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Bookmark-Twinkie Defense-Dan White's defense for killing Harvey Milk

 The Twinkie defense used by Dan White's criminal defense lawyer

I thought I would write about the Twinkie defense because of the new movie "Milk" with Sean Penn starring as Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor and California's first openly gay elected official, who was assassinated by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.

The phrase "Twinkie defense" was basically a myth concocted by the media which covered the 1979 trial of Dan White.  The "Twinkie defense" is generally used to refer to a defense of temporary diminished capacity caused by food or something else that could be considered a little ridiculous.

Dan White did not deny killing Supervisor Milk and Mayor George Moscone, who he also murdered.  However, White's criminal defense lawyer raised a defense of diminished capacity due to bouts of depression amounting to mental illness.

At the trial, psychiatrist Martin Blinder, one of several psychiatrists who testified, showed how he determined that White had been depressed at the time of the crime.  He stated that White showed symptoms of depression because his appearance became slovenly with a stubble beard, he quit working, shunned his wife, shunned his formally healthy diet and started eating Twinkies and drinking Coke.  Blinder stated that the junk food made White even more depressed than he already was.

Twinkies were briefly mentioned in a sentence out of several days of testimony, possibly as both a symptom and a slight cause or exacerbation of existing depression.  Although a funny sounding name makes the Twinkie defense "newsworthy" and memorable, it was not a major factor in the trial.

With the testimony of the psychiatrists, White's criminal defense attorney successfully persuaded the jury that White's capacity for rational thought had been diminished and White was found to be incapable of the premeditation required for a murder conviction.  He was instead convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

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Bookmark-Twinkie Defense-Dan White's defense for killing Harvey Milk