Monday, July 11, 2016

Dan White - Twinkie Defense

NOTE: this is cross posted to my information warfare blog, because it is such a strong perceptor. Dan White shot and killed the first openly gay elected official in America, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. He was a tortured soul and ended up committing suicide. According to Biography, "During a videotaped confession, White came across as a pathetic man who was barely able to explain why he had assassinated his colleagues. His defense lawyer, Douglas R. Schmidt, claimed White had acted in the heat of passion and not out of malice. He made a plea of "diminished capacity," due to extreme stress in White's home life and depression. Describing White's emotional state, psychiatrist Martin Blinder, one of five defense therapists, explained that in the days leading up to the shootings, White grew slovenly and abandoned his usual healthy diet and indulged in a diet of sugary junk food like Coke, doughnuts and Twinkies instead.

Newspapers across the country picked up on a great headline, and today the term "Twinkie defense" is a derogatory label implying that a criminal defense is artificial or absurd."

In 2016 America is starting to normalize gay, lesbian, transgender, lifestyles. Part of that is increasing focus on so-called hate speech, (Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.). You can trace the roots of that particular perceptor campaign to On November 27, 1978 and the murder of George Moscone, (as in the Moscone convention center). While it gave that cause a focus point and it is true that Dan White was anti-homosexual, most of the data indicates this was more about money, a job position.

The other key point is the so-called "Twinkie defense".  According to Wikipedia, ""Twinkie defense" is a derisive label for an improbable legal defense. It is not a recognized legal defense in jurisprudence, but a catchall term coined by reporters during their coverage of the trial of defendant Dan White."

Wikipedia is not exactly correct here. The so-called "Twinkie defense" got the charge reduced from pre-meditated murder to manslaughter and White served five years in prison for the murder of two men. According to Snopes, "Even though White had entered City Hall carrying a gun loaded with especially lethal ammunition, climbed through a basement window to avoid metal detectors, evaded Mayor Moscone's bodyguard, reloaded after killing Moscone, and walked across City Hall to find and gun down Harvey Milk, the jury found that White's actions were not premeditated."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the "Twinkie defense" is there were no Twinkies. According to SFGate, "The "Twinkie defense" is so ingrained in our culture that it appears in law dictionaries, in sociology textbooks, in college exams and in more than 2, 800 references on Google. Only a few of them call it what it is: a myth.

"I don't think Twinkies were ever mentioned in testimony," said chief defense attorney Douglas Schmidt, who recalls "HoHos and Ding Dongs," but no Twinkies. In fact, the cream-filled confections were mentioned, but only in passing. Junk food was an insignificant part of the defense. The matter was raised briefly in testimony by Marin psychiatrist Martin Blinder, one of five defense therapists."

By the way, Hostess brands, the maker of Twinkies has really turned their business around, according to the Washington Post, "Where the company just five years ago had 8,000 employees — 75 percent of whom were represented by unions — the company now says in filings that it has a “streamlined employee base” of roughly 1,170 workers. That workforce is the shadow of a once-vast empire, which shortly before its troubles totaled 22,000 workers across more than 40 bakeries." How do they do it? Robots make the Twinkies and HoHos. They are now planning for an IPO.

Stephen Northcutt is director for Academic Advising at SANS.EDU and serves as the chair for SANS Rocky Mountain 2017 in Denver starting June 12, 2017. Hostess is led by billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos who drove the move to automation. I think he would appreciate the degree of cyber-security automation in the courses we offer.

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