updated 11/8/2010 1:29:08 PM ET 2010-11-08T18:29:08

An Ohio man was excused from jury service after mentioning he was a childhood friend of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

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John Backderf was among prospective jurors being screened last week by a judge in Cleveland.

When asked if he'd known anyone convicted of a crime, Backderf responded: "I had a close friend in high school who killed 17 people."

The Plain Dealer reports Monday the answer caused the judge to freeze and lawyers to drop their pens. Backderf explained he knew Dahmer, who was raised in northeast Ohio.

Backderf is a graphic novelist about to publish "My Friend Dahmer." He was dismissed from the jury list.

Dahmer confessed to killing and dismembering men and boys in Milwaukee. An inmate killed him in a Wisconsin prison in 1994.

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