D A N   W H I T E
He got away with Murder!

Dan White

DAN WHITE was a typical all-American-boy born and raised in San Francisco. He was a policeman and then a fireman and then ran for Supervisor in the heavily conservative Irish-Catholic working class neighborhood known as District 8. He promised to restore traditional values to San Francisco city government. He promised to rid San Francisco of "radicals, social deviates, and incorrigibles".

At that time, Supervisors were considered part-time employees and were paid $9,800 per year. White soon found that he could not support his family on that small salary. and in November 1978, having been in office less than a year, White submitted his resignation to the Mayor. There were 11 members of the Board of Supervisors. Six of them, including White, were conservative, and were able to block many liberal measures. The liberals, especially Harvey Milk, were elated at the news of his resignation. The mayor, a liberal, had the authority to appoint a replacement supervisor!

On hearing of his resignation, the conservative Police Officers Association and Board of Realtors urged White to change his mind and offered to help him financially. Moscone's first reaction was to allow White to change his mind, but Milk went to his friend the mayor, and reminded him of all his proposals that had been defeated because of the 6-5 conservative majority. Milk also reminded Moscone that White was the only actively anti-gay person on the board and that Moscone was up for re-election the following year. Without the Gay vote, he would have difficulty being re-elected.

Moscone promised to announce his decision on Monday morning, November 27th, but made no effort to keep his decision against White secret. However, he did not bother to contact White at any time during the weekend. By Monday morning White's rage had reached a peak and he loaded his gun and went downtown. He entered City Hall through an open basement window to avoid the metal detectors at the entrances. He went first to Moscone's office and shot him in the chest and then delivered a bullet to the head at close range as the mayor lay dying on the floor. As he walked down the corridor to the Supervisors' offices on the other end of the building, he reloaded his gun. He asked Harvey for a few minutes in private and led him into his former office where he slew him in the same manner including two bullets to the brain.

Dan White left City Hall without further incident. He then called his wife, Mary Ann, and asked her to meet him at Saint Mary's Cathedral, several blocks from City Hall. Together they walked to Northern Station, where he turned himself in. Reportedly, when news of the murders reached the police department, the policemen in the building responded with cheers and applause. Homicide Inspector Frank Falzon conducted the interrogation of his friend Dan White and took the confession. This took about half an hour. Ex-cop White was treated like a friend and a hero by the policemen that dealt with him. Randy Shilts, author of the book "The Mayor of Castro Street", quotes White as having said to a gay newspaper man a few days earlier; "I've got a real surprise for the gay community - a real surprise."

BUTTON White's defense was based on diminished capacity to understand that what he was doing was wrong. It was argued that White's self-imposed isolation, his inattention to grooming, lack of sexual contact with his wife, and a diet of too much junk food during that weekend triggered this condition. It climaxed on Monday morning in a crime of passion in which White was driven to kill Moscone and Milk. Unfairly, perhaps, it came to be known as "The Twinkie Defense". The defense put on a show of White's good qualities and fine moral character. The prosecution offered no objections and performed in a lackluster manner. They never introduced politics or homophobia as motives. The verdict was Voluntary Manslaughter. The sentence was 7 years.

Dan White was paroled from Soledad Prison on January 6, 1984 after serving a minimal sentence for manslaughter. He committed suicide on October 21, 1985.

The above is my recollection of the events. Trial info is based in part on statements made by the defense lawyers, found on the "Special Features" disk included with the DVD version of "The Times of Harvey Milk".

This page created June 19, 1996 and updated July 13, 2008
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