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August 27 , 2009

Caryl Chessman: Red Light Bandit?


Caryl Chessman was a car thief in the 1940s. From St. Joseph's, Michigan, many of his father's ancestors settled in DuPage County, Illinois. Chessman's father, Serl was born in Itasca. Caryl Chessman was convicted of two kidnapping charges under California's "Little Lindbergh" Law. The California Penal Code classified the offenses as Section 209s, which were aggravated by forced oral intercourse. For these two crimes, both committed in January 1948, he received death penalty sentences. The case lingered through the 1950s and into 1960. There were many rallies that favored reducing Chessman's sentence to life imprisonment. In the interim the inmate wrote four bestselling books. With the proceeds from his publications he was able to hire a top flight defense lawyer. The Chessman case was protracted because of several infringements of defendant's rights which were carried out by the trial judge. Specifically, the accused was denied access to daily transcripts that recorded the court proceedings. I have researched Chessman's paternal lineage and included photos and details of the lives of his father's family members. His mother was adopted. Readers can make their own decisions about Caryl Chessman's guilt or innocence, and whether it was appropriate, in their opinions, for him to receive the death penalty

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