Case of the RED LIGHT BANDIT, a man who raped in the Last Century
Caryl Chessman is a unique name, in the sense he must be one of a few of a tribe who turned writers while in prison. Chessman remained on death row for 12 years before he was executed by the gas chamber in 1960. During this period he also authored 4 books and inspired a film by Hollywood. One is reminded about this case now, as America has an endemic crime record and the killings at Connecticut are nothing new. Chessman was an average American but he had a streak of violence in him. His modus operandi was simple. He traveled on the roads in California with a red light on top of his car. People believed him to be a cop and pulled up when he signaled them to stop. Thus he got the name “Red Light bandit”.
After the cars pulled up Chessman would rob the passengers and in case the driver was a girl he would drag her out of the car for sex, rape and oral sex. Two cases that were proved in court were the case of 17 year old Mary Alice Meza who under threat performed oral sex on Chessman and 22 year old Regina Johnson who was dragged 22 feet from the car to a clump of trees and raped. Many girls later complained that he would take them into the bushes, strip them and have ferocious sex with them
In 1948 Chessman was arrested and put on trial. He was sentenced to death for a total of 17 offences of rape and robbery. A peculiar aspect of this case was the death sentence awarded. At that time kidnapping was an offence that merited the death penalty. The fact the girl Regina Johnson was dragged 22 feet from the car made the application of kidnapping charge stick to Chessman and he was awarded the death sentence in 1948.
Chessman claimed he was innocent but he could not give much proof on this account. He earned a reprieve from the gallows on a number of occasions as eminent persons argued to save his life, but his luck finally ran out and on 2 May 1960 was executed.
Books written by Chessman