August 27, 2012 – Last week, the man who gunned down John Lennon in New York City on December 8, 1980, was denied parole for the eighth time. Mark David Chapman originally sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, served 33 years so far and is eligible for parole again in 2016.
On Friday, a three-person Parole Board panel handed down their decision to keep Chapman behind bars. Their concern was that he “would commit more crimes and that his release would be incompatible with the welfare of society.”
The panel further acknowledged his good conduct in prison once again, as they had done two years ago, adding that his release would “trivialize the tragic loss of life which [he] caused.”
The average sentence for second-degree murder in New York is 15 to 25 years, while a life sentence is typically thought to represent 25 years. For violent crimes, most states require criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentenced time. Additionally, in the United States, on average, a person convicted of second-degree murder serves 21.6 years in prison.
Chapman served ten years longer than the average already and eight years longer than what is considered a life sentence. If he is considered a threat to society, I would be the first to demand that he remain behind bars. However, his record in prison and the fact that he did not have a history of crime prior to the shooting should be considered as it is for others seeking parole.
Criminals who have committed similar crimes and who do their time, are typically granted parole and given another chance to make something of their lives. Is Chapman not receiving his chance because Lennon was a well-known celebrity? Is Lennon’s life worth more than the life of any murder victim?
I’m not advocating softer crime penalties or defending Chapman’s actions. If it were up to me I’d fix the system by abolishing the death penalty for life in prison, and turning life in prison to literally mean the convicted criminal remains in prison for the rest of his or her life. However, the law states otherwise, and as long as it does, everyone should be entitled to the same courtesy under it, including Chapman who murdered the famous rock icon.
I remember reading an article after George Harrison died that reported he visited the attacker who stabbed and almost killed him several years before because he wanted to meet with him and tell him he was forgiven. Somehow, I think Lennon would feel the same.