After 10 days of testimony, both sides have rested their cases in the murder trial of Dan White, the former city supervisor who has admitted shooting Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk last Nov. 27.
The jurors have been led through a thicket of complex and exhausting psychological testimony from a parade of mental health specialists. They have been wrung by White's explosively emotional taped confession and by the sobbing testimony of his wife, Maryann. Now they are hearing each side's rebuttals and closing arguments, and may begin deliberations Wednesday.
White has entered a plea of innocent to charges of first-degree murder under "special circumstances," a charge that carries the death penalty. His attorney, Douglas Schmidt, has presented extensive evidence to demonstrate that White suffered "diminished capacity," meaning he was not capable of the premeditation, deliberation and malice necessary for being found guilty of either first- or second-degree murder.
If the jury accepts this, White could be found guilty of two counts of voluntary manslaughter with a gun, carrying a maximum total sentence of 11 years, with parole possible.
The defense portrayed White as a deeply troubled, introverted man for whom "the American dream is a nightmare." White is said to have suffered depressive states - what his family called "Dan's moods" - for perhaps 10 years before the killings. When the "moods" came unexpectedly, he would suddenly withdraw, not shave or leave the house for days, and be aloof anduncommunicative. White's psychiatrists called these symptoms of manic depression.
White suffered financial setbacks when forced to resign his fireman's job to take the supervisor's seat. Then his wife had a baby, quit her teaching job, and the family income plummeted from more than $30,000 a year to $9,600. White's new business, a waterfront fried potato stand, required increasing time and money, and White could not keep up, the defense contends.
Psychiatrists said that White's Nov. 10 resignation was a statement that he "could not cope," but that he was pressured by close supporters and his family into seeking reappointment. Fearful from childhood of letting others down, according to his defense, White asked for the seat back. When reappointment was promised to him by the mayor but later withdrawn, White "cracked," said his psychiatrists.
The prosecution has called one psychiatrist, who interviewed White within hours after the double assassination. Dr. Roland Levy, a staff psychiatrist at San Francisco's Langley Porter Institute and a frequent court-appointed psychiatrist, told the jurors that "there was nothing in my interview to suggest any sort of mental disorder." He said that White appeared capable of premeditating and forming malice, but that his capacity to deliberate was unclear.
Levy said White reported that on the morning of the killings he was "thinking over the fact that he had been cheated," and that his head hurt.
White told him that "he didn't plan to murder anyone" but wanted "some straight answers" from Moscone about why he would not be reappointed. After confronting Moscone and shooting him four times, twice in the skull from about 12 inches away, White went to Milk's office. Levy said White described Milk as "the most devious board member."
After a brief meeting across the hall in White's old office, White drew his gun and shot Milk five times, twice in the base of the skull at very close range. He then fled, called his wife from a nearby diner, and went to a cathedral to pray and wait for her. Later the couple walked to a police station where he surrendered and confessed.
Levy said White told him that on the way to the police station, "The pressure in his head disappeared and he felt relieved." CAPTION: Picture, FORMER SUPERVISOR DAN WHITE . . . defense says he "cracked"