The Trial of Dan White: Trial Testimony of Diane Feinstein
Source: The Trial of Dan White by Kenneth W. Salter (1991)

Q Mayor Feinstein, on or about the 27th of November, last year, you were the President of the Board of Supervisors at that time, weren't you?

A That is correct. . . .

Q Calling your attention now to Monday morning, November 27th, of last year, were you in your office some time at approximately around 11:00 o'clock?

A Yes.

Q Do you recall about what time it was that you arrived at your office that day?

A It had to have been, oh, probably around 9:30, because I was-because I received a phone call from the Mayor about 9:00 o'clock, perhaps a little before, at my home.

Q Was that a phone call that you received from the late Mayor Moscone in connection with any appointment that he was likely to make on that day to the Board of Supervisors?

A Yes, it was.

Q Being the President of the Board of Supervisors, that would be discussed with you, no doubt, wouldn't it have been?

A Well, not necessarily "no doubt,” but I had written a letter in support of Dan White's reappointment. The Mayor had indicated to me he would let me know when he had made up his mind as to what he was going to do, and he called that morning and indicated that he had decided not to reappoint Dan White, and told me that he was going to appoint Dan Horanzey, and that he was going to be sworn in at 11:30 that morning.
Q Now, Mayor Feinstein, George Moscone, who was the actually elected Mayor of San Francisco at that time, and who had taken office in January of 1976, had the power, did he not, to appoint persons to the Board of Supervisors, where vacancies existed?

A Absolutely-absolutely. . . .

Q Mayor Feinstein, now bringing us up to a little later, in the morning, did you have occasion to see Mr. Dan White at some time on November 27th, 1978?

A Yes, I did.

Q Will you tell the members of this jury where you were and where Mr. White was, and just indicate what observations you made.

A I was sitting in my office.  I had met with the clerk of the Board and Deputy City Attorney, Jim Lazarus, at approximately 10:00 o'clock, because I was aware of the fact that both Dan White and Dan Horanzey would be taking their seat on the Board. We had been working on the parliamentary procedure to prevent a problem from taking place, because Dan Horanzey was to be sworn at 11:30, and I asked at that time if it would be acceptable if I were to try to find Dan White and talk with him, because I felt I could talk him out of taking his seat.
So, I had asked my staff to locate Dan White so that I might talk with him, and I was sitting in my office with my door open.  My staff, namely, Peter Nardoza, had told me that Mr. White had gone to the Mayor's office to make a last ditch appeal, and then would come and see me directly thereafter. So, I was waiting for him to come in the door, and I was sitting at my desk, and I heard the door open, and I saw him enter, and I said, "Dan," and he said something to the effect, "Just a moment," or, "I have something to do first" and went by very rapidly. I heard Peter saying, "Dianne wants to see you." And I heard him go down the hall, and I heard the door close.  It was a very short period of time. . . .
Q . Please continue.
A. And I heard the door close, and I heard the unmistakable shots.
Directly after the first one, I thought he didn't-knew he wasn't going to be reappointed and he shot himself, and I-then I heard additional shots, and I knew that something was wrong, and I heard several shots.
I couldn't-I couldn't be precise about the number, because there was a pause in between them, and I knew I had to move, and I was trying to force my brain and my body to function together and move out of the chair, and I had gotten out of the chair and was approaching the door of my office when I saw Dan leave, and I said, "Dan,” and he went right by, and the door closed. I then smelled the gun powder, went down the hall, saw that the door to Harvey Milk's office was closed.
I opened the door, and I saw his body, and I tried to get a pulse, but I could not, because of the blood, and I felt that he was dead, and so I closed the door and secured the area, and called the Chief of Police immediately. The Chief was, apparently, on the phone hearing about the episode on the other side of the hall, about which I was unaware at the time. I asked him to come down very immediately, and he did, and when he arrived, he told me that the Mayor had been shot and killed as well.
Q Mayor Feinstein, you stated that after you had heard the series of shots you went down the hall, you investigated in Harvey Milk's office-was it in Harvey Milk's office?
A No, it was in Dan White's office, I'm sorry.
Q Mayor Feinstein, had you ever carried a concealed firearm?
A Yes.
Q When was that that you carried a concealed firearm, and pursuant to what?
A I had had several threats from the New World Liberation Front terrorist organization that had taken credit for several bombings throughout the United States and the Bay Area.  A bomb had detonated at my house which had approximately two pounds of water gel construction explosive in it, and because of a fluke in that the weather had dropped below the explosion point, the explosion-and the explosive had splattered over the house, and fortunately did not explode. It was a very large bomb, and would have blown off the front portion of my house, which had scaffolding for a paint job on it, and would have sent that scaffolding as shrapnel into the homes of the neighbors. I also had 15 bulletholes put in a beach house that my husband and I owned, and the threats were continuing, and with that in mind, I applied for a concealed weapon permit. It was granted.
I was trained in the use of firearms at the Police range, and for a period of time, while the threats continued, I did carry that weapon.  I would like to point out that I also carried it during the period of time I was visiting my husband in the hospital, in March, shortly before he died, and for the further reason that on many occasions, late at night, I walked home from the hospital. I did not carry it after that, and I have not since.
Q You carried it up until what time?
A Approximately March '78. I renewed the permit in March '78, but I did not carry it, only on very few occasions after that.
Q You had a permit issued you legally by the Chief of Police of San Francisco to carry a concealed firearm by a person, didn't you?
A That is correct.        
MR. NORMAN: Thank you very much, your Honor.

Q Do you know whether any other members of the Board of Supervisors past or present carried or kept firearms at City Hall?

A I'm only aware of one.

Q Who was that?

A The former Chief of Police, Supervisor Al Neider.

Q Mayor Feinstein, you were out of the country from October 15th to November 15th, 1978; had Dan White, during his tenure on the board of Supervisors, consulted with you on occasion?

A Yes.

Q He was-would it be fair to say he was politically inexperienced at the time he took the seat on the Board of. . .

A I felt that Dan was new to the process, and that the Board, which had been a citywide elected board, was now a district board, and I was President of that Board, and I wanted to help each member as much as I could.  Dan White and I had lunch from time to time, discussed various problems and issues, and I tried to provide as much help as I could.
Q Did you feel, generally, that he was somewhat idealistic?

A Yes, I felt that Dan had very strong ideals. He had always worked very hard, and he took the process very seriously, and we talked about it from time to time. Also, we had light moments, and shared humor, as one does. I worked full time at it, and so I was there most of the time, not all the time, but I had an opportunity to talk with the supervisors as they came and went, and shared experiences of the day, and the normal colloquy that exists between people that work together. . . .

Q You mentioned that he was-took the process very seriously, and that was, I assume, the legislative process, of the job on the Board of Supervisors, and can you amplify on that perhaps?

A There were issues about which Dan White felt very strongly. One had to do with the location of a facility in his district which had caused a great deal of division within the district. He fought very hard for his position. I felt that over a period of time that Dan would, as he became more knowledgeable about the process, would become a good legislator.
Q Initially, would it be fair to say that it was a bit of a frustrating experience as to Dan White, and as to perhaps for anyone being new to that type of job?
A That is correct. The Board is a frustrating experience to everyone.
Q Generally, after you had returned to the City in November of'78, how did you first learn that Dan White had resigned; do you recall?
A I read it in the newspaper, and I was ill that week. My first day back was the Monday when this happened. I had not been back to City Hall that week, and I read about it in the newspaper, and I called Dan to find out what had happened. . . .
He said he had been under a great deal of pressure, great deal of economic pressure; that he had become very concerned about the new business, that there were problems; that some of his partners didn't feel that he was putting in the time he should in the business; that he and his wife were working very long hours. He pointed out to me explicitly that he worked from Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m., to 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and spent Sunday doing the books; that he had had to rearrange the mortgaging on the house to be able to handle the business; that he was under a great deal of stress; that he had not consulted anybody when he resigned, and then his family came to his aid and he felt that the economic stress to which he had been subjected was being remedied, and that he had asked for the reappointment. He also pointed out that the baby had spent a lot of time at a baby sitter, and that was of concern to him. . . .
A That, in essence, was the summary of the conversation. And I indicated that I would write a letter to the Mayor in support of his reappointment, and I would do whatever I could to try to secure the reappointment.
Q You, in fact, did write that letter to the Mayor, did you not?
A That is correct.
Q Do you remember the response from the Mayor's office, the initial response? . . .
A That the initial response of the Mayor was in favor toward reappointment.
Q Do you recall hearing or reading, or within your personal knowledge, that the actual letter of resignation was returned to Dan  White?
A Yes, I'm aware of that. I checked that out, as President of the Board, to see whether the letter of resignation was, in fact, actually received. A copy of it, I was informed, was actually received, was checked in by the clerk. The technicality of the resignation, the legality of the resignation, as I understood, was complete. The resignation had taken place.

Q Now, returning to November 27th, 1978, when you saw Dan White, could you describe for me his appearance, and I know you only saw him briefly, but describe the best you can recall.
A Yes, he came in the office very rapidly.
His jaw was clenched, and he, as sometimes happens, his hair had fallen slightly over his forehead, and he was pale, and otherwise, there was nothing' unusual that I perceived, other than he was moving rapidly.
Q Other than that, he was clenched and white-faced or pale?
A That's right.
Q You mentioned, Mayor Feinstein, that upon hearing the shot, your initial reaction was that Dan White had killed himself; is that your testimony?           .
A Yes, that was my initial reaction, because I knew that if he had been to the Mayor's office he knew that he didn't have the appointment, and that was the only thing I could think. The next thing I thought is that there were too many shots for that to have happened.
Q Did he indicate to you at any time what he had told Dan White in regards to the reappointment issue?
A No, that issue did not come up. . . .That was one of the reasons. I was trying to reach him. I thought I would soften the blow, and that it would be helpful if I could talk with him.
Q And your staff, in fact, had been sent, and they returned, saying they thought he was making a last appeal to George Moscone for the appointment?
A That's correct.
Q Given that you knew Dan White quite well, would it be your opinion that the man you know was the type of man that would have shot two people?
A No, it would not be my opinion.
Q In Fact, do you recall talking to some inspectors shortly after the tragedies?
A Yes.
Q Do you recall mentioning that you just couldn't understand it, and thought it was as to the Vietnam experience or latent stress?
A Yes... .  
Q You had indicated also in your testimony earlier that you wanted to see Mr. White because knowing that Mr. Dan Horanzey was going to be appointed and be sworn in, and take his seat as supervisor of District 8, that there might be some problem with Dan White going to take that seat, possibly?
A A letter had been received by, I believe it was the Clerk of the Board, indicating that Mr. White intended to take his seat on Monday. . .I was also aware that Mr. White was planning a legal challenge, because I had been called on the phone toward the end of the week by one of his attorneys, Peter Bagatelos, who indicated to me this was the case, and I told him that I did not feel, if he was asking for the conclusions of a lay person, that this legal battle had any merit to it, because I had checked out the fact that the resignation had been actually clocked in by the Clerk of the Board, and therefore was legally effective, and that the only chance that remained was for Dan to be reappointed by the Mayor.