Daniel James White
(September 2, 1946 – October 21, 1985) was the former San Francisco
Supervisor (in San Francisco, a combination of city councillor and
county supervisor) who assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor
George Moscone on November 27, 1978 at City Hall.
Milk was the first publicly
homosexual man or woman to be elected to the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors, and was the third known openly gay elected official (the
first man) anywhere in the United States.
White and Milk were both freshman
members of the Board of Supervisors under the new district election
system, and they both represented areas of San Francisco whose
populations had been historically ignored by the local government.
Milk's district included the
predominantly gay and lesbian Castro District, while White represented a
district near the City's southern boundary that was predominantly
lower-income working-class people.
White had previously been a member of
the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Fire
Department. Milk owned and operated a camera store on Castro Street,
which he sold upon election to the Board of Supervisors.
Prior to 2003, members of the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors were only paid part-time salaries. In
1977, the annual salary for a Supervisor was less than $12,000.
Frustrated with the nature of San
Francisco politics, and finding it impossible to support his family on
the meager salary, Dan White resigned his seat on the Board of
Supervisors in November 1978, about a week before Thanksgiving.
A few days later, after several of
his friends and constituents assured him that his efforts had not been
in vain and that his voice was still needed on the Board of Supervisors,
White approached Mayor George Moscone and asked to be re-appointed to
his seat on the Board. (In San Francisco, vacancies on the Board of
Supervisors are temporarily filled by the Mayor until the expiration of
the seat's original term.)
On Monday, November 27, 1978, White
loaded his gun and went to City Hall. He entered through a basement
window that had been widely known to be left open.
He proceeded to the Mayor's office,
where Moscone was conferring with Willie Brown, then Speaker of the
California Assembly. Brown left through a back exit and Moscone saw
White asked Moscone if he would be
re-appointed to his seat on the Board of Supervisors. When Moscone said
no, White took out his gun and shot the Mayor five times at point blank
range. At least one of the shots was administered execution-style.
White then re-loaded his gun and went
down the corridor to Harvey Milk's office. As Milk arose from his seat
to greet White, he, too, was shot multiple times at point blank range.
White then fled City Hall and later turned himself in at the police
station where he was formerly an officer. There are reports that his old
colleagues cheered and applauded him when he arrived to surrender.
The news of Milk's assassination
prompted an impromptu, peaceful vigil and procession down Market Street,
from The Castro to City Hall.
The Twinkie defense
White's trial in 1979 was famous for
inventing the so-called "Twinkie defense." In a highly emotional
confession that had been videotaped and used by the prosecution, White
was barely coherent as he explained his reasons for assassinating
Moscone and Milk.
White's defense relied significantly
on problems in his home life, especially that he was under a great deal
of stress and had been eating an inordinate amount of junk food.
The public's perception that White's
defense counsel was arguing that White was somehow not responsible for
his actions by reason of ingestion of too much sugar, produced the
infamous term The Twinkie Defense.
In any event, it may not have been
any such mitigating factors, so much as the pathetic image White
presented on the videotaped confession — possibly combined with feelings
of homophobia toward Milk, which led the jury to find him guilty of
voluntary manslaughter instead of first degree murder, notwithstanding
the signs of his pre-meditation (e.g. going to City Hall with the gun
already loaded, deliberately avoiding the metal detector and then
stopping to re-load after killing Moscone).
The San Francisco gay community felt
particularly aggrieved by the verdict, denouncing it as being
incongruent with the facts of the murders. Initially stunned, another
vigil and march dissolved into violence — especially violence against
police vehicles in the Civic Center area (because White had previously
been a member of the SFPD).
The SFPD, in turn, responded with
what some called a "full-force invasion" of The Castro District later
that evening. Officers entered nightclubs with truncheons bared,
assaulting patrons left and right, most of whom had not taken part in
any of the earlier violence. This episode of San Francisco history is
known as the White Night Riots.
Imprisonment and death
White served five years at Soledad
State Prison, and was paroled on January 6, 1984. Fearing he might be
murdered in retaliation for his crimes, California State Corrections
Officials secretly transported White to Los Angeles, where he was to
serve a year's parole.
After satisfying the terms of his
parole, White indicated he wanted to return to San Francisco, which
prompted Mayor Dianne Feinstein to issue a public statement formally
asking White not to return. Nevertheless, he did return.
White found it impossible to return
to any semblance of a happy life, however. A further child had been born
while he was in prison, subsequent to conjugal visits. This child was
born with disabilities, and it is thought that White may have believed
the affliction was a divine punishment for killing Moscone and Milk.
In any case, his marriage was not
salvageable, almost no one in San Francisco was particularly happy to
see him back, and he became increasingly depressed.
On October 21, 1985, less than two
years after his release from prison, White committed suicide by carbon
monoxide poisoning in his wife's garage by running a garden hose from
the exhaust pipe to the inside of his car. The body was discovered by
White's brother, Tom, shortly before 2 p.m. the same day.
The Dead Kennedys sang about
White and the assassinations to Sonny Curtis' "I Fought the Law" on
their album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. A photo
from the White Night Riot also appears as the album cover of the
Dead Kennedys' first LP Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.
was portrayed by actor Tim Daly in the 1999 Showtime film
Execution of Justice which chronicled the events leading to the
assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.
"Dan" White (September 2, 1946 – October 21,
1985) was a San Francisco supervisor who assassinated San Francisco
Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, on Monday, November 27,
1978, at City Hall.
In a controversial verdict that led
to the coining of the legal slang "Twinkie defense," White was convicted
of manslaughter rather than murder in the deaths of Milk and Moscone.
Less than two years after serving a sentence of five years, White
returned to San Francisco and committed suicide. San Francisco Weekly
has referred to White as "perhaps the most hated man in San Francisco's
Daniel James White was born in Los Angeles County,
the second of nine children. He was raised by working-class parents in a
Roman Catholic household in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood of San
Francisco. He attended Riordan High School and was expelled for violence
during his junior year. He went on to attend Woodrow Wilson High School
where he was valedictorian of his class. He enlisted in the Army in 1965
and served in the Vietnam War before being honorably discharged in 1972.
He worked as a security professional at A.J. Dimond High School in
Anchorage, Alaska during early 1972. He returned to San Francisco to
work as a police officer. He quit the force after reporting another
officer for beating a handcuffed suspect.
White then joined the San Francisco Fire Department.
While on duty, White's rescue of a woman and her baby from a seventh-floor
apartment in the Geneva Towers was covered by The San Francisco
Chronicle. The city's newspapers referred to him as "an all-American
Election as supervisor
In 1977, White was
elected as a Democrat to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from
District 8, which included several neighborhoods near the southeastern
limits of San Francisco. At this time, supervisors were elected by
district and not "at-large," as they had been before and then again in
the 1980s and 1990s. He had strong support from the police and
firefighter's unions. His district was described by The New York
Times as "a largely white, middle-class section that is hostile to
the growing homosexual community of San Francisco." As a supervisor,
White openly saw himself as the board's "defender of the home, the
family and religious life against homosexuals, pot smokers and cynics."
Tenure as a
Despite their personal differences, White and
Supervisor Harvey Milk initially had several areas of political
agreement and they reportedly worked well together. Milk was one of
three supervisors invited to the baptism of White's newborn child
shortly after the election. White also persuaded Dianne Feinstein to
appoint Milk chairman of the Streets and Transportation Committee.
The Catholic Church proposed a facility for juvenile
offenders who had committed murder, arson, rape, and other crimes in
White's district in April 1978. White was strongly opposed, while Milk
supported the facility, and this difference led to a conflict between
the two. White held a mixed record on gay rights issues, both opposing
the Briggs Initiative and voting against an ordinance prohibiting anti-gay
housing and employment discrimination.
After his disagreement with Milk over the proposed
rehab center, White frequently clashed with Milk as well as other
members of the board. On November 10, 1978, White resigned his seat as
supervisor. The reasons he cited were his dissatisfaction with what he
saw as the corrupt inner-workings of San Francisco city politics, as
well as the difficulty in making a living without a police officer's or
firefighter's salary, jobs he could not hold legally while serving as
supervisor. White had opened a baked-potato stand at Pier 39, which
failed to become profitable. He reversed his resignation on November 14,
1978 after his supporters lobbied him to seek appointment from George
Moscone initially agreed to White's
request, but later refused the appointment at the urging of Milk and
others. On November 27, 1978, White visited San Francisco City Hall to
meet with the mayor and make a final plea to get his job back. He
arrived that day by climbing through a first-floor window on the side of
City Hall carrying a loaded gun and 10 rounds of ammunition. By entering
the building through the window, White was able to circumvent the
recently installed metal detectors. After entering Moscone's office,
White pleaded to be re-instated as supervisor, but Moscone said no.
White then killed Moscone by shooting him in the shoulder, chest, and
twice in the head. He reloaded his weapon and walked to the other side
of City Hall to Milk's office, fatally shooting him five times, the
final two shots fired with the gun's barrel touching Milk's skull,
according to the coroner. White then fled City Hall, turning himself in
at the San Francisco's Northern Police Station where he had been a
police officer. While being interviewed by investigators, White recorded
a tearful confession, stating, "I just shot him."
At the trial, White's defense team
argued that his mental state at the time of the killings was one of
diminished capacity due to depression. They argued, therefore, he was
not capable of premeditating the killings, and thus was not legally
guilty of first-degree murder. Forensic psychiatrist Martin Blinder
testified that White was suffering from depression and pointed to
several behavioral symptoms of that depression, including the fact that
White had gone from being highly health-conscious to consuming sugary
foods and drinks. When the prosecution played a recording of White's
confession, several jurors wept as they listened to what was described
as "a man pushed beyond his endurance."
Many people familiar with City Hall
claimed that it was common to enter through the window to save time. A
police officer friend of White claimed to reporters that several
officials carried weapons at this time and speculated that White carried
the extra ammunition as a habit that police officers had. The jury found
White guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.
Outrage within San Francisco's gay community over the resulting seven-year
sentence sparked the city's White Night Riots; general disdain for the
outcome of the court case led to the elimination of California's "diminished
White served five years of his seven-year sentence at
Soledad State Prison and was paroled on January 6, 1984. Fearing White
might be murdered in retaliation for his crimes, California State
Corrections Officials secretly transported him to Los Angeles, where he
served a year's parole. At the expiration of that year, White sought to
return to San Francisco; Mayor Dianne Feinstein issued a public
announcement of his plans, and a statement formally asking White not to
return. White did move back to San Francisco and attempted to rebuild
his life with his wife and children. His marriage soon ended.
On October 21, 1985, less than two
years after his release from prison, White committed suicide by carbon
monoxide poisoning in his garage by running a garden hose from the
exhaust pipe to the inside of his car. White's body was discovered by
his brother, Thomas, shortly before 2 p.m. the same day.
White was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in
San Bruno, California, with a traditional government-furnished headstone
issued for war veterans. He was survived by his two sons (seven and four
years old), and an infant daughter.
In 1998, Frank Falzon, the homicide
inspector with the San Francisco police to whom White had turned himself
in after the killings, said that he met White in 1984, and that at this
meeting White had confessed that he had the intention to kill not only
Moscone and Milk, but another supervisor, Carol Ruth Silver, and then-member
of the California State Assembly (and future San Francisco Mayor) Willie
Brown. Falzon quoted White as having said, "I was on a mission. I wanted
four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake ... and
Willie Brown, he was masterminding the whole thing." In 1975, Brown had
authored the bill that legalized homosexuality in California. Falzon
indicated that he believed White, stating, "I felt like I had been hit
by a sledge-hammer ... I found out it was a premeditated murder".
Portrayals in media
The story of the assassinations is told in the
Academy Award-winning documentary film The Times of Harvey Milk
(1984), which came out a year before White committed suicide.
White's life, the assassinations, and his trial are
covered in the 1984 book Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall
Killings by Mike Weiss, which won the Edgar Award as Best True
Crime Book of the Year. An expanded second edition, Double Play:
The Double Assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, was
issued in 2010 and updated White's story to include his life after
prison and his suicide. The second edition also includes a DVD with a
half-hour video interview of White.
Execution of Justice, a play by Emily Mann,
chronicles the events leading to the assassinations. In 1999, the play
was adapted to film for cable network Showtime, with Tim Daly
The song "Special Treatment for the Family Man" by
San Francisco band Tuxedomoon is a comment on the trial and verdict.
The assassinations were the basis for a scene in
the 1987 science fiction movie RoboCop in which a deranged
former municipal official holds the Mayor and others hostage and
demands his job back.
Actor Josh Brolin was nominated for an Academy
Award for playing Dan White in Gus Van Sant's 2008 biopic Milk,
which opened with wide release from Focus Features. The film suggests
that Milk believed White may have been a closeted gay man. However,
there is no evidence to suggest that Dan White was homosexual.
Court psychiatrist Martin Blinder, M.D. devoted a
chapter of his 1985 book Lovers, Killers, Husbands and Wives to
the Dan White case, including interviews. The book was written prior
to White's release and suicide.
White, The City Hall Killer
what happened when politics went bad in 1978 for San Francisco's Mayor
Moscone after he replaced a staunchly anti-gay supervisor, Dan White,
with an openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk.
White shot dead America’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey
Milk, and the San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in November 1978, the
case caused a sensation that would go down in history as the “Twinkie
Defense” and make Milk into a gay icon.
Daniel James White was born on 2nd September 1946 in San Francisco. He
was the second of nine children and often described as an “an
all-American boy”. At high school he excelled in sports and went on to
serve in the Vietnam War as a paratrooper. He returned home to work
first as a policeman and then as a fireman in San Francisco and, in 1977
he was elected onto the Board of Supervisors.
a conservative who was troubled by growing official tolerance of overt
homosexuality and crime. He represented a district of predominantly poor
white working class people and became part of a loosely formed coalition
to oppose Mayor George Moscone and his liberal ideas, having frequent
disagreements on policy with fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk.
1970s many psychiatrists still considered homosexuality to be a mental
illness and there was no real national gay organisation. Moscone was an
early supporter of gay rights and had managed to abolish a law against
sodomy. He was also the first mayor to appoint large numbers of minority
groups, including gays and lesbians, to influential positions within San
the first openly gay man to be elected to an official position of any
significance in America. He had previously served in the Korean War and
when he returned to Manhattan he become a Wall Street investment banker.
He soon tired of it though and befriended gay radicals who frequented
Milk moved to The Castro, the heart of San Franciso’s gay community,
where he ran for election as a city supervisor three times before he
succeeded. His relentless pursuit for attention led Milk to be dismissed
as a publicity whore by many, but he knew that the root cause of the gay
predicament was invisibility and the gay community nicknamed him ‘The
Mayor of Castro Street’.
joining the Board, Dan White was forced to resign his job as a fireman
due to a provision in the city charter that barred anybody from holding
two city jobs. He started a restaurant business, but it failed due to
the pressures of being a councillor. Finding it impossible to support
his family on the meager Supervisor’s salary of $9,600 a year and the
increasing back seat he felt he was being forced into by Moscone, Milk
and other progressive Board members, he abruptly resigned his seat after
Milk's gay rights bill got passed. White had opposed it.
colleagues and constituents influenced his decision to protest at the
position he found himself and retract his resignation. White approached
Moscone and asked to be re-appointed to the Board and, although Moscone
considered White’s plea, he had already been strongly influenced by Milk
and other Board members to appoint another liberal, Federal Housing
official Don Horanzy, instead.
November 1978, Dan White went to City Hall with a loaded .38 revolver.
In order to avoid the metal detectors he entered through a basement
window that had been negligently left open for ventilation.
to the Mayor's office where the two men began arguing until Moscone
suggested going to a more private room so that they couldn’t be heard.
Once there, Moscone refused to re-appoint him and White shot the Mayor
twice in the chest and twice in the head.
went down the corridor and shot Milk, twice in the chest, once in the
back and twice again in the head. Soon after he turned himself in at the
police station where he used to work and there are reports that his old
colleagues cheered and applauded him when he arrived.
trial in 1979 it was revealed that White also planned to assassinate
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and fellow supervisor and attorney Carol
Ruth Silver, but couldn’t find them.
videotaped confession he came across as a pathetic man who was barely
able to explain why he had assassinated his colleagues. His defence
lawyer Douglas R. Schmidt claimed he had acted in the heat of passion
and not out of malice. He made a plea of “diminished capacity”, due to
extreme stress in White’s home life and depression. Whilst describing
White’s emotional state, psychiatrist Martin Blinder, one of five
defence therapists, explained that in the days leading up to the
shootings White grew slovenly and abandoned his usual healthy diet and
indulged in a diet of sugary junk food like Coke, doughnuts and Twinkies
Newspapers across the country picked up on a great headline and today
the term “Twinkie defense” is a derogatory label implying that a
criminal defence is artificial or absurd.
found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree
murder, despite his obvious pre-meditation. White was sentenced to a
maximum of seven years and eight months in prison and never expressed
public remorse for the murders.
demonstrations by Castro’s gay community outside City Hall turned
violent. 5,000 policemen responded by entering nightclubs armed with
truncheons and assaulting patrons. 124 people were injured, including 59
policemen. The episode is known in history as “The White Night Riots”.
White served five years at Soledad State Prison and was released on
parole on 6th January 1984. He lived undercover away from his family in
Los Angeles for a year and then asked to return to San Francisco. New
Mayor Dianne Feinstein issued a public statement asking him not to.
Daniel James White
Birthplace: Long Beach, CA
Location of death: San Francisco, CA
Cause of death: Suicide
Remains: Buried, Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal, Government
Executive summary: Assassinated George Moscone and Harvey Milk
shot and killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone at San Francisco City
Hall on 27 November 1978. Less well known is the fact that Willie Brown
was also on White's hit list that night, and narrowly escaped certain
death by just a matter of minutes.
assassinations were the killings of San Francisco
Mayor George Moscone and openly gay San Francisco
Supervisor Harvey Milk, who were shot and killed in San
Francisco City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White on 27
White was angry that
Moscone refused to re-appoint him to his just-resigned
Board of Supervisor's seat, and that Milk heavily
lobbied against the re-appointment. Milk was (according
to Time magazine) "the first openly gay man
elected to any substantial political office in the
history of the planet," leading to speculation from
within the LGBT community as well as media and political
circles that his assassination was a hate crime. These
events also accelerated the political career of Dianne
Feinstein, one of White's allies on the Board, who
became mayor of San Francisco and eventually U.S.
Senator for California.
White was subsequently convicted of
voluntary manslaughter, rather than of first degree
murder. The verdict sparked the "White Night Riots" in
San Francisco, and led to the state of California
abolishing the diminished capacity criminal defense,
which had been described by the media during White's
trial as the "Twinkie defense".
White had been a San Francisco police
officer, and later a firefighter. He and Milk were each
elected to the Board of Supervisors in the 1977
elections, which introduced district-based seats and
ushered in the "most diverse Board the city has even
seen". The city charter prevented anyone from holding
two city jobs simultaneously, so White resigned from his
higher-paying job with the fire department.
With regard to business development
issues, the 11-member board was roughly split 6-5 in
favor of pro-growth advocates including White, over
those who advocated the more neighborhood-oriented
approach favored by Mayor Moscone. Debate among the
Board members was sometimes acrimonious and saw the
conservative White verbally sparring with liberal
supervisors Milk and Carol Ruth Silver amongst others.
Much of Moscone's agenda of neighborhood revitalization
and increased city support programs was thwarted or
modified in favor of the business-oriented agenda
supported by the pro-growth majority on the Board.
Further tension between White and
Milk arose with Milk's vote in favor of placing a group
home within White's district. Subsequently, White would
cast the only vote in opposition to San Francisco's
landmark gay rights ordinance, passed by the Board and
signed by Moscone in 1978. Dissatisfied with the
workings of city politics, and in financial difficulty
due to his failing restaurant business and his low
salary as a supervisor, White resigned from the Board on
November 10, 1978. The mayor would appoint his successor,
which alarmed some of the city's business interests and
White's constituents, as it meant Moscone could tip the
balance of power on the Board as well as appoint a
liberal representative for the more conservative
district. White's supporters urged him to rescind his
resignation by requesting reappointment from Moscone and
promised him some financial support. Meanwhile Moscone
was lobbied not to reappoint by some of the more
progressive city leaders, most notably Milk, Silver, and
then-California assemblyman Willie Brown.
On 18 November, news broke of the
mass deaths of members of Peoples Temple in Jonestown.
Prior to the group's move to Guyana, Peoples Temple had
been based in San Francisco, thus most of the dead were
recent Bay Area residents, including Leo Ryan, the
United States Congressman who was murdered in the
incident. The city was plunged into mourning, and the
issue of White's vacant Board of Supervisors seat was
pushed aside for several days.
Moscone ultimately decided to appoint
Don Horanzy, a more progressive federal housing official,
rather than re-appointing White. On Monday, November 27,
1978, the day Moscone was set to formally appoint
Horanzy to the vacant seat, White packed his loaded
service revolver from his work as a police officer and
ten extra rounds of ammunition into his coat pocket, and
had an unsuspecting friend drive him to San Francisco
City Hall. Once there, White slipped into City Hall
through a basement window, avoiding City Hall's metal
detectors. He proceeded to the mayor's office, where
Moscone was conferring with Brown.
White requested a meeting with the
mayor and was allowed to see him when Moscone's meeting
with Brown ended. As White entered Moscone's outer
office, Brown exited through a different door. Moscone
met White in the outer office, where White asked again
to be re-appointed to his former seat on the Board of
Supervisors. Moscone declined, and their conversation
turned into a heated argument over Horanzy's pending
Wishing to avoid a public scene,
Moscone suggested they retire to a private lounge
attached to the mayor's office, so they would not be
overheard by those waiting outside. Once inside the
small room, White pulled his revolver and shot the mayor
twice in the abdomen. White then shot Moscone twice more
in the head.
White reloaded his weapon and left
the office, observed by supervisor Dianne Feinstein, who
attempted to engage him in conversation. Brushing her
off, White made his way to the opposite side of City
Hall and down a corridor to Milk's office. There he
asked for a private conference in an adjacent room,
where he confronted Milk. According to White, the
supervisor smirked at White and told him "too bad" about
the Horanzy appointment.
White reported that he began to
scream at Milk and that Milk then rose from his seat.
White then pulled his gun and shot the supervisor
multiple times: three times in the chest, once in the
back, and two times again in the head. Feinstein
discovered Milk's body, but attempts to resuscitate him
were in vain.
White fled City Hall unchallenged and
eventually turned himself in to Frank Falzon and another
detective, former co-workers at his former precinct. He
then recorded a statement in which he acknowledged
shooting Moscone and Milk, but denied premeditation,
despite his choice to carry a gun, to carry extra
ammunition, to reload after the first killing, and to
circumvent metal detectors.
Aftermath of the shootings
An impromptu candlelight march
started in The Castro leading to the City Hall steps.
Tens of thousands attended. Joan Baez led "Amazing Grace,"
and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus sang a solemn
hymn by Felix Mendelssohn. Upon learning of the
assassinations, singer/songwriter Holly Near composed "Singing
For Our Lives", a.k.a. "Song For Harvey Milk".
Moscone and Milk both lay in state at
San Francisco City Hall. Moscone's funeral at St Mary's
Cathedral was attended by 4,500 people. He was buried at
Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. Milk was cremated and his
ashes were spread across the Pacific Ocean. Dianne
Feinstein, as president of the Board of Supervisors,
succeeded to the Mayor's office.
and its aftermath
White was tried for first degree
murder with special circumstance, a crime which
potentially carried the death penalty in California.
White's defense team claimed that he was depressed and
that this was evidenced by, among other things, his
eating of unhealthy foods. This would give rise to the
legal term Twinkie defense. They argued that
White's depression led to a state of mental diminished
capacity, leaving him unable to have formed the
premeditation necessary to commit first-degree murder.
The jury accepted these arguments, and White was found
guilty of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter.
The verdict proved to be
controversial. In particular, many in the gay community
were outraged by the verdict and the resulting reduced
prison sentence. Since Milk had been homosexual, many
felt that homophobia had been a motivating factor in
White's attack upon Milk and/or in the jury's failing to
convict White of murder. This groundswell of anger
sparked the city's White Night Riots.
The unpopular verdict also ultimately
led to a change in California state law which ended the
diminished capacity defense.
White was paroled in 1984 and
committed suicide less than two years later. In 1998,
the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco
magazine reported that Frank Falzon, a homicide
detective with the San Francisco police, claimed to have
met with White in 1984. Falzon further claimed that at
that meeting, White confessed that not only was his
killing of Moscone and Milk premeditated, but that he
had actually planned to kill Silver and Brown as well.
Falzon quoted White as having said, "I was on a mission.
I wanted four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the
biggest snake ... and Willie Brown, he was masterminding
the whole thing." Falzon, who had been a friend of
White's and who had taken White's initial statement at
the time White turned himself in, said that he believed