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Matt Weinstock, Oct. 15, 1959

October 15, 2009 |  4:00 pm


The Chessman Case

Matt Weinstock     How, under the law, can a man be left dangling between life an death for 11 years?  That's what people are asking in the strange case of Caryl Chessman, due to be gassed in San Quentin Oct. 23.  And why is Chessman himself protesting a move toward clemency that might mean life imprisonment?

    The answer lies in a mountain of legal evidence and opinions which have piled up since he was convicted in 1948 of rape, kidnapping and robbery.  And yet, not all the answer is there, either.

    It is unwise to oversimplify such a tangle but attorneys, discussing the case objectively, put a finger on the law itself. 

    After his conviction Chessman appealed.  Basis of his appeal was that the transcript of the trial was not a perfect one, as is required by the code.

    THE ORIGINAL COURT REPORTER, who died during the trial, used the outmoded Pitman shorthand system, which relied considerably on personally devised word signs or hieroglyphics.

    It is Chessman's contention that the court reporter who supplanted him, using the Gregg system, could not give a legally precise translation of his predecessor's notes.

    Assuming this is true, Chessman has contended his conviction should be voided and he should
be given a new trial.

    Should the case be remanded to the district attorney and a new trial be granted, it is the feeling of attorneys that Chessman would move for dismissal on the grounds of double jeopardy and conceivably walk out of the courtroom a free man.

    The case is unprecedented and doubtless will make legal history.  It's one of those things that is no one's fault and everyone's fault.
   A GREAT experiment in merchandising is taking place in a  small antique store at 344 S Spring St.

    A sign in the window states "100% off".

    Intrigued, a passer-by went in and asked Harry Lederman, the owner, "What do you mean, 100% off?  Don't you realize that 100% off means free, gratis, for nothing?  You are eliminating the basic premise of selling, which is to make a profit."

    Lederman said enigmatically, "I figure people will buy anything if it's cheap enough."

    Curiously enough, there are always customers in the store.
    AS AN airliner neared Des Moines last Saturday, reports Loran Smith, who spent the weekend there, the stewardess announced, "We're now landing at Des Moines and I'm getting married tomorrow and whether you fasten your seat belts or not is not of the slightest concern to me."
    BACK IN 1918 Mike Millot got a $60-a-month job as a messenger boy with the purchasing division of the Department of Water and Power.  Now, after 41 years in this division, he is retiring as the department's purchasing agent, a job that is responsible for spending around $45 million a year.

    At his request he is departing as undramatically as he served, but those who have worked with him think Mike is entitled to a passing thought -- a nice thing.
Life can B A quiz show,
4 though U R A whiz,
The Q 4 U is knowing who
The 1 2 Q U iz.
    AROUND TOWN -- A building being remodeled on 17th St. in Costa Mesa has a sign, "Opening Soon.  Seal and Sheets Mortuary."  It figures . . . During the World Series, Frank Spencer reports belatedly, as the pallbearers entered a big black sedan at a Washington Blvd. mortuary each was handed a transistor radio with an earphone for the long ride to the cemetery . . . Today is Poetry Day, so proclaimed by Gov. Brown.  Credit goes to poet Will Strong of San Gabriel for the designation.  Through his efforts more than 25 states now thusly express appreciation to poets . . . The APCD received a letter from an easterner who wishes to come here to live but inquired if the smog might affect his asthma.  He lives on Goodenough St., Brighton, Mass.