The jury will begin deliberation Wednesday in the double assassination trial here of former city supervisor Dan White, confessed killer of Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk Nov. 27.
The defense said that White was mentally unbalanced, the result of acute depression and serious financial reversals. Also, he was smarting from what he preceived to be political double-dealing by Milk that prevented his appointment by Moscone to the supervisor's seat from which he resigned 17 days before the city hall slayings.
"The pot just boiled over here," said White's attorney, Douglas Schmidt, in his closing argument.
These killings, countered prosecutor Thomas Norman, "do little to separate us from the jungle."
The mental illness defense, Norman alleged, was offered "as the reason here to explain away or rationalize, to justify, two cold-blooded murders, two assassinations, and that's all these were."
The prosecution called for a finding of two counts of firsr-degree murder with "special circumstances" in the death of the mayor. If the jury agrees, White could face the death penalty.
The defense called for two counts of voluntary manslaughter, carrying a maximum penalty of four years on each count, plus three additional years for firearm use.
Norman walked the jury step through the testimony, relying heavily on uncontested factual evidence, such as the two fatal shots to the head each man received while lying wounded and disabled on his office floor.
The trial has developed into a contest of what happened versus why it happened. Evidence submitted by the prosecution is more voluminous than defense evidence, but the defense has produced a stream of psychiatrists, friends and family, alleging that the normally friendly and health-conscious White suffered long-time "mood disturbances" marked by withdrawal, curtness, apathy, shabby appearance and a craving for high-sugar "jurk foods."
These are said to be symptoms of a severe "manic depressive" condition rendering White incapable of premeditating, deliberating or harboring malice, key ingredients for findings of first- or second-degree murder.
Norman picked his way through the foot-high testimony transcripts, pointing out contradictions and ambiguities, particularly in the accounts of White's five mental health specialists.
Norman learned heavily on the dry, sometimes bewilderingly subtle arguments of the psychiatrists, contrasting them with what he called the clarity of the facts. Norman seemed to suggest that common sense was more valuable in reaching a verdict than expert testimony.
Defense attorney Schmidt, in contrast to Norman, was highly emotional, almost breaking into tears near the close of his argument.
"If the [White] could have premeditated and deliberated, he would not have done it," Schmidt exclaimed. "Common sense tells you that. I don't need a doctor to tell me."
He said White carried a gun that day "as a security blanket because he felt threatened" by rumored Peoples Temple hit squads.
Schmidt said," Dan White needs to be punished" and he assured the jury that "society will punish him and God will punish him."