The Sixth Commandment (and Harvey’s closet door)
oak beam, 1780’s,
metal teeth and wheel from (agri)cultural machine, 1940’s,
ca. 11 feet high
Harvey Milk from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Harvey Bernard Milk (22 May 1930 – 27 November 1978), was an American politician and gay rights activist, and the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco, California. He was, according to Time magazine, "the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet". (...)
He was assassinated in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by then recently-resigned city supervisor Dan White, whose relatively mild sentence for the murders led to the White Night Riots and eventually the abolishment of diminished capacity defense in California.
Milk had two unsuccessful bids for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in both 1973 and 1975. He emerged as a figurehead for San Francisco's large gay community, and was known as the "Mayor of Castro Street", a title which he himself coined. (...) In 1977 San Francisco replaced city-wide elections with district elections that ushered in the most diverse Board of Supervisors the city had ever seen. Milk was the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the United States, and only the third openly gay elected official in all of the US, after Kathy Kozachenko and Elaine Noble. Milk represented District 5, which included the Castro.
The diverse board included the former police officer and firefighter Dan White as well as the gay and liberal Milk. White had to resign from being a firefighter as San Francisco charter barred people from holding two city jobs at the same time so he took up a second job to supplement the pay downgrade, running a restaurant business, which failed. White, a Roman Catholic and outspoken anti-gay conservative, who was elected with strong support from the city's police union in part to fight "official tolerance of crime and of overt homosexuality" was counterpoint to Milk, an outspoken liberal who "frequently opposed him on the board." Milk became highly visible in the media debating California Senator John Briggs throughout the state on Proposition 6, The Briggs Initiative, to "prohibit homosexuals from teaching in California public schools," a topic on which White and Milk "were sharply divided" because it would have empowered Californian school boards to fire teachers that "practiced, advocated, or indicated an acceptance of homosexuality."
Milk also sponsored a pooper-scooper ordinance and a San Francisco law barring "anti-gay discrimination" in the workplace which passed the same time the Briggs Initiative failed and within days White resigned his city supervisor seat citing too little salary to support his family and that he was "unhappy with the ethics he found in the political world." White's supporters convinced him to rescind his resignation but he was denied by the "liberal-leaning" Mayor Moscone largely at the urging of Milk, who advised Moscone to use the opportunity to get a liberal majority on the Board. Milk and Moscone were friends and Milk reminded Moscone that the mayor's re-election would be difficult without the gay vote and that many of Moscone's proposals had been defeated because of the conservative majority.
The morning that Moscone was to announce his replacement for Dan White both he and Supervisor Milk were assassinated by White who had entered San Francisco City Hall through an unlocked window to avoid detection of his police revolver; after a loud argument he shot Moscone at close range, reloaded and went down the hall to kill Milk delivering a coup de grâce to each victim. White quickly left the scene and met his wife at nearby Saint Mary's Cathedral the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco and within hours he turned himself in at the police station where he was formerly a police officer. Though he had carried a gun, 10 extra rounds, and crawled through a window into City Hall to avoid security's metal detectors, White denied premeditation.
Thousands from Milk's District and all over the city attended a spontaneous candlelight memorial march from the Castro towards City Hall plaza, noted speakers included folk singer Joan Baez. (...) Milk had anticipated the possibility of assassination and had recorded several audio tapes to be played in that event. One of the tapes included his now-famous quote,
“ If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door. ”
Dan White's trial, which began four months after the killings, was one of the most closely watched trials in California at that time. During jury selection, defense attorneys had excluded candidates they deemed "remotely pro-gay" and "filled" it instead with "white conservative Catholics, half of them from White’s district". The prosecution claimed that White's motive was revenge. But White's attorney, Douglas Schmidt, claimed that White was a victim of pressure and had been depressed, a state exacerbated by his consuming a large quantity of junk food before the murders; this became known as the "Twinkie defense". Schmidt also told the jury and the press that White carried the ammunition on him out of impulse from his past experience as a police officer.
Finally, the jury heard what the prosecution hoped it would be its most damaging piece of evidence—Dan White's tape-recorded confession which was taped the day after the murders. What was notable about this confession was that the police didn't seem to ask White any questions about the crime and just let him talk. Instead, White tearfully talked of how Moscone and Milk refused to give him his supervisor's job back. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter on the grounds of diminished capacity and sentenced to seven years and eight months with parole, a sentence widely denounced as lenient and motivated by homophobia.
Time magazine described Supervisor Dan White, as "a troubled anti-gay conservative", White's former campaign manager and business partner, Ray Sloan, suggests that more than and instead of homophobia White was motivated by revenge for perceived political betrayal.
White Night Riots
After the sentence, the local gay community erupted in what came to be known as the White Night Riots. As soon as the sentence was announced, word ran through the gay community and groups of people began walking quickly to the Civic Center where City Hall was located. By 8:00 PM, a sizable crowd had formed. According to the documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, the enraged crowd began screaming at police officers calling for revenge and death. Then riots began to break out with the mob setting ablaze a number of police vehicles, disrupting traffic, and smashing windows of cars and stores. Buses were disabled by their overhead wires being ripped down, and violence broke out against the outnumbered police officers.
Later that night, in what was widely regarded as a retaliatory strike, a police riot took place in the gay Castro neighborhood half a block from Milk's camera shop and campaign office. After order was restored at City Hall a number of SFPD cars with dozens of officers headed into the Castro District. Police marched into a bar called the Elephant Walk, smashed fixtures and attacked patrons.
A civil grand jury, convened to find out who ordered the attack, ended inconclusively with a settlement covering personal injury claims and damages. More than 160 people were hospitalized because of the rioting.
Diminished capacity abolished
As a result of the White case, diminished capacity was abolished in 1982 by Proposition 8 and the California legislature, and replaced by "diminished actuality", referring not to the capacity to have a specific intent but to whether a defendant actually had a required intent to commit the crime with which he was charged.
By this time the "Twinkie defense" had become such a common referent that one participant waved a Twinkie in the air to make his point. Additionally, California's statutory definitions of premeditation and malice required for murder were eliminated with a return to common law definitions. Twinkie defense was described in detail in Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Woodall, 304 F.Supp.2d 1364, 1377 n. 7 (S.D.Ga. 2003).
all images and material Guido Maus Copyright 1997 - 2009