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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Chessman Execution Today!

May 1, 1960, Caryl Chessman
Los Angeles Times file photo

From left, UC history professor Richard Drinnon; actors Marlon Brando, Steve Allen and Shirley MacLaine; and UC professor Eugene Burdick enter the governor's mansion in Sacramento to urge Gov. Pat Brown to spare the life of Caryl Chessman.

May 2, 1960, Caryl Chessman

May 2, 1960: Caryl Chessman spends his last hours typing letters to friends. Before being transferred to a cell next to the gas chamber, he shook hands with 17 of the 18 men on death row. One inmate was asleep and Chessman didn't want to wake him, The Times said.

He told the others, "I'll see you in the morning." An officer said that was a standard remark for men taking the six-floor trip, The Times said.

Chessman made no request for a final meal, The Times said. He was served fried chicken, French fries, vegetable salad, pie and coffee.

On Feb. 17, 1972, when the state Supreme Court overturned California's death penalty, former Gov. Pat Brown praised the ruling, saying: "The decision will do more to expedite criminal trials than anything in the last 100 years." Gov. Ronald Reagan criticized the court, saying it had put itself "above the will of the people."

May 2, 1960, Times Cover

May 2, 1960, Caryl Chessman


May 2, 1960, Chessman
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