And I know something about excuses.
It was on this day, in 1978 that the mayor of San Francisco, California, George
Moscone, and a member of that city's Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk, were murdered
by a former supervisor, Dan White. The story made major headlines - not only because
of the murder, but because Harvey Milk was the first open homosexual to be elected
for public office in the United States.
Dan White's defense became known as the "Twinkie defense". The gist
of this defense was supposedly that the defendant's mental capabilities had apparently
become diminished as a result of eating too much junk food. When this defense
ultimately led to White's conviction on charges of voluntary manslaughter instead
of for murder, a rather understandable uproar ensued. The "Twinkie defense"
became quite popular, and even successful for quite a while, though of course
juries became tired of hearing excuses such as "I didn't do it, my diet did".
But though it makes a great story, the "Twinkie defense" belongs more
to the realm of urban legend than it does to actual fact.
As the Urban Legends Reference Pages, on their
page concerning the Twinkie defense, tell us:
Neither White nor his defense team ever claimed that
White's consumption of junk food had wrought psychological or physiological
changes in White that caused him to act in a way inconsistent with his "normal"
behavior when he shot George Moscone and Harvey Milk. White's defense was that
he had been suffering from a long-standing and untreated depression that diminished
his capacity to distinguish right from wrong, and thus he was not capable of
the premeditation required to support a charge of first degree murder. Dr. Martin
Blinder was called as a witness by the defense to testify that the conversion
of the previously health-conscious White to a diet of Twinkies and other junk
foods was evidence of his depression.
In other words, it wasn't eating junk food that led to murder, but instead that
all that junk food was a sign of mental instability. Whether or not that's a reasonable
excuse for getting off a murder rap is a valid question, but it's clear that it's
significantly different than blaming the food.
Go to: Templates from hell.