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Monday, August 17, 2015

The Red Light Rapist Bandit: Product of American Society

fe has many twists and turns and it affects all human beings. It is hard to imagine that a felon on death row, charged with 17 counts  of rape and robbery can turn into  a writer. It did happen and the man was Caryl Chessman who was also known as the Red Light bandit, by virtue of a red light that he displayed on his car roof and fooled many that he was a cop.

I heard about Chessman from an American friend when I was in the States last year. She gave me one of his books 'The Face of Justice' to read.I am told he wrote 4 books in all, before he was executed on 2 May 1960, after having been on death row for 12 years.I don't think his books are in print now, but perhaps one can get them at the local public library
Chessman was a product of American culture and the Mob, eulogised by James Hadley Chase in his books. He was arrested in beginning of 1948 on a charge of rape and kidnapping in California. Chessman had a simple Modus Operandi; he would follow a single girl in his car and pull up claiming he was a cop. The flashing red light, which he displayed on his car was his strength and  almost all girls took him to be a policeman. He would accost the girls and then drag them from the car to the nearby bushes and rape them. Sometimes he would insist the girls perform oral sex to satiate him.
The police finally arrested Chessman and brought him to trial. Out of many rape cases two were proved beyond doubt. These were concerning a 17 year old girl named Mary Alice Meza who was  forced to perform oral sex on Chessman and 22 year old Regina Johnson , who was pulled from her car and led screaming to the nearby clump of bushes and ferociously raped. Regina was dragged a total distance of 22 yards, but it was enough for the charge of kidnapping which is a federal offence to be added to his charge sheet. After all the evidence had been heard Chessman was found guilt  on 17 counts of rape and robbery. He was sentenced to death.

Many good samaritans took up Chessman's case  for commutation of his death sentence. They felt that Chessman had a troubled childhood and as such be given a chance to reform in life. Many times a date for execution was fixed only to be stayed by the courts. This continued for 12 years and  Chessman started to write books. Along with  Face of Justice, he also wrote, Trial by Ordeal and Cell 2455 Death Row. After his books were published many felt that Chessman did not deserve to go to the electric chair. However the officers who had prosecuted him were convinced that releasing Chessman would be a blunder as he was a psychopath and would rape girls again. His last reprieve arrived 15 minutes late and by that time Chessman had been executed on 2 May 1960, 12 years after he was sentenced to death. The curtain thus came down on the Red Light Bandit