Chessman didn’t do himself any favours by representing himself in court. His demeanour was interpreted as arrogant and matters weren’t helped by the fact that the court stenographer died early on in the trial.
The transcription was now undertaken by a relative of the prosecutor, without Chessman's approval. That relative, a chronic alcoholic, made indiscriminate changes and couldn't even interpret his own handiwork in a court of law. But despite such judicial bungling even Chessman’s own defence lawyer George T. Davis thought the defendant difficult. However, Davis became fond of Chessman over the years and even though he believed him to be arrogant he also thought of him as a ‘decent and sensitive guy’.
"California was determined never to give him a retrial," said Davis years later. "Our only hope was to get the case into a federal court."
During the trial Chessman repeatedly refuted claims that he was the Red Light Bandit, but could not provide evidence corroborating his innocence.
Eventually the jury determined that one of the kidnapping counts included bodily harm of the victim. The jury did not recommend mercy, so the death sentence was automatically applied. Chessman was convicted as the ‘Red Light Bandit’ for the kidnap and rape of one Mary Alice Meza.