This happened three days ago, but I just saw it. Fans of “The Onion Field,” take note:
Powell and Smith were originally sentenced to death but the sentences were reduced to life in prison when the California Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty. The punishment has since been reinstated, but didn’t apply retroactively.
The crimes were documented in 1973’s “The Onion Field” and the 1979 film of the same name, both written by Wambaugh, a former Los Angeles police officer.
Wambaugh said in a 2011 interview with The Associated Press that he visited Powell and Smith in prison when he was writing the book and found that they were fairly intelligent men whose lack of violent histories made their crime inexplicable.
“They were both smart guys and just petty criminals who got in over their heads one night,” Wambaugh said. “Who would have thought two such losers would do such a horrific crime?”
He said when he asked Powell if he had any complaints about the manuscript for “The Onion Field,” he had only one.
“He said, `I don’t think I’m nearly as physically unattractive as you seem to think I am” said Wambaugh. “That hurt his vanity.”
Wambaugh, told that Powell’s lawyers have always complained that his book (and the added notoriety it brought Powell) kept Powell in prison, is quoted as saying: “I’m not shedding any tears.”
Nicely understated, Mr. Wambaugh.