Peeps in Law: Dan White on-trial for the Murder of Harvey Milk & George Moscone
Every year the American Bar Association Journal hosts “Peeps in Law,” a diorama contest featuring famous scenes recreated with Peep marshmallows. Find the gallery of Peeps here: http://www.abajournal.com/gallery/peeps2017/
Thanks to Marleigh Green for designing and creating our diorama.
Dan White was a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. On November 27, 1978 Mr. White assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at the San Francisco City Hall after Moscone had refused to reappoint him his seat on the Board of Supervisors.
During the trial, White’s attorneys claimed that his depression led to White’s diminished mental capacity, leaving him unable to premeditate the murders and thusly not culpable for first-degree murder (which carries a potential death-sentence in California). The jury was convinced, especially after hearing an emotionally-charged confession from the culprit, and instead charged White with voluntary-manslaughter, a lesser crime. Dan White was sentenced to 7 years in prison, only serving 5 years after parole.
The defense became infamous due to an analysis of White’s eating habits which showed he had recently begun ingesting unhealthy, sugary foods despite being previously very health-conscious. This gave rise to what is called “The Twinkie Defense,” by the media.
The verdict sparked the White Night Riots in San Francisco on May 21, 1979. Violence erupted around City Hall as protestors gathered to voice their disdain for the result, shouting slogans like “Kill Dan White!” One protestor shouted to a reporter as he ignited a police car “Make sure you put in the paper that I ate too many twinkies!”
Dan White committed suicide shortly after being released from prison.
The legacy of Harvey Milk continues-on in the city of San Francisco and among the LGBTQ community. Despite only 11 months in elected office, Milk became a city icon and martyr in the gay community. He was the first openly-gay person to be elected to public office in California, and was responsible for the passage of important gay-rights ordinances in the city of San Francisco. His life was subject of a feature-length-film biopic entitled Milk featuring Sean Penn as the starring role. Harvey Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.