Friday, December 09, 2005

Rowdy Roddy McDowall?

December 9, 1947
Los Angeles

Two laborers came to Superior Court today to sue actor Roddy McDowall, 19, for damages caused when the parties were involved in a head-on collision on September 7. In the accident, which happened on Roosevelt Highway near Latigo Canyon, Rosalio C.Padilla, 30, lost his left eye and suffered a broken knee, while Max Alverado, 42, received minor injuries. Through their attorney George Cohn, Padilla and Alverado sought $52,000 and $5200 respectively, from McDowall and actor Richard Long, 19, owner of the vehicle.

A message from the future: You know Roosevelt Highway as PCH, and Richard Long as Prof. Harold Everett from Nanny & the Professor.


Larry said...

Spectators Sickened
as Two Die in Gas Cell

SAN QUENTIN, Dec. 2, [1938]. (U.P.)—California carried out its first gas execution today, sending two prison rioters to their deaths in a lethal chamber into which 39 witnesses stared through thick glass windows.

Prison attendants, used to watching men die, said the exhibition sickened them. It led almost immediately to a movement to have the new law repealed and hanging reinstituted as the method of capital punishment in this state.

The victims themselves, Robert Lee Cannon, 29, and Albert Kessel, 28, who participated in the riot slaying of Warden Clarence Larkin of Folsom Prison, took it more calmly than did a priest who had seen 52 hangings, a doctor who had witnessed 150 executions, and a warden who has lost count of the number of hangings he has been forced to attend.

Cannon’s lips, read through the windows of the gas chamber, framed the words: “There’s nothing to it,” as the thin cloud of gas swirled up toward his respiratory organs.

He was smiling—more of a grimace than a smile—and words were forming again on his lips when his eyes rolled down and his head dropped back.

His companion, who had kept his head down so as not to look into the eyes of the staring spectators, seemed to mutter “so long” before his head, too, snapped back.

Sixteen minutes after a guard had released a lever dropping the cyanide eggs into a mixture of sulfuric acid and distilled water, prison doctors, listening through stethoscopes placed against the victims’ hearts and wired to a spot outside, pronounced Cannon and Kessel dead.

Officially Cannon’s death took 12 minutes and Kessel’s 15½.

The bodies remained in the chamber for two hours more until guards were certain all the fumes had been blown away through a special chimney.

Cannon and Kessel ate hearty breakfasts after remaining awake most of the night, playing a battered phonograph, singing and shouting to each other in their cells a few feet removed from the gas chamber.

Each asked for a cigar and a drink of whisky at about 10 minutes to 10. Their wishes were granted.

Clad in jeans and white shirts, they walked barefooted into the gas chamber. Cannon was first. Kessel was supported by guards.

Cannon’s arms were pinned to his sides by a thick strap.

It took about a minute for two guards to put him into one of the chairs and apply additional straps, two around his body, two over his arms, two over his legs.

Then the guards led Kessel in. A stethoscope had been placed over his heart as well as over Cannon’s and he soon found himself helpless in the chair beside Cannon

Cannon smiled and appeared interested in his surroundings as he watched the guards make the death preparations.

Both felons did some talking before the lazily rising white vapor reached their nostrils from the sunken bowls beneath their chairs and convulsed them.

“Hello, boys—so long,” Cannon shouted to the 39 spectators peering into the octagonal chamber at him through windows.

Before the gas rose, he cried: “Nothing to it!”

When the vapor clutched at him, he exclaimed: “There it is!” He tried to talk some more, but the gas got him and he lost consciousness.

Kessel’s lips moved and he said: “Quite a congregation here” as he sat down in the chair beside Cannon. A moment later, he seemed to say, “So long.”

Then he appeared to be trying to hold his breath. He was rigid and his hands gripped the arms of the chair as the gas hit him. He gasped: “It’s bad!” His head went back, then forward and down.

As Father George O’Meara turned away from the death chamber, he expressed his disgust with the new method.

“That was the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen,” the prison chaplain said. “I’ve witnessed 52 hangings. I could find nothing humane about it and I never want to watch anything like it again.”

Father O’Meara said he would ask his superior, the Rt. Rev. Archbishop John J. Mitty, for permission to join any fight to have the state Legislature abolish the gas chamber.

That such a fight will be made was the announcement of Melvin Belli, San Francisco attorney.

Dr. L.L. Stanley, prison physician, said tersely that hanging is “much simpler and muck quicker.” Warden Court Smith, going grimly about his duties with a set face, did not comment but previously he had expressed his dislike for this form of execution.

A guard told newsmen: “Hanging is a damned sight quicker and better.”

Larry said...

The Times editorialized:

Kessel and Cannon were two of five convicts who twisted a wire around the warden’s neck and dragged him into the prison yard, ordering him, on pain of death, to command the tower guards to throw down their rifles. Instead, Larkin shouted to the guards to pay no attention to him but to do their duty. As a result, the heroic warden was stabbed 12 times in the abdomen with knives made from rusty files. The time gained by his resistance was enough to muster the rest of the prison forces….

As against the 12 and 15 minutes Kessel and Cannon resisted death, Larkin lingered 108 hours. They were mercifully unconscious; their victim was conscious and in agony practically to the end. Their deaths were easy; his—from infected abdominal wounds—was horrible.