Finally, on May 2, 1960, Chessman was strapped into the chair in the gas chamber at San Quentin. As the straps were tightened, his attorney Rosalie Asher was in Sacramento, presenting a motion to Judge Goodman of the California Supreme Court. Judge Goodman was intrigued by her presentation, but needed more time to study it. Rosalie Asher told him there was no time.
Judge Goodman issued a one-hour stay of execution so that he could study the motion. He instructed his secretary to call the warden at San Quentin. When told to halt the execution, the assistant warden, Reed Nelson replied that it was too late. “The execution has begun.”
The pellets of cyanide had already been dropped into the sulfuric acid, which sat in a bucket beneath Chessman’s legs. The deadly fumes, like the invisible fingers of death tendriled up to his mouth and nose. It took him eight minutes to die.
Three hours later a black hearse from the Harry M. Williams Funeral Home in San Rafael arrived to pick up the blue-green, lifeless body of Caryl Chessman.