Michael Harkins, and his family, have been close friends of mine, and other mutual friends, since 1965. Michael went to the California College of Arts and Crafts, and was good friends with the Stackpole family.
Michael married the ex-wife of Bruce Perlowin who married a famous and dangerous Russian Spy while in the fed lock-up. A movie is being made about Bruce who lived in the Harkin’s basement for several month, and did business with Abbey Hoffman, there.
Arround 1990 Michael and I went to lunch with William Linhart, the Private Investigator who Cayrl Chessman hired to keep him from going to the electric chair. We accompanied Bill to KTVU in Jack London Square where he was going to be interviewed.
In the ninth grade I stood before the class and did a oral book review of Caryl’s autobiography. The class began to laugh, they thinking this hoodlum was putting them on. I was sent to the principles office, accused of picking this book just to disturb the class, just, to get some attention.
It was Michael Harkins who told me murder could not be ruled out, because folks had lied about vital matters, such as tide and wind. Michael had read testimony in the Benton Divorce that spoke of insane fights over everything – that I was not privy to because I was estranged from most crazy family members.
In ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ Tom Snyder depicts Crazy Christine as bi-polar, and dismisses her own words as “ideations of woman who was not well when she wrote them.”
However, Snyder ruled Garth Benton sane, even though he spoke these words that appear in the book, the fake sanity hearing that Stacey Pierrot instigated in 1997 on her Rosamond webpage.
“We were almost there when an ambulance passed us, going the other way. We both realized it was carrying Christine. My mind flashed back over the last few months and years, and all the anguish for Nina and Drew and me, even for Christine. I was crying, and I turned to Nina —
this is what I am ashamed of — and I said, ‘we’re free. And Drew is saved.”
A famous convicted murderer can author and publish books while in prison, and a famous artist render masterpieces while in an assylum. But, I am severely hindered by crazy nobodies who are getting way too much attention.
Enough! These parasites have had their day. Folks want us crazy and creative folks in the limelight – not them!
Caryl Chessman Case — Attorneys Exit Court — Post Office Building (May 01, 1960) . BANC PIC 1959.010–NEG, Part 3, Box 161, [05-02-60.01] . 2 negatives
George Davis, Rosalie Asher and William Linhart exit Goodman’s court and walk down hall after hearing news of execution (death penalty).
Caryl Chessman Protests — Actor Marlon Brando — San Quentin Prison (May 02, 1960) . BANC PIC 1959.010–NEG, Part 3, Box 161, [05-02-60.04] . 7 negatives
Marlon Brando speaks to crowd. Brando stands with guards [who have stopped him]. Brando stands in front of San Quentin gate. Brando is interviewed by reporter, stands with others, sips coffee.
Nov. 26, 1957
Regarding posthumous diagnoses: many famous people are believed to have been affected by bipolar disorder. Most of these listed have been diagnosed based on evidence in their own writings and contemporaneous accounts by those who knew them. It is often suggested that genius (or, at least, creative talent) and mental disorder (specifically, the mania and hypomania of bipolar disorder) is linked; the connection was widely publicized by Kay Redfield Jamison in Touched with Fire, although many of the diagnoses in the book are made by Jamison herself. Also, persons prior to the 20th century may have incomplete or speculative diagnoses of bipolar disorder (e.g. Vincent van Gogh.)
Meanwhile, Caryl Chessman is getting a new defense attorney and awaiting a decision on whether the manuscript of a proposed book, “The Kid Was a Killer,” will be returned to him. The manuscript was seized in 1954 by Harley O. Teets, the late warden of San Quentin.
Photograph by Dan McCormack / Los Angeles Times
Deputy Atty. Gen. William Bennett, left, watches as San Quentin Warden Fred Dickson displays the manuscript of Caryl Chessman’s “The Kid Was a Killer,” which was seized on the belief that it was “prison labor.” Chessman is flanked by attorneys A.L. Wirin, left, of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Paul N. Posner. The man in the background leaning on a counter is Dist. Atty. William R. McKesson.
Caryl Whittier Chessman (May 27, 1921 – May 2, 1960) was a convicted robber and rapist who gained fame as a death row inmate in California. Chessman’s case attracted worldwide attention, and as a result he became a cause célèbre for the movement to ban capital punishment.
 Crime and conviction
Born in St. Joseph, Michigan, Caryl Chessman was a criminal with a long record who spent most of his adult life behind bars. He had been paroled a short time from prison in California when he was arrested near Los Angeles and charged with being the notorious “Red Light Bandit.” The “Bandit” would follow people in their cars to secluded areas and flash a red light that tricked them into thinking he was a police officer. When they opened their windows or exited the vehicle, he would rob and, in the case of several young women, rape them. In July 1948, Chessman was convicted on 17 counts of robbery, kidnapping, and rape, and was condemned to death.
Part of the controversy surrounding the Chessman case stems from how the death penalty was applied. At the time, under California’s version of the “Little Lindbergh Law”, any crime that involved kidnapping with bodily harm could be considered a capital offense. Two of the counts against Chessman alleged that he dragged a 17-year-old girl named Mary Alice Meza a short distance from her car demanding oral sex from her. Despite the short distance the woman was moved, the court considered it sufficient to qualify as kidnapping, thus making Chessman eligible for the death penalty.
 On death row
Acting as his own attorney, Chessman vigorously asserted his innocence from the outset, arguing throughout the trial and the appeals process that he was alternately the victim of mistaken identity, or a much larger conspiracy seeking to frame him for a crime he did not commit. He claimed at other times to know who the real culprit was, but refused to name him. He further alleged that statements he made during his initial police interrogation implicating him in the Red Light Bandit crimes were coerced through torture.
Chessman argued his case to the public through letters, essays and books. His memoirs became bestsellers and ignited a worldwide movement to spare his life, while focusing attention on the politics of the death penalty in the United States at a time when most Western countries had already abandoned it, or were in the process of doing so. The office of California Governor Pat Brown was flooded with appeals for clemency from noted authors and intellectuals from around the world, including Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, Norman Mailer, Dwight MacDonald, and Robert Frost, and from such other public figures as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Christian evangelist Billy Graham.
Over the course of the 12 years he spent on death row, Chessman filed dozens of appeals and successfully avoided eight execution deadlines, often by a few hours. He appealed his conviction primarily on the grounds that the original trial was improperly conducted and that subsequent appeals were seriously hampered by incomplete and incorrect transcripts of the original trial proceedings. The appeals were successful and the U.S. Supreme Court finally ordered the State of California to either conduct a full review of the transcripts or release Chessman. The review concluded that the transcripts were substantially accurate and Chessman was scheduled to die in February 1960.
The Chessman affair put Govenor Brown, an opponent of the death penalty, in a difficult situation. Brown initially did not intervene in the case, but then issued a last-minute, 60-day stay of execution on February 19, 1960, just hours before Chessman’s scheduled execution. Brown claimed he issued the stay out of concern that Chessman’s execution could threaten the safety of President Dwight D. Eisenhower during a planned visit to South America, where the Chessman case had inflamed anti-American sentiment.
Brown’s stay of execution, along with Chessman’s last appeals, ran out in April 1960 and Brown subsequently declined to grant Chessman executive clemency. Exhausting a last-minute attempt to file a writ of habeas corpus with the California Supreme Court, Chessman finally went to the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison on May 2, 1960.
As the execution began and the chamber was filling with gas, the telephone rang. The caller was a judge’s secretary informing the warden of a new stay of execution. The warden responded, “It’s too late; the execution has begun,” meaning there was no way to open the door and remove Chessman without the fumes killing others. The secretary had initially misdialed the telephone number and this may have made the difference between there being time to stop the execution and not. The alleged new evidence, which prompted the stay attempt, appears in very few accounts.
The celebrated author Dominique Lapierre visited Chessman several times during his incarceration. Lapierre was then a young reporter working for a French newspaper. His account of Chessman appears in the book A Thousand Suns.
While on death row, Chessman wrote four books: Cell 2455, Death Row’ (1954), Trial by Ordeal (1955), The Face of Justice (1957) and The Kid Was A Killer (1960). He sold the rights to his autobiography, Cell 2455, Death Row to Columbia Pictures, which was made into a film of the same name, directed by Fred F. Sears in 1955, with William Campbell as Chessman. Chessman’s middle name, Whittier, was used as the surname of his alter ego protagonist in the film.
The manuscript of Chessman’s novel The Kid Was a Killer was seized by San Quentin warden Harley O. Teets in 1954 on the grounds that it was “prison labor”. It was eventually returned to Chessman in late 1957 and published in 1960.
Last year, The New York Times called the Mexican artist Martín Ramírez “simply one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.” What is so remarkable about his achievement, beyond the mesmerizing repetition of lines and images in his drawings, is that all of the work was created inside a mental institution.
Mr. Ramírez, who died in 1963, was an immigrant who fell on hard times during the Great Depression, and for the last 30 years of his life he was institutionalized after a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
After a major exhibit of his drawings last year at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, a cache of previously unknown work was discovered. Now 25 of those new drawings, created during the last three years of his life, are on display at the museum through April 12. This weekend, the museum is presenting a panel discussion in which historians and sociologists will explore Mr. Ramírez’s life and work, including the circumstances of his diagnosis and whether his work really reflects a mental illness.
Convicted spy testifies in San Diego murder case
By Ben Fox The Associated Press
Thursday June 27, 2002
SAN DIEGO — In halting and heavily-accented English, a former Soviet spy recounted Wednesday how she became an FBI informant in a murder-for-hire case.
Svetlana Ogorodnikova this week is testifying as a key government witness, seven years after her release from prison. She was convicted of seducing a Los Angeles FBI agent into selling a confidential document to the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
After serving half her 18-year sentence, Ogorodnikova was released and spent several years fighting deportation from the United States — an effort she gave up by moving to Tijuana, Mexico, with a convicted drug trafficker she met and married in prison.
Ogorodnikova returned illegally to Southern California in 1999 and moved with her husband to a ranch in Fallbrook. The ranch was owned by Kimberly Bailey, who is now on trial in federal court on charges of having a San Diego private investigator tortured and murdered in an abandoned house in Tijuana.
Bailey repeatedly asked Ogorodnikova if she could hire a hitman to kill witnesses and others involved in the murder of the private investigator, Richard Post, the Russian woman testified.
“I became very scared,” said the former spy, dressed in a dark blue suit, her hair cut short. “I think maybe she’d forget, maybe she’s not serious.”
Bailey is accused of having Post kidnapped, tortured over five days in Tijuana, and then murdered because she believed he cheated on her with other women and stole money from her.
Bailey has pleaded innocent to conspiracy to murder a person in a foreign country and other charges. Through her lawyer, she has insisted that Post is alive and in hiding.
FBI agents who had the Fallbrook ranch under surveillance approached Ogorodnikova, who agreed to covertly tape conversations over the phone and in person with Bailey.
The Russian woman, according to the tapes, set up a meeting in the Mandalay Bay casino between an FBI agent posing as a hitman and Bailey, who allegedly wanted to have him kill several people involved with Post’s slaying.
In their conversations, Ogorodnikova said she and Bailey developed a code. Examples included “brother” or “lawyer” to mean hitman and “investigation” to refer to murder. “It was like a spy movie, like in James Bond,” she testified.
Bailey’s defense attorney, Philip DeMassa, said he hoped to use Ogorodnikova’s past to convince jurors that she is not a reliable witness.
“She’s an experienced KGB agent and she’s lying about everything,” he said outside the federal courtroom.
Ogorodnikova pleaded guilty to espionage charges in 1985, after she admitted seducing Richard Miller, the first FBI agent charged with espionage.
The former Soviet spy had no trouble slipping back into the United States when a friend drove her across the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, where inspectors failed to check Ogorodnikova’s background, according to her husband, Bruce Perlowin.
The Bailey trial is expected to last several more weeks.
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