On Dec. 9, 1980, one of the legends of rock and roll was gunned down as he returned home to his apartment at the Dakota in New York City. The world lost one of the great ones, former Beatle John Lennon, and Mark David Chapman was arrested and convicted of second degree murder. He was sentenced to twenty years to life for the crime.
The first 31 years of the sentence were served at Attica, maximum security prison in Attica, New York. In May 2012, he was transferred to Wendt maximum security prison which is located in Alden, New York. He was placed in protective custody at Wendt.
Beginning in the year 2000, when he had served the minimum amount required by his sentence, Chapman has been eligible for parole. Prisoners are allowed to apply for parole every two years and Chapman has done this. This means that in August, 2012, he applied for the seventh time.
He was reviewed in a video conference for his parole hearing. Among the questions that were asked of him was where he would live if he was released. He gave two different answers saying that he had been where he was for so long that he would probably stay right where he was. Then, when pressed, he admitted to corresponding with a minister who had offered to provide him with an apartment and also with a job.
In the interview, he also talked about the day that he gunned down John Lennon. He stated that he did not think he was John Lennon; he just wanted to kill the most famous person that he could. At that moment, he decided that John Lennon would fit that bill. He wanted to assure Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono that it was not a personal vendetta, it was just where Lennon stood on Chapman’s list of famous people. Had he not been the top, he would still be alive.
Ono has sent letters to the parole board in the past stating her fear that Chapman presents a clear and present danger to both herself and both of Lennon’s two sons and requesting that he not be released.
On Aug. 23, 2012 Mark David Chapman was denied parole for the seventh time. In its decision, the parole board stated “You shot and killed an innocent victim, an international music star, your actions clearly demonstrated a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life.”
“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.”
“Therefore, 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,” the board wrote.
Mark David Chapman is 57 years old; he will be eligible for parole again in August 2014. According to the Wall Street Journal, Yoko Ono and her son said the parole board’s decision to keep John Lennon’s killer behind bars is “complicated” and “sensitive.”