Caryl Chessman: Death penalty without murder (1960) Californian Caryl Chessman became a flashpoint for anti-death penalty sentiment in the 1950s. Chessman was convicted of robbery, kidnapping and rape in 1948; the jury determined that Chessman had caused bodily harm during one of the kidnappings, making him eligible for death. From death row, Chessman wrote books maintaining his innocence and insisting that his original confession had been coerced. There was widespread outrage over the case. Among his supporters, Chessman counted former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, writer Ray Bradbury and poet Robert Frost. Chessman missed his chance at a stay of execution (his ninth) on May 2, 1960. As the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison filled with toxic fumes, a legal secretary called to say that a federal judge had issued one more stay of execution. But it was too late for Chessman, who gasped a few times and died.
The song in the following video, "Death Row", is about Caryl Chessman. The head of Mercury records asked Jim Minor Lead to do a song about Caryl Chessman. Marlon Brando asked Art if he had a song about Chessman for one his movies, that never happened. Mercury released the song in April 1960 and radio stations across the US stopped playing this great song once Caryl was executed. Jim Minor-Lead vocals, Chet Atkins-lead guitar, Floyd Cramer-piano, The Jordanaires-Background vocals.