Sunday, May 8, 2011

⅏Did You Know?: Caryl Chessman, a Convicted Sex Offender, Had Become a Best Selling Author While on Death Row?

Did You Know...
 Caryl Chessman, a Convicted Sex Offender, Had Become a Best Selling Author While on Death Row?  
Caryl Whittier Chessman (May 27, 1921 – May 2, 1960) was a convicted robber and rapist who gained fame as a death row inmate in California. Chessman's case attracted worldwide attention, and as a result he became a cause célèbre for the movement to ban capital punishment.
Born in St. Joseph, Michigan, Caryl Chessman was a criminal with a long record who spent most of his adult life behind bars. He had been paroled a short time from prison in California when he was arrested near Los Angeles and charged with being the notorious "Red Light Bandit." The "Bandit" would follow people in their cars to secluded areas and flash a red light that tricked them into thinking he was a police officer. When they opened their windows or exited the vehicle, he would rob and, in the case of several young women, rape them. In July 1948, Chessman was convicted on 17 counts of robbery, kidnapping, and rape and condemned to death.
Part of the controversy surrounding the Chessman case stems from how the death penalty was applied. At the time, under California's version of the "Little Lindbergh Law", any crime that involved kidnapping with bodily harm could be considered a capital offense. Two of the counts against Chessman alleged that he dragged a 17-year-old girl named Mary Alice Meza a short distance from her car demanding oral sex from her. Despite the short distance the woman was moved, the court considered it sufficient to qualify as kidnapping, thus making Chessman eligible for the death penalty.

Acting as his own attorney, Chessman vigorously asserted his innocence from the outset, arguing throughout the trial and the appeals process that he was alternately the victim of mistaken identity, or a much larger conspiracy seeking to frame him for a crime he did not commit. He claimed at other times to know who the real culprit was, but refused to name him. He further alleged that statements he made during his initial police interrogation implicating him in the Red Light Bandit crimes were coerced through torture.
Over the course of the 12 years he spent on death row, Chessman filed dozens of appeals and successfully avoided eight execution deadlines, often by a few hours.
The Chessman affair put then-Governor of California Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, an opponent of the death penalty, in a difficult situation. Brown initially did not intervene in the case, but then issued a last-minute, 60-day stay of execution on February 19, 1960, just hours before Chessman's scheduled execution.

While on death row, he wrote four books: Cell 2455, Death Row' (1954), Trial by Ordeal (1955), The Face of Justice (1957) and The Kid Was A Killer (1960). Chessman's memoirs became bestsellers and ignited a worldwide movement to spare his life, while focusing attention on the politics of the death penalty in the United States at a time when most Western countries had already abandoned it, or were in the process of doing so.
Brown's stay of execution, along with Chessman's last appeals, ran out in April 1960 and Brown subsequently declined to grant Chessman executive clemency. Exhausting a last-minute attempt to file a writ of habeas corpus with the California Supreme Court, Chessman finally went to the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison on May 2, 1960.
As the execution began and the chamber was filling with gas, the telephone rang. The caller was a judge's secretary informing the warden of a new stay of execution. The warden responded, "It's too late; the execution has begun," meaning there was no way to open the door and remove Chessman without the fumes killing others. The secretary had initially misdialed the telephone number and this may have made the difference between there being time to stop the execution and not. The alleged new evidence, which prompted the stay attempt, appears in very few accounts.

Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

1885, The magazine "Good Housekeeping" was first published.

1887,  Hannibal W. Goodwin applied for a patent on celluloid photographic film. This is the film from which movies are shown.

1890, The Oklahoma Territory was organized.

1902,  "A Trip to the Moon," the first science fiction film was released. It was created by magician George Melies.

1919, The first
U.S. air passenger service started.

1922, WBAP-AM began broadcasting in north Texas.

1926, In India, Hindu women gained the right to seek elected office.

U.S. Marines landed in Nicaragua to put down a revolt and to protect U.S. interests. They did not depart until 1933.

1932, Jack Benny's first radio show debuted on NBC Radio.

1933, Hitler banned trade unions in Germany.

1939, Lou Gehrig set a new
major league baseball
record when he played in his 2,130th game. The streak began on June 1, 1925.

1941, Hostilities broke out between British forces in Iraq and that country’s pro-German faction.

Resources:  wikipedia,,, various magazines,

1 comment:

  1. Mary Alice Meza was not dragged a few feet. She was dragged into Chessman's car, then deriven to remote spot, then forced to orally copulate him. She was a captive of Chessman's for 3 to 4 hours. An earlier victim, Regina Johnson, was forced, at gunpoint to go from her car to Chessman's car, where she, too was forced to orally copulate him. But the law said "a substantial distance," which was defined as from one room to another and at least 15 feet. Regina, though she wasn't taken as far, and wasn't held in captivity for as long, was also a kidnap victim under the law.


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