and Antonio McAfee, who killed a police officer in 1996. “I was very fortunate to have excellent assistants during my time as DA.”

    McCann now concentrates on writing as a teaching fellow and adjunct professor of law at Marquette Law School, where he received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

    In 2007, McCann received the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement and a record of service to the profession and to the public.

    The career defense lawyer

    That 1968 election sealed McCann’s fate as a lifelong prosecutor. But it also sealed Boyle’s fate. Before that, Boyle (Marquette 1962) wasn’t as sure-footed about the path he was taking.

    “What does someone do with a philosophy degree and minors in Greek and Latin,” asked Boyle, joking that he chose Marquette because of the school’s fight song. “It was law school or sales.”

    Even after law school, Boyle wasn’t sure of his direction. He was lucky to get his first job as law clerk to former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Horace Wilkie (1962-76), he says.

    “I literally didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.

    He went on to serve as assistant legal counsel to then-Wisconsin Gov. John Reynolds until 1965, the year he joined the Milwaukee County DA’s office. In the three years that followed, Boyle crafted his trial skills, prosecuting major felony cases while moving up the ranks quickly.

    By 1968, he was first deputy district attorney to Milwaukee District Attorney Hugh O’Connell. “Hugh O’Connell taught me,” said Boyle. “He gave me the tough cases, and I went up against the best lawyers in Milwaukee, older guys who had been in the business many years.”

    So when Boyle left the district’s attorney’s office after the 1968 election, his criminal trial skills were in demand. The Bergenthal case was his first big one, but many more followed, including Dahmer and the highly publicized case against Green Bay Packer Mark Chmura, who was accused (but acquitted) of sexually assaulting a 17-year old girl at a post-prom party.

    Boyle says the spotlight was an exciting place to be, but he didn’t get too wrapped up in it. “I enjoyed the excitement, but I never got nuts about it,” Boyle said. “It’s a little meaningless. Other than recognizing it as an exciting part of the job, it didn’t carry the day for me.”

    Boyle, like McCann, has 50 years-worth of stories covering cases and events in Wisconsin history. He speaks warmly of mentors and friends, including opposing lawyers like McCann.

    “I met a lot of nice people, and I think I handled the job the way it should be handled. I made some mistakes, but I tried as hard as I could to not make them,” said Boyle, who cites being a family man as his greatest mission and achievement in life.

    Boyle, who still carries a full caseload at the Boyle Law Group, has no plans to retire. “I find it very hard to say no to someone who calls me on the phone needing my help,” he said. “As lawyers, it’s our job to help people. And I wouldn’t know what to do with myself anyway.”

    Other 50-year members

    The next issue of WisBar InsideTrack will profile other members of the 1962 class. The State Bar congratulates the following State Bar members who were admitted to practice law in 1962:

    F. Thomas Ament, Wauwatosa
    Thomas E. Anderson, Cross Plains
    John P. Arakelian, Milwaukee
    Albert J. Armonda, Burlington
    John A. Bach, Thiensville
    James F. Bakken, Madison
    Thomas J. Basting Sr., Madison
    Howard S. Bellman, Madison
    Marshall R. Berkoff, Milwaukee
    Joseph M. Bernstein, Milwaukee
    Thomas W. Bertz, Stevens Point
    Gerald P. Boyle, Milwaukee
    Stuart M. Brafman, Chevy Chase, Md.
    Kirby E. Brant, Madison
    Curtis Brewer, Oconomowoc
    George A. Brumder, Los Angeles
    Gerald L. Buckley Jr., Green Bay
    Ralph W. Bushnell, Madison
    Karl J. Canavesi, Rockford, Ill.
    John C. Carlson, Middleton
    Wayne F. Caskey, Dallas
    John T. Chapman, Brainerd, Minn.
    Myron M. Cherry, Chicago
    John E. Clarke, Madison
    James L. Cummings, Neenah
    George W. Curtis Jr., Oshkosh
    Roger Y. Dewa, Honolulu
    Leonard Dubin, Northridge, Calif.
    Phillip J. Eckert, West Bend
    James J. Ermert, Racine
    Allen J. Fagel, Chicago
    David C. Farr, Eau Claire
    Donald J. Fluegel, Hastings, Minn.
    Jerome Foreman, Highland Park, Ill.
    Robert H. Friebert, Milwaukee
    Gerald L. Friedman, Greenwich, Conn.
    Hon. Harold V. Froehlich, Appleton
    Henry C. Fuller, Rosholt
    John B. Furay, Los Angeles
    Harry L. Garwood, Haines City, Fla.
    Harold D. Gehrke, Shorewood
    Fred E. Gratke, Philadelphia
    Emanuel V. Gumina, Greendale
    Eric Hagerup, Baltimore, Md.
    David B. Halling, Mequon
    Olivia W. Hansen, Mequon
    Lawrence I. Hanson, Middleton
    James C. Hartwig, Fox Point
    M. Paul Hendrickson, Holmen
    C. Vernon Howard Jr., Madison
    Eugene Hutchinson, Chicago
    Robert L. Jackson Jr., Milwaukee
    George F. Jacobs Jr., Madison
    John R. Jacobs, Saint Paul, Minn.
    Thomas M. Jacobson, Milwaukee
    Leon E. Jensen, Appleton
    Donald L. Johnson, Chicago
    Joseph P. Jordan, Toledo, Ohio
    Allan Jay Joseph, San Francisco
    Richard J. Kamps, Marshfield
    Myron B. Katz, Milwaukee
    Hon. Robert A P Kennedy, Crandon
    Donald E. Knapp, Newark, N.J.
    William A. Knoeller, Alexandria, Va.
    Donald J. Kraemer, Diamondhead, Miss.
    Richard J. Kreul, Racine
    Carl Krueger, Menomonee Falls
    Hon. Daniel L. La Rocque, Madison

    Frederick A. Lake, Kalamazoo, Mich.
    Earle Lambert, Encino, Calif.
    C. William Lengacher, Alexandria, Va.
    Douglas H. Lenicheck, Wauwatosa
    Nathaniel S. Lepp, Kenosha
    James S. Levin, Milwaukee
    Robert S. Lindgren, Houston, Texas
    Scott V. Lowry, Port Charlotte, Fla.
    Charles R. Lund, Wauwatosa
    Donald W. MacDonald, Milwaukee
    Edward A Markus Jr., River Forest, Ill.
    Harry B. Maroney II, Madison
    John J. McCabe Jr., Thousand Oaks, Calif.
    Edward M. McCann, Milwaukee
    William E. McCarty, Saint George, Utah
    Hon. Richard B. McConnell, Knoxville, Texas
    James D. McWilliams, Oakland, Calif.
    Robert E. Meldman, Milwaukee
    Dale N. Miracle, Elm Grove
    Arthur M. Moglowsky, Milwaukee
    David M. Monson, Racine
    Charles C. Mulcahy, Milwaukee
    Donald R. Murphy, Madison
    Barry Musgrove, Sterling, Ill.
    John A. Neupert, Lake Mills
    Frank E. Niesen, Austin, Texas
    Kenneth G. Ogie, Milwaukee
    Richard M. Olk, Antigo
    Paul A. Pakalski, St. Pete Beach, Fla.
    Jack W. Patrick, Menomonee Falls
    Michael E. Phenner, Chicago
    Joseph F. Preloznik, ldwood, Fla.
    Paul Joseph Proteau, Riverside, Ill.
    Hon. Robert W. Radcliffe, Black River Falls
    T. J. Ralph, San Antonio
    Hon. C A. Richards, Hudson
    Herman C. Runge Jr., Collinsville, Ill.
    Herman D. Schacht, Beaver Dam
    Warren M. Schmidt, Brooklyn
    William E. Schwarz, Wauwatosa
    Robert K. Scott, Barrington, Ill.
    John L. Sellstrom, Jamestown, N.Y.
    William M. Shernoff. Claremont, Calif.
    Robert M. Sigman, Appleton
    James B. Sloan, Chicago
    Ronald P. Sokol, Puyricard, France
    Gerald M. Stein, Thiensville
    William J. Sullivan, Alexandria, Va.
    Robert W. Swain Jr., Appleton
    Samuel T. Swansen, Philadelphia
    Donald S. Taitelman, Milwaukee
    Louise G. Trubek, Madison
    Kent J. Vana, Ada, Mich.
    Michael R. Vaughan, Madison
    Clarence H. Veit, Oakland, Calif.
    Douglas J. Wadsworth, Madison
    Roger E. Walsh, Milwaukee
    Ruth J. Weber, Appleton
    Peter Weiss, Edina, Minn.
    David C. Wilcox Jr., Kingman, Ariz.
    John F. Wilcox, Eau Claire
    Hon. Joseph E. Wimmer, Waukesha
    Richard T. Winter, Antigo
    Alfred L. Wolff, Reston, Va.
    Harry F. Worth Jr., Broomfield, Colo.
    John G. Wylie, Appleton
    Keith A. Yelinek, Madison
    Stephen E. Zwicky, Evansville

Join the conversation! Log in to comment.

News & Pubs Search

Format: MM/DD/YYYY