(Third of three blogs related to this subject)
I, along with nearly everyone else, was stunned by the insignificant manslaughter sentence handed down by the jury and judge (7 years commuted to 5) but I shouldn't have been. I had been told in advance about what was coming.
In March of 1979 I was walking downtown, months before the trial, and ran into my paternal uncle, Richard Guggenheim. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked a social question "Do you think Dan White will get the chair?" "Hell no" replied uncle Dick, the fix is in, he is going to get Douglas Schmidt as his lawyer and with help from the DA he'll serve very little time.
My uncle was an insider in the police/union world. I didn't believe what he said was possible but I also knew my uncle Dick to be humorless and very 'police-loving' 'good-boy-scout' oriented.
As the trial was underway I was out one evening with Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver and we were talking about the case. She told me that Dan White had come looking for her, to kill her, but with a warning she was able to hide in her office. She also had been following the trial and said the DA, Joe Freitas was making no effort to prosecute the case...none whatsoever. She vowed at that moment to go in the next day and demand to testify, which she did.
Carol Ruth Silver was the only witness against Dan White. The DA presented no witness evidence, just forensic material and White's confession. The jury had to explain to themselves why White, who's defense was mental distress, had extra bullets in his pocket and reloaded his pistol after killing the mayor. White then went looking for Harvey Milk, Carol Ruth Silver and Diane Feinstein (who was out of the building).
Why did this terribly weak case get presented. The DA was very close to the police department and had been lobbied for nearly a year to present a weak or non-existent case. Which he did.
Freitas, the DA, was defeated in the next election.