tv Book TV CSPAN August 7, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
thousands of students to be practitioners and counselors and millions of americans over the course of all of their career. i teach courses on the history of the welfare state. i also teach courses on issues of place in poverty and in the spring i am teaching a course on nonprofits and social innovation which will try to connect students to the emerging strategies of techniques for creating more effective programs and organizations in the current economic environment. >> what drew you to the social service sector? >> it's an interesting question. when i was at college my dad lost his job, and he didn't have a college degree and was hard for him to find work. i was at a point i was trying to think about what i wanted to do into a class on social welfare policy from a professor in minnesota, larry jacobs, and the content connected with me and i saw a way to take what i was interested in academically and translate into things that might matter to real people like my
dad and and it's been a real privilege to be able to study something that not only is interesting and contributes to policy which has a social good in the long term. >> who designed the cover of the book and why is it decided the way it is? >> it's an interesting design. i get all the credit to the yale university press. the graphic designers came up with it. if you notice the ploch title is a little bit off the page, kind of symbolizing how out of reach social assistance has become for many working poor americans. >> professor scott allard is the author of "out of reach please, poverty and the new america welfare state." he joined booktv at the university of chicago. up next, a journalist mike weiss talks with the killing of san francisco mayor george moscone and harvey milk by dan
white in november of 1970. this is about one hour. >> good evening and welcome to tonight's meeting of the commonwealth club of california. i am stephen seewer and i will be the moderator for tonight's program. we also welcome our listening audience and invite everyone to visit us at commonwealthclub.org. our speaker is journalist and author mike weiss. in 1978 and 1979, mike did extensive report on the assassination of mayor george moscone and supervisor harvey milk while working for rolling stone and "time" magazine. tonight mike is here to discuss his award winning book, "double play" the hidden passion behind the assassination of george moscone and harvey milk. it plays about the time in the city's history that is iconic, formative and devastating.
"double play" provides an intimate look into the lives of three men who came to the city hall from divergent paths. details of the city hall impacted them and the ease and leading to the tragic assassinations. mike's research is astounding and his perceptions are poignant with great compassion for the shocking events of the day. mike weiss was an award winning reporter for the san francisco chronicle and is a recipient of the edgar award from the mystery writers of america for his narrative account of the assassinations. please welcome mike weiss. [applause] >> thank you, stephen and the members of the club for inviting me.
i'm trade least to be here and i want to assure you i'm going to let everybody out of here before dark which is not a problem, it's the longest day of the year. [laughter] what i'm going to do tonight is simply recreate the assassinations and the trial that followed in the events that followed that leading through the time of dan white's suicide and try to answer some of the questions that i know still trouble people who think about this sad event in the city's history. when dan white went to the city hall to assassinate george moscone and his fellow supervisor, harvey milk come he definitely had a plan. he was very methodical in its preparation and its execution. he wheeled his gun, he filled the gun what five cartridges and
then took ten extra cartridges out of their styrofoam slots, which involves pulling each one of individual. he couldn't just dump them, brought them and put them and handkerchiefs. he shaved, showered, he put on a suit and tie. he told the aide who came to pick him up on his way to the city hall that he planned to give george and harvey peace of his mind. he borrowed denise's car keys so there was a getaway vehicle ready. he entered the city hall through the port st. steps, saw that the policemen on the metal detector was not known to him. he knew we loved copps. he had been caught himself and was the city's supervisors of course he went outside, found a window on the side of the building, climbed through the window, went up the back staircase, hesitate again at the door of the mayor's office because he knew on the other side of the door was the mayor's
security, we did for a clerk to come along, the door was open and he stuck in the back door. he killed george moscone by emptying his former service revolver into him. the last two shots he straddled moscone's fallen body and put the shots in the back of his head and then did something similar across the city hall. reloaded, crossed the city hall, assassinated harvey in exactly the same way. and he even provided a kind of explanation for what had happened. he had ripped off and put into his jacket pocket the cover, fly leaf of a book by leon year is called "ireland a terrible beauty," and when he turned himself in at number station, and he was asked if he had anything to say, he simply handed over that piece of paper that he was carrying in his pocket as an explanation. am i talking loud enough to be
heard? good. at his trial, several months after these carefully planned and executed events -- a lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter dan white would serve only about six years in state prison. that might come the night of his verdict, city hall came under attack. in my entire life i don't think i've ever seen anything that gave me more shivers than what happened at city hall on the night of the dan white verdict. hundreds and hundreds of people come many thousands came, but hundreds and hundreds feeling exposed and vulnerable and frightened the and furious literally attacked the seat of government. they knocked down pieces of stone and metal and smashed the windows and they set afire nine police cars so that the whole scene to call me phantasmagoric
aspect. you had the light of the burning cars and sirens bleeding and the crowd chanting copps and protestors fighting each other literally in the street. it wasn't a riot, it was a fight. at any rate, i had been there for every day of the trial, and i was there again in the civic center that might. and after the trial, i felt very strongly the trial itself failed to provide satisfactory answers to most of the questions that san franciscans had about those terrible events. the trial in the end didn't tell you a great deal about why dan white assassinate harvey milk, his fellow officeholder. it certainly didn't get into any question of whether harvey was killed because he was gay. the question still i think clinkers in many people's minds.
was this what we would nowadays call a crime? we also wonder if the time how dan white got away with it so clearly seemed to be cold-blooded murder. as we boise, he eventually confessed to his having a plan on that day. but there was many years later after justice or injustice had been done. so, to answer those questions that i undertook to write the book, george moscone was a native san franciscan. he served in the state senate where he rose to a leadership position. he was a little bit of what we would call into leader years a prince of the city. he drove an hour for a male and he closed many of joint throughout the town. as his good friend willie brown said about george you know
george, the only problem is when he has had two drinks he thinks he is invisible. and george was swept into office and he won in 1976 with the backing of gays and neighborhood organizations, with a new force in city politics that was spearheaded by the brothers and their democratic machine. george moscone was part and parcel of that. harvey milk's background was different. he came from new york. he was a smart new york jew, like to crack wise and he had a background in finance and theater. he'd been in the navy, he played football in high school. but eventually, he became the rosa parks of the gay movement. he was the fellow that step up and went to the front of the boss and said i'm going to be a city supervisor.
i'm gay and i'm going to be elected. and of course, he was, which was quite an extraordinary thing. especially because a bad time in the city come in the mid-70s, san francisco was undergoing an integration crisis. maybe the only gay integration crisis in history, but it certainly was an integration crisis. it was as far as i can tell the only time in history large numbers of homosexual people openly lived in one neighborhood and it made in their neighborhood and demanded their full rights and protections of the law. it was a historic moment and it did cause a great deal of consternation. the rest of san francisco, whether it could well or ill simply didn't know how to cope very easily with this new phenomenon. so there was an enormous amount of tension in the city and there was also an enormous amount of tension over george moscone
becoming mayor because of his coalition, because of the way that he had routed the more traditional city hall forces, and also because of the week that he lived. it was not unusual in those days for cops to say to people would you like to hear my george moscone tapes? and another thing he did is he appointed a police chief who was an outsider who immediately -- this was a very tactical move on his part -- moved the american flag from his office and was very much hated by his rank-and-file. so in many police stations on the bulletin board was a picture of police chief charles game, sitting as george moscone's creature in the crosshairs of a gun. dan white, like george moscone, grew up in san francisco, but where is george grew up in the morning, dan who grew up in the southeast corner of the city and
those faded neighborhoods where if you stand on the hilltop and look down over the visitation valley, you can see sheets and underwear flapping on hundreds of clothesline all of the sheets well-worn. he had absolutely no background in politics. he had been -- he had wanted to be a writer, he had become a policeman, he had become a fireman come eventually he became a city supervisor. but he only had a high school the education, and therefore, he brought with him to the city hall a kind of high school civics idea of how politics was conducted. dan white was very naive coming and he thought the way that would work in the board of supervisors was that every supervisor but forward his ideas, and the best ideas would prevail. george moscone and harvey milk knew better than that. the new the idea that would prevail was the idea that had six votes because they were
living members of the board of supervisors and that in order to be successful politicians at the city hall more than any of your skill needed to be able to count six. dan whitehead didn't know how to do that. and yet, he had a certain kinship. he had a very complex and very hard to fathom relationship. harvey obviously made a lot of fun of them but was somewhat fascinated by him and he was certainly fascinated by harvey. he felt both he and harvey represented its city hall constituencies that hadn't previously been spoken for in the city hall. nonetheless, the two men didn't see eye to eye ideologically. they often voted against each other's most important pieces of
legislation. dan white found himself being defeated again and again and again. he was a very ineffective supervisor. at the same time, he had lost his job as a fireman because the city attorney ruled he couldn't hold the job and the supervisor, so his salary had fallen to $9,600 a year which is what supervisors were paid. he had a sweetheart lease because he was a politician at pier 39. he started a hot potato stand, but his wife, marianne, was down there working and their little son charlie was often being carted down to the potatoes stand. they involve a very, very pressured by all of this. and then come out in the face of all that pressure, he resigned abruptly without having spoken to many people about his plans on november 10th. he simply tendered his
resignation. he thought he was under pressure before. now he really came under pressure. all the people who rely on him in city hall, police officers association, the firefighters from the chamber of commerce, lots of people put pressure on him to ask to change his mind. so he went back to george moscone, was a man who didn't like to say no and explained to him that he now felt able to go on and george said well, sure, i will give you your job back, which didn't sit well with george's constituents including harvey who basically told him that's your job, you will never be free elected mayor because dan white is that magical sixth vote on the board of supervisors. if you return to the board of supervisors, we liberals will continue to lose the close votes. so george moscone changed his mind. he promised dan white he was going to tell him what his decision was, but he didn't do that. dan white found out because a reporter called him at home and
told him that the next day george moscone was going to be appointing somebody else to his seat. for me, a key moment in understanding dan white -- because the first people i talked to about dan white were his friends and colleagues, and they all described him to me as a leader and a man among men and the gung-ho kind of guy, but i talked to his high school baseball coach, a guy named john witte, who coached him at wilson high school and he had taken a certain -- he had sympathy with dan white because dan white had lost his father under humiliating circumstances when he was about 15, 16-years-old. he was a little bit lost and he was a little bit angry and jim would saw him as a stand-up guy and he made him the captain of the baseball team. one day jim witt told me he gave dan white the bunt sign. he asked dan white to bunt, and
he knew this line, he was the cabinet team and instead he ignored it and he hit away. and after the inning when he came into the bench jim said to him why did you do that? i gave you the bunt sign and dan white's response was to pull off his jersey, throw it down, stomp on it and walk off the field and he never came back and played for that team again. that was important to me because it told me something. it told me dan white was a quitter. and now when i looked at his career i saw a very different career. i didn't see a guy moving through a series of leadership positions. i saw a guy cutting and running again and again and again. when things got tough, he got going. the second half of my book -- the first half is about the defense i just described in a good deal more detail and i'm going to go in to them tonight. the second half of the book is about the trial. and the reason for that is -- that is the reason, one of the
reasons i call the book "double play." the book is called "double play" because there were two assassinations. it's called "double play" because dan white and the homicide detective who took that confession and in many years later took a real concession from dan white privately had been the double play combination is shortstop and second baseman on a police softball -- police baseball team that won the championship, but it was also called "double play" because as someone who lived through the even this come as i know a lot of people in this room did come and then lived through the trial, they're seemed to be an almost complete disconnect. what was being portrayed in the courtroom seemed to have very little to do with the background that i've already described to you. the assassinations provoked a silent candlelight march on city hall. but the verdict provoked a riot. it was the event that people
just could not tolerate. dan white's lawyers who did an excellent job were not very interested in what people thought. the dog schmidt, his chief attorney coming and when i asked him a question about this, the society has nothing to do with this. only those 12 people in the jury box matter. but that's not true. it was true enough for doug schmidt having to conduct the defense that was also true that in san francisco we had the need to understand what had happened, had the need to see how that impacted our society, and the need to see how this act of utter incivility affected the union of civil people. all trials begin and end with the jury. first jury selection and then a
jury verdict. the prosecutor in this case, the chief prosecutor in the office of district attorney joe free this was an man named tom norman to read tom norman prosecute over 100 murder trials. i think he had won convictions in '96 and '97. he was a very successful career prosecutor and he told his lost, joe, this was the best first-degree case he had ever seen in his life. he had an agenda of his own of the district attorney. he wanted to be mayor and he had a little bit of a problem. his problem was that he could not be seen as going soft on dan white. this is a murder prosecution. it was a death penalty waiting for dan white if he was convicted of first-degree murder. but fearful of being seen as soft on dim light, tommy boreman and joe decided to dump all
potential jurors who were opponents of the death penalty. another was not a very clever strategy because most people who were antideath penalty voted for george moscone and harvey milk were both very antideath penalty. and so they ended up having the jury box injury that satisfied, norman. it was his normal hanging jury. he worked very well with these juries in the past. but the defense attorney, schmidt, so something completely different. looking at the same panel that satisfied norman, schmidt salles a jury much like the hoped for but never expected to get. excuse me, i have to decide whether or not i can read with my glasses on. nine of the 12 had lived in san francisco for 20 years or more or knew firsthand what was
changing. there were more complex than on catholics, and four of the women were old enough to be dan white's mother. if you had to guess, you would say only one or two at most might have voted for george moscone. they were a pretty representative sample of the old news and francisco working class, a pretty good cross selection of the kind of people who felt and oppressed and neglected by the political system. housewives and clerical workers for insurance companies and banks and corporations, and mechanic and a couple of painters, printers and the wife of a jail house employees. most of them had spent the better part of their lives in the faded stretches of poor and modest neighborhoods south and east of the twin peaks. so, this was the jersey of defense that got exactly the triet wanted to, and -- the first important witness for the prosecution, and perhaps the
most important witness they could have called or it could have been the most important witness they did call was the coroner boyd stephens. under the law on only the coroner could legally speculate as a witness based on the evidence he had testified to, whether the [inaudible] had been carried out as the lippitt acts. and boyd stephens had brought with him to manikins which he kept backstage, they were not in the courtroom, they were in an area of the judge's office and he was prepared to testify that they were deliberate and violent and vicious acts. however, before he had a chance to do that, tommy orman completed his examination. doug schmidle very happy with boyd stephens had not been invited to give his opinion didn't even cross-examine. because the defense conceded
from the beginning of the obvious dan white killed these guys and confessed on tape. there was no question that he killed them. rather, his defense attorneys put to the jury a different set of questions. other questions were why, why had a good man white dan white, a man who as far as anyone knows committed a crime before in his life do this thing? and how must he be punished? because the defense took the position that he had to be punished, but they said this is not murder, this is a less serious crime, and they had a mantra which they repeated again and again and again during the trial. good people, fine people with linebacker rounds simply don't kill in cold blood. it just doesn't happen.
so let's find out what did happen. they seize the narrative. one of the things i thought watching the trial was that there was not a whole lot of difference between the trial and the basketball game. in a basketball game both teams are trying to seize momentum and make the game proceeded the pace and the style which they prefer, and that's exactly what schmidt did by posing the question. their argument was a simple. dan white cracked. he had been mentally ill all along with a severe depression although nobody had noticed he had seen a shrink or had been diagnosed and as if to underscore that, dan white sat there throughout the trial like something of a zombie, the shell of a man. he steered shade ahead and
showed no expressions on his face and seemed to take notice of the testimony he might have been catatonic and yet he wasn't as his other defense lawyer told me he wasn't catatonic. i played chess with him in jail but you have to adopt some persona for a public ceremony like the trial, and that was dan white's persona. he sat their like the shell of a man and his lawyer who resembled him physically strode around the courtroom young and handsome and vigorous as if to say this is who this man was until this tragedy befell him. it worked. the defense called for psychiatrists and psychologists to support their theory that under pressure and in the heat of passion dan white has cracked and he was not able to execute the plan. his capacity to do that was diminished to such a degree that he wasn't legally culpable for
murder. there was the diminished capacity lock one exception. if the killing was taken in revenge, then you cannot invoke a diminished capacity defense and of course dan white's killings had been acts of personal political vengeance but never once in the weeks of the trial and the thousands of pages of transcripts. he never ordered revenge, not one time it was an oversight hubris. tom orman and joe freitas got the hit sure thing slam-dunk and so they never even addressed what alone answered the question the jury most wanted to have answered, but a handsome young working-class hero with backgrounds so much like their own and do something that horrible?
>> it's easy to admire what they accomplished. they took a cold-blooded murderer and got him off more or less. it was an amazing even. in his summation, doug schmidt, who never attends church and is not a god-fearing man invoked god 24 times in eight minutes. but the trial is another question for me as well: why are there psychologists and psychiatrists in this courtroom, i asked myself? they're not scientists, they are propagandists. they're like a paid political advertisement. it's just once, just one time psychiatrist or psychologist testifying at a trial testified unfavorably to the side paying him, and i might have a different view of their profession when it is used on behalf of a defendant. but they don't do that.
and dan white served his time. he was released in january, 1984, paroled to los angeles, lived there for a year during the time and am never going to make it come during the time he was there he called his old friend and asked him to visit in los angeles. while he was there to tell them the truth. yeah, i went down to city hall that day to kill george and harvey and i also wanted to kill louis brown and carol cruce, another supervisor. perhaps more than anything else, what the final confession made clear to me was something i have already believed based on my research. dan white didn't kill hardee because he was gay, he killed him because harvey was one of the people who defeated and humiliated him at the city hall. he wanted to kill harvey milk as part of a gang of four.
after his parole los angeles and against the wishes of the mayor dianne feinstein, he returned to san francisco. he had no job, there were threats on his life, he now had three kids including one who had been conceived of a conjugal visit and had down syndrome. he wasn't living at home because he and his wife, maryann, decide it was too dangerous for the children. he had just begun seeing a shrink one who testified on his behalf because his wife insisted on that. he had just begun taking lithium for depression pick to the computer was the first time he received the treatment of any kind for the underlying mental illness that had gotten him off.
and then, just one second. there we go. with mary ann and the kids gone for the day, day and was free to make his preparations. he wrote a final journal entry pulling out of boredom briefcase where he kept his notebooks in the back of the space under the stairway. the last entry was not need and controlled as was his habit. it was scrawled diagonally across the entire page. my dearest mary ann, my last journal entry is written to express my ever faithful love for you and our children, you're devoted husband, danny. october 21st, 1985. he returned the briefcase to its place, and now he readied his own gas chamber. on 1973 buick al asad in his garage, he attached a garden hose to the pipe and a minute
for the passenger side rear window, sealing the gap. he sat in the buick and pulled the door closed. he clutched family photos and in the tape deck he put an irish ballad of suppression and rebellion, the town i loved so well, for what is done is done, it says, and what's one is one and what's lost is lost and gone forever in the town i loved so well. he would have thought that dan white had enough of martyrdom, he hadn't. he turned the key in the ignition. his final act was to condemn himself, perhaps convict and condemn himself, and thus he quit on those who needed him the most, his wife, his three small kids, who would grow up without a father as dan had in fact grown up fatherless himself. the consequences of this terrible crime and terrible
miscarriage of justice are still being felt today. in my view, it was the crime of the 20th century and san francisco. i think perhaps the kidnapping can only compete with it. and it changed many things. i will just go through a few of them quickly because i know time is running short and i want to do some questions and answers. the first was a created dianne feinstein. i had been prompted by have five minutes. dianne feinstein had run twice unsuccessfully for the mayor. she was telling her friends she was no longer going to run for political office when her term on the board of supervisors was present was up. she was going to withdraw from politics. on the day of the assassinations as i'm sure everybody in this room knows, it was chic who made the announcement in a pink
pantsuit splattered with blood from having been one of the first people to harvey milk's body and having harvey milk's bordallo fervor. and of course, her good performance as the mayor catapulted her career for word es and she has become, as we know, the most powerful democratic politician in the state of california and has been for quite a long time now. and because she became mayor and george moscone was no longer a year, the city moved in a more conservative wing, particularly in regard to manhattan, which don't have to explain in this room i suppose. the skyline changed much more dramatically quickly than it would have under moscone who was alive with those groups who opposed a rapid expansion of downtown. and so the city's skyline and the city politics and the representation of the congress changed dramatically as a result of dan white district elections which is what brought dan harvey
to the city hall in the first place were discarded by the voters at that time also leader reinstated. in the legal area diminished capacity at the defense -- the legislature tried to eliminate the diminished capacity. the did pass bills intended to do that although it still is possible to conduct a state of mind defense yet you have to frame it a little bit differently, but those same kind of defenses are still being put forward. of all of the consequences of his act, probably the one that he leased intended was this one. the biggest change dan white was unintended the acceptance of the people here and many other places across the country was inspired in part by the martyrdom of harvey milk. in sacked within a couple of
months of harvey's assassination, hundreds of thousands of people showed up in washington for the gay rights march and many of them were carrying placards and pictures to invoke the memory of harvey milk. in death party's influence grew far greater than he had any reason to expect it would have been. his life and death became the subject of an opera an academy-award winning documentary, and the 2008 movie, milk, with sean penn and oscar for his portrayal of harvey. it's a testament to the unintended consequences that although dan white did not kill harvey milk because he was gay, the assassination of a courageous and pioneering leader galvanized the movement and assured harvey's place in history. dan white is all but forgotten, george moscone has his name on a convention center and a
playground where he passed part of his youth, but harvey milk will live forever. [applause] told journalists never die. they just keep making new deadlines. [laughter] >> thank you, mike weiss con author of "double play" the hidden passion behind the double assassination of george moscone and harvey milk for your participation this evening. i am sure of the algae bt for and i will be moderating today's question and answer period. and we have quite a few. >> good. >> your description of the white might riots was fascinating to me. it happened when i was still quite young, but just all the detail you brought out by an feinstein of stairs and the crowd trying to tear down the
building throwing tear gas in the building was chaotic, and carol ruth silver got hit in the face with a rock. can you talking little bit more about how crazy it was for dianne feinstein and what was going on inside? >> the city hall was packed with the police officers and they were being held back at the sites but the point at which city hall did come under attack the police were released, and one of the interesting things i saw that night was i heard this grunting and banging behind me and i was standing in the middle and turned around and there were these two women. one was a bygone bikes on letters and sort of built like sonny list and come and the other was a lady cop built into the two of them were just standing there throwing haymaker said each other just pounding on each other and that is one of the things that led me to say this wasn't a right this was a
fight. i think the really important thing about it is it wasn't insurrection of law-abiding people who felt exposed, vulnerable and furiously angry. >> what you think what happened to george moscone? >> if he lived? he might well have been over the elected mayor and might not have been. i've talked to many people of those opinions. he would have gone on in the career in politics and -- >> even if dianne feinstein -- stat no, i don't think george was that big myself. i hope i'm not sending anybody. i hope no friends or relatives are here. i thought that he was a very good mayor although the received wisdom was that he was a terrible, a year but he was supposed to be a terrible mayor. barack obama was a terrible person. >> somebody thinks for this terrible. >> george wasn't from tremendous money so was he? >> not at all. >> all three men were of modest
means. absolutely. they could be described as having a working-class upbringing. >> it's hard for bringing gavin. >> devin has money? [laughter] -- and someone lists three calamities they would like you to write your quick 1989, the zodiac murders and the assassination of moscone pumas the different events. the earthquake of 89 had some terrible consequences. people died and lost their homes but was kind of fun. for those of us -- for those of us that were not directly injured or suffered great losses, it was a very exciting time and one of those wonderful times in the face of particularly national tragedies in which people come together and behaved very well, and i will never forget the picture of joe the maggio standing in line with other people hoping to get pact into his place in the arena to see if they could salvage some of the positions.
the zodiac killings were not a single event. they were over a period of time. more dramatic to me was the patty hearst kidnapping and the sla force in the family to distribute free food around the city. the was a pretty good deal. i don't know how to rank them because they are different each from the other. i wrote about all three of them so i guess they were interesting enough to write about. >> dan white was during connected with ireland in a misty kind of coffee table book kind of way. >> he wanted to be -- he saw his irish heritage as having given him the gift of writing. he very much wanted to be a writer and i've read some of his stuff. it's very stiff, as dan was himself. after his he was released from parole and during the time he was most the living in san francisco pnac jolie went over to ireland to write but he didn't write anything.
he did pick out of irish citizenship he was entitled to because it was his mother or grandmother, alterman bird, one of them had been born in ireland and he was entitled to irish citizenship. he didn't write anything and he ran out of money and asked maryann, his wife, to please send the money and she said only if you see a shrink. so he came home and that is how come he began to see dr. lundy. >> they honeymooned in ireland. with problems in the bedroom. >> yes, definite problems in the bedroom. maryann testified to that during the trial. mary ann was a very important element in the trial. she say woman of great dignity and reserves, and she sat there every day looking worried half to death sitting right behind dan on the other side of that security that created such and that of course she testified for her husband.
>> what to the fold of jacket mean? >> i think dan white salles with the situation in san francisco as being aggressive. the old established irish and italian but premier li irish families who had run the city for a long time were being oppressed, supplanted by the new people who wanted to change the city in unacceptable ways. so he saw the connection between the oppression of the irish by the english and the oppression of the older san franciscans by the newer san franciscans, and it also had a powerful draw because it was his homeland. stomach's that what drew him to the coffee table? >> what drew him to the hot potato is that warren simmons wanted to build a hot potato needed a lot of permits and held at city hall and dan white was a supervisor and so he got the
best stand on pier 39 when you came in the door it was the first stand did you can get yourself some potatoes. >> there wasn't a lot of discussion about dan white's ty soledad. what were his prison years like? with c accepted in the prison? >> he was kept in isolation. he was considered to be at risk and a danger. someone who was kept in isolation with him, nearby isolation cell and they were released for an hour a day to run, they could run at the same time of the track. it was like a festival of the assassins. >> were you a fan of the true crime genre before you wrote "double play"? >> no. no. [laughter] know, i like to read novels. >> what happened to dan's to kids? >> well, i mean, the down
syndrome since still lives with his mother, and while i am told he is quite highly functional. and dan's oldest son, charlie, left the state and visits occasionally. he actually came to san francisco when they were shooting the film "milk," and sean penn had him on the said as a guest. there was a event that caused a great deal of consternation. several people, to different people told me they called the cops because was pretty frightening. here sean penn was portraying harvey milk and here was dan white's son and he seemed to be somewhat angry. but everything apparently sean penn did a great job and took him out to dinner, lunch and calmed him down.
>> someone asks it's been my experience that gun-toting conservatives are always in their hearts coward's; what is your opinion? >> i would interest in this case. i can't imagine a more cowardly act in shooting two armed men. >> was there a moment during the trial when you knew the defense was coming to succeed? >> yes. when the confession was played. the confession was played by the prosecution. it was an ex specter, his old "double play" partner who introduced the confession which he had taken on the assassinations and pleaded to read and i was listening closely to the confession and i thought i was completely self-serving. one of the things that struck me right away was that dan white only cried when he was talking about how hard his wife worked and how his kid had to go to a baby sitter. he never showed any emotion when talking about harvey milk or george moscone or any concern whatsoever for their friends and
family and the people they left behind eight so i saw there was a cold and self-serving confession and i turned to the jury box and people were crying. with the herd is the raw emotion that this obviously shellshocked man -- he was a mess when he gave that confession and that is what they heard because they wanted to believe in him. >> was the tactical error of the whole trial? >> playing the confession? no because of the prosecution hadn't played it the defense was. they knew that would play this we with this particular jury and that is why i said the injury was so significant. they heard the confessions, one we now on as a person felt it was the heinous crime and george moscone and harvey milk were people voted for heard it completely differently. >> so, dan had a stable home
life. >> there's a lot of kids. they grew up in pretty rough sections of the valley and there were a lot of kids and then after his dad died and there was a terrible event in his life his mother married another fireman and i forget the exact number, but they were like 17 siblings and step siblings in that family. in fact come on the day of the assassinations if you listen one of the things we've done in this new edition is in the back of the book we have included a tvd that includes his entire confession. you can listen for yourself and see what you think that it also includes many of the police transmissions, police radio transmissions on the day of the assassination and the first police dispatcher that you hear is a woman and later it switches to a man, the woman was one of dan white's sisters, she was the on duty dispatcher that day. >> and in five weeks or months leading out to the tragedy,
harvey milk had been through quite turbulent times as well in his personal life? >> yeah, but i don't remember it was. [laughter] >> he hung himself and -- >> was that weeks before? i think it was weeks before. i didn't realize was that close. i will have to read the book. [laughter] >> it seems interesting that dan has a wife and family and harvey have all this turmoil but they -- >> you know, what do you think what happened to harvey if he lived? i mean, i don't know. note the person would ever be elected mayor and i sure he would have tried. if not that he would have tried for the seat or would have gone far but he would have become in historical terms another important early gay politician period, not the person he became or the subject of prison
academy-award winning films and books and so on. >> there's a question about the defense. it was a much bigger issue in the newspapers, yes? >> the twinkie defense. >> the phrase twinkie defense was made up by paul crestor, who is a satirist. paul was also the trial. he was, quote, covering it for playboy. he once won a slow bicycle race, so that's not surprising. [laughter] but you know, one of the psychiatry -- one of the points that the psychiatrists and psychologists were making when the defense picked up on was that dan white, who had been very concerned with his good health and he was a very strong athletic kind of guy he abandoned his usual good dietary
habits and was gorging on drunk food and feeling sorry for himself and moping around the house and was so on and so forth. and one of the psychiatrists, martin blinder, he is available for hire if anybody wants him, mentioned that he had eaten some twinkies and so it got seized upon. it was a throwaway line in a piece of garbage testimony that had almost nothing to do with the trial but it became the phrase by which the trial is known and was treated in a very peculiar ways. stagger was very critical where dan reloaded. >> incredibly important and again, the prosecution blew it. in his confession dan white says unequivocally that he reloaded in harvey milk's office before
asking harvey milk to join him and killing him. but the defense contended that dan white reloaded over george dan moscone's body. the world apart. city hall, one office on one side and the other office on the other side of the city hall. the defense contended that dan white reloaded over george moscone's body instinctively out of his police and army training. that isn't true. he reloaded just before he called harvey into his office and once again, the prosecution just allowed the defense to make that argument and they didn't just shoot it down by replaying the tape where he says are the reloaded in my own office because clearly there would be indicative again of the first degree murder. if you kill somebody, now you've killed somebody and then you run of glock across the city hall and then you reload your weapon and kill somebody else, that does seem as though it is deliberate, doesn't it?
so, again, the prosecution -- tommy norman thought he had a slam-dunk case with his typical hanging injury, and was a failure of imagination. he did not see that if you have a two-time convicted black phelan sitting there being accused of his fifth felony the jury is probably going to view him one way and if you have a white upstanding member of the community sitting there the jury is going to be inclined to view differently. >> all of this took place just days after johnstown? >> the assassinations were attendees ever johnstown and was the darkest and the gloomiest period in the history of san francisco. i just can't imagine. maybe the fire of course. 1906 was darker. 1906 was more devastating, but i mean first jonestown and most of the people who died in jonestown as we all know what people from
around here. almost everybody knew something or knew somebody who had been lost in jonestown and then ten days later this happened and it just seemed impossible. i remember on the night of the assassinations after i filed my stories and so on, and i was taking the church home from building where it time magazine this house in the financial district out to the new wave valley and was silent in the city as the trolley rolled through the city lots of people and there was no way is. people were beyond shlaes. you couldn't speak. you know, it was just too much, awful. >> and jim jones was part of the coalition -- >> welcome yes. in fact the reason jim jones fled is tracie and marshall killed off were preparing an article in which they had gone to members of peoples temple and said, a disaffected of people's
temple who claimed jones was feeding them and stealing their money and sleeping with their wives or husbands or so on. and they were preparing this article which was going to blow the lid off of who jim jones really was and keep in mind he was an ally because he could throw out the people temple to the precincts. the petit jury disciplined country of the precinct and jim jones was aware of the article and it was about to be published. somebody actually broke into the office of the new west magazine and rifled the files to destroy the article before it could be published and then when it was clear that it was going to be published, that was in jim jones left so very much connected and george moscone and willie brown defended jim jones until the day that he died. history is tragedy, not melodrama.
>> what about tommy norman and joe freitas after the trial; was that the end of their careers or whatever it? >> he had no political career after all, he was through and he left politics. tom norman went on the prosecuting cases. doug schmidt and steve who built the lead could beat him in the trial like tommy norman. i wasn't particularly friendly towards tommy norman. i didn't describe his style but if you can imagine remember stanley, the sort of slithering through fidel for prada? that was kind of tommy's -- she never would say said if he could say aver. he was a very pretentious kind of guy with a widow's peak. he went on working. schmidt and shur felt so badly for him that they seriously discussed offering him a partnership in their firm. [laughter]
um, committee like tommy norman. a lot of people are of justice like tommy norman and they were sorry to see that it had all -- that he had messed up big time. is sort of white towel of the accomplishments of the rest of his life. i mean, he's no longer among us. so may he rest in peace. >> we'd like to remind our listening audience this is a program with the commonwealth club of california and we are listening to "double play" house dan white got away with murder and changed san francisco with reporter and author mike weiss. unfortunately we have reached the point in the program where there is time for just one last question, and i guess i would like to know how, how would the city be different today if it were not for these tragedies? >> i don't know that it would be. well, i mean
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