Mark David Chapman, originally sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, served 38 years so far. At his parole hearing a few years back, Chapman said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer.”
Here part of the transcript handed down by the three-panel parole board that denied him once again:
“Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime,” board member Sally Thompson wrote. Board members Joseph Crangle and Marc Coppola agreed.
“The panel notes your good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation, remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered,” Thompson wrote. “However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone.”
I’m not advocating softer crime penalties or defending Chapman’s actions, but maybe, just maybe it is time to grant him parole.
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 several years longer than the average already and what is considered a life sentence. Could this be due to killing a much-loved musical icon and not just your average Joe?
Perhaps one could argue that Chapman did plan the murder, and therefore, could have been convicted of first-degree murder, which does not typically allow for parole. That is not the case, however; he was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries lighter penalties.
If Chapman isn’t ready for release, or is considered a threat to society, I would be the first to demand that he remain behind bars. But his record in prison and the fact that he did not have a history of crime prior to the shooting should be taken into consideration. And if he’s not ready now, will he ever be?
I remember reading an article right after George Harrison died, that reported he visited the attacker who stabbed and almost killed him several years before. Harrison wanted to meet with him and tell him he was forgiven.
Somehow, I think Lennon would feel the same. Perhaps he’d want to give peace a chance by letting this man live on the outside again.
We’ll see what happens when Chapman goes before the parole board on August 20.