Harvey Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in

Harvey Milk after winning a seat on the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in 1977 (Shilts)
And yet, for many this hope was dashed after former supervisor Dan White shot and killed Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978. Five years later, Emily Mann depicted White’s deeds and the loss of that hope for many in the gay community in the play “Execution of Justice,” which would open on broadway and eventually become known around the world.
In a jury trial, such as the one that occurred for Dan White, the judge presides over the proceedings and rules on objections and motions and can, through his or her decisions on those objections and motions, affect the decision made by the jury. In the trial of the People versus Daniel James White, Judge Walter Cavalgno is an example of one of these judges that affects a case’s outcome. Whether Judge Cavalgno is aware of it or not, his actions and interjections exude a bias toward Dan White. And if this trial were to have a different, impartial judge, the sentencing and outcome of the trial would have been divergent from the outcome that occurred.
One of the main duties of a judge in a jury trial is to respond to the objections made by both the prosecuting attorney, in thise case Thomas F. Norman, and the defense attorney, Douglas Schmidt. In this duty, Judge Cavalgno excels and does not expose his bias, but rather responds to the objections equally and fairly. Judge Cavalgno sustains three of the objections made by Norman and three of the objections made by Schmidt (Mann, 192-195, 198, 223, 227). There is one large difference related to Judge Cavalgno’s responses to objections, however, which is that Judge Cavalgno sustains all three of the defense’s objections and only three out of ten of the prosecutions, overruling seven. It could be said that this statistic is because the prosecution throughout the trial objects more aggressively and that because they are doing so it was more likely that some of these objections are not as well founded, therefore making the judge more likely to overrule than sustain. In the end, however, even without fully examining the legal basis for each objection, one could CAN?! conjecture where 100 percent of one side’s objections are sustained compared to 30 percent of the other side’s, it seems to reflect a THE?! likelihood of a bias toward the side with 100 percent of their objections sustained, in this case the defense.
Not only do Judge Cavalgno’s sustain versus overrule rates for objections made by each side seem to reflect a likelihood of a bias but Judge Cavalgno’s actions and interjections throughout the case do, in addition. In particular, three of these interjections are, in fact, objections in favor of the defense veiled as a judge’s interjections. Except, the main difference between these interjections, or objections, and legitimate objections that support the defense is that these objections are not being made by Schmidt and the defense; Judge Cavalgno is instead objecting of his own volition when the defense fails to notice the grounds on which to object in front of them. In one instance, when the prosecution, Norman, presses a witness who is a doctor on the idea that it, something that if proven true would reflect very badly on White and greatly hurt the defense’s case, the defense fails to object on the grounds of badgering the witness. Once Judge Cavalgno then sees that the defense is failing to object, the judge interjects and objects of his own accord stating, When Norman then protests, the judge reaffirms his decision to object and uses his power as the judge to force the court to move on. If the defense in a trial fails to object when the grounds was apparent, it is then their own fault and the judge is not meant to step in to ensure the objection occurs, especially when the judge never does so for the other side. KEEP PRIOR SENTENCE?? Then, once again, four pages later on page 209, Norman is questioning a psychiatrist when Judge Cavalgno can see that the answer the psychiatrist, Dr. Solomon, is about to give will hurt the case of White and he once more forces the trial to move on, again amid Norman’s complaints and no objection from the defense (Mann, 209). The last time Judge Cavalgno objects through an interjection is when a witness in rebuttal for the people, Carol Ruth Silver, City Supervisor, begins to discuss an article she read in a newspaper, which jurors are not allowed to read and the defense remains silent. Judge Cavalgno then stops her before she can divulge what she read in the newspaper, which is an article that, had the jurors heard it, certainly would have helped the prosecution’s case and hurt the defense’s (Mann, 224).
Judge Cavalgno’s biased objections pretending to be unbiased interjections are not his only unjust actions in the trial. Throughout the trial Judge Cavalgno interjects many times, almost every time with a biased statement that serves to shift the jury in favor of the defense. The judge never once interjects with a statement in support of the defense, but does interject in favor of the defense often–to be exact, nine different times. Some examples of these biases included when he allowed the full confession by White to be played in court, which is highly untraditional especially in its narrative form, and when Judge Cavalgno twice asks witnesses for the defense to (Mann, 177) . He wants to ensure that does not happen and that the jury will hear every word because the witnesses speaking are saying powerful statements that will persuade the jury to see the assassinations from White’s perspective.
Interestingly enough, at one moment in “Execution of Justice,” it seems as if Judge Cavalgno’s possible subconscious bias becomes conscious and he realizes the bias he has been exuding in favor of the defense and attempts to apologize for his biased interjections. After the interjection he makes when Witness Silver was testifying, detailed above, he seems to realize how quickly he jumped in to shift the direction of the testimony in favor of the prosecution and immediately interrupts again to say, . This demonstrates that he did not wish for the attorneys, reporters, or generally the courtroom to be made aware of his bias, and alternatively, that his bias was possibly entirely subconsciously.
If Judge Cavalgno had not interjected with his bias as often or had sustained a proportionate amount of both the defense and prosecution’s objections, it is likely that the outcome may have very different and the jury may have been less lenient with White’s sentencing. Because of how easily Judge Cavalgno was able to influence this trial because of his preexisting bias toward and knowledge of the men involved, the trial should have been moved out of the San Francisco area and either to a farther away city or even a neighboring state. If the trial had been moved, the new judge would have almost certainly known to as great an extent who each of the men slain were and who Dan White was, meaning he also most likely would not have had a large bias and could have contributed to making the courtroom a more fair and just place.