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Caryl Chessman
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Outlaw
    (May 27, 1921-May 2, 1960)
    Born in St. Joseph, Michigan
    Arrested as Los Angeles' 'Red Light Bandit'
    Convicted of robbery, rape and kidnapping
    Sentenced to death on the kidnapping charges
    Won a record eight stays of execution
    Wrote 'Cell 2455, Death Row' (1954), 'Trial By Ordeal' (1955) and 'The Face of Justice' (1957)
    Executed in the San Quentin gas chamber
    He was a career criminal who spent most of his adult life behind bars.
    As the 'Red Light Bandit,' he flashed a red light to trick drivers into thinking he was a police officer.
    When the drivers opened their windows or exited the car, he would rob them, and, if they were young women, rape them.
    When he was arrested in a stolen car, he had a red light in the vehicle; the car's original owner said he never owned such a light.
    In acting as his own attorney, he put off the jury with his blunt manner.
    He claimed to know who the 'real' Red Light Bandit was, but refused to name him.
    He claimed his original confession to the Red Light Bandit crimes had been beaten out of him by the police.
    There were discrepancies between his appearance and victim descriptions of the Red Light Bandit.
    While he was on death row, California repealed its 'Little Lindbergh' law that made kidnapping a capital offense, but the state refused to reduce his sentence.
    Opponents of his execution included authors Ray Bradbury, Robert Frost, Norman Mailer and Aldous Huxley, musician Pablo Casals, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and evangelist Billy Graham.
    A District Court judge agreed to a last-minute stay of execution, but his secretary misdialed the number for the San Quentin warden. When she got through on the second try, the execution had already started.

Credit: C. Fishel


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