twinkie defense antedating (23 May 1979)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 2 10:37:54 UTC 2009

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED ADDITIONS SERIES 1993) contains the
term "twinkie defence" and presents a citation dated June 4, 1979. The
OED uses the British spelling for a U.S. colloquialism.

This can be antedated to May 23.

Citation: 'Twinkie Defense' Given Credit for White Verdict by Philip
Hager, page A3, Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1979.

At the Dan White trial, it became known as the "Twinkie Defense."
Whatever it was, it proved successful and now White, who once faced
the death penalty faces a maximum prison term of only seven years and
eight months for killing Mayor George Moscone and...

An article in the SF Chronicle in 2003 states that columnist Herb Caen
used the phrase "the Twinkie insanity defense" on the day after the
trial verdict. The White Night riots took place May 21 on the same day
as the verdict was announced. Thus the article claims that Herb Caen
used the phrase in the SF Chronicle on May 22. This would antedate the
cite given above. Unfortunately, the SFGate website indicates that
articles are only available from 1995 to the present. Verification
apparently requires access to paper or microfilm.

Citation: Myth of the 'Twinkie defense' by Carol Pogash, San Francisco
Chronicle, page D-1, November 23, 2003. Here are two excerpts:

During the trial, no one but well-known satirist Paul Krassner -- who
may have coined the phrase "Twinkie defense" -- played up that angle.
His trial stories appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Since
then, Krassner went on to publish another piece in The Nation and more
recently to write a book, "Sex, Drugs & The Twinkie Murders." …

In a thoughtful essay about San Francisco's "wild, manic depressive
swings," and "its not very well-hidden undercurrents," the day after
the verdict, Chronicle columnist Herb Caen remarked about the police
support for Dan White and their "dislike (understatement) of
homosexuals." In an offhand remark, he added that one attorney was
calling it "the Twinkie insanity defense."

In an article at the Huffington Post Krassner says that he coined the
term "twinkie defense". The natural place to look for a citation is
the San Francisco Bay Guardian during the days of the Dan White trial.

Citation: Behind the Infamous Twinkie Defense by Paul Krassner,
Huffington Post, December 4, 2008.

On the witness stand, psychiatrist Martin Blinder stated that, on the
night before the murders, while White was "getting depressed about the
fact he would not be reappointed, he just sat there in front of the TV
set, binging on Twinkies." In my notebook, I scribbled "the Twinkie
defense," and wrote about it in my next report.

Contemporaneous with the trial on May 13, a Chicago Tribune reporter
described the defense strategy. Dan White's "constant craving for
Cokes, Twinkies and candy bars", and his "sugar-heavy diet" are
mentioned by the reporter, but he does not craft the famous phrase.

Citation: "White's trial offers no help in solving puzzle: Why?" by
Michael Coakley, page 32, The Chronicle Telegram, Elyria, Ohio, May
13, 1979.

THE DEFENDANT'S sister, Nancy White Bickel, testified that her brother
had been plagued by long bouts of depression in the two years
preceding the murders, a type of depression that manifested itself in
a constant craving for Cokes, Twinkies and candy bars.

Defense counsel Douglas Schmidt then produced a psychiatrist, one of
the half-dozen who have testified for White, who said that after
examining the defendant he was convinced his seizures of deep
depressions were escalated by the sugar-heavy diet.

Not surprisingly, prosecutor Thomas Norman later elicited from the
psychiatrist the admission that persons who are addicted to junk food
do not normally kill other people.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list