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Gregg v. Georgia

Caryl Chessman Trial

After eight stays of execution, the convicted "Red Light Bandit," Caryl Chessman, was put to death 2 May 1960, just seconds before a ninth stay of execution was telephoned. The case was significant due to the generation of worldwide attention and sympathy for Chessman's documented struggle against capital punishment and the U.S. death penalty process.

The main point of argument for a new trial had been that after Chessman had been sentenced 21 May 1948, the court reporter, Ernest Perry, died of coronary thrombosis, leaving behind 1,800 pages of shorthand testimony to be transcribed. Under California law, if the court reporter dies before transcribing his notes a new trial must be held. On 25 June 1948, Judge Charles W. Fricke ruled that a new trial would not be given since Chessman's case was criminal and not civil. In September of 1948 the job of transcribing the notes was given to Stanley Fraser, the uncle of the prosecutor in the case who also received three times the standard pay rate to complete the transcription. Other issues of rulings made by Fricke, as well as the unbalanced jury of 11 women and one man in a sexual assault case added to Chessman's plea for a new trial.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Gregg v. Georgia - Significance, Death Penalty Upheld Under Certain Circumstances, Caryl Chessman Trial, Further Readings