On Granting Parole to Mark David Chapman

Next month, Mark David Chapman, the murderer of John Lennon, goes before New York State’s parole board. Sentenced to a 20 years-to-life sentence for second degree murder in 1981, he first came up for parole in 2000. Now, in 2010, he is up for parole for the sixth time, having served 29 years in Attica State.

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono opposes parole for Chapman, as she has each of the previous times he has come up before the parole board. She believes that Chapman poses a danger to herself and to Sean Lennon, and on those grounds he should remain behind bars.

I think Chapman should be released. He has served his time. He has been, by all reports, a model prisoner. He has, not to put too fine a point on it, gotten his fecal matter together. He was a very disturbed young man in his mid-twenties. Now, he is in his mid-fifties and he has done what society has asked of him.

I am not without ambivalence, however. My uneasiness comes not from a fear of what Chapman might do — I strongly doubt that Chapman, at fifty-five, is a candidate for recidivism; and Yoko Ono’s paranoia notwithstanding, she has more to fear from pigeons crapping on her head as she walks in Central Park than she has to fear from Chapman — but from what Beatles fans might do. If New York State has a compelling interest in keeping Chapman behind bars, it is in ensuring his safety from Beatledom’s lunatic fringe. When Chapman came up for parole in 2004, websites the world over posted messages promising Chapman’s death were he released.

I realize that Chapman is not likely to be released next month; sometimes, the identity of the murder victim matters more than the record. Were it Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five that Chapman had gunned down outside the Dakota Building on December 8, 1980, Chapman’s parole request would have been granted years ago. Instead, Chapman martyred St. John of Lennon, and the emotional freight of that act (to say nothing of the political backlash New York’s parole board would feel if they released him) outweighs the rehabilitation and clear progress Chapman has made behind bars and the debt he has paid to society. Judging Chapman on the basis of who Lennon was and what he might have done post-1980, as some have, strikes me as an unfair and frankly impossible-to-meet standard.

Some Beatles fans refuse to speak Chapman’s name, treating him as the equivalent of Lord Voldemort — “He who shall not be named.” Yoko Ono has said that, while she wants December 8th to be a universal day of forgiveness, she has not yet begun to forgive Chapman — and may be incapable of it. Set aside the emotion. Look at John Lennon not as St. John of Lennon but as an ordinary man. I believe that Chapman, if released and if fanatic Beatledom didn’t demonize and torment him, would fade back into the obscurity from whence he came and some of the emotional wounds of Lennon’s murder would heal instead of being torn open again each biennium as Chapman comes up for parole once more.

I hold unpopular opinions and, within Beatledom, this is a truly unpopular view. Yet, in spite of the controversy, I am convinced that it is the right view; I would rather be honest and disliked than false in my beliefs and loved as a result. I don’t expect anyone to agree with this. In my view, Mark David Chapman should be granted his release from prison. It’s the right thing to do, the humane thing to do.

3 thoughts on “On Granting Parole to Mark David Chapman

  1. There’s a comedian named, Sean Rouse, who once told a joke about almost being arrested in Texas. A cop caught Sean Rouse drunk, urinating on an electrical transformer. Funny story and I guess it might be true. By the end of the joke, he says that he ended up being fined something like $270 for disorderly conduct and the cop told him, “That’ll teach you, boy; that you can’t just come into Texas and piss on stuff over here.” and Sean said, “Well, actually I can… for $270 dollars.”

    The point that I’m trying to make is, in the fashion in which Mark Chapman sat outside of Lennon’s home, wanting to be famous by killing John Lennon, then killing the guy, I believe he deserves to stay in prison for the rest of his life.

    I say that John Lennon’s life, having been deliberately taken that way, is worth more than Mark Chapman’s $270 dollars (so to speak) and that Mark Chapman can keep his notoriety in jail.

    Aside from the fact that he undoubtably destroyed pop music for everybody worldwide (let’s face it look at our music today…Miley Cyrus and John Mayer??), even if the guy plotted and stood outside of your house (yes, Your house), waiting to kill you and then attempt to appear bat-shit nuts afterwards by holding a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham”; even if it were you to die in that way, a person whom I’ve never met or would have never heard of, your killer should not be able to do 30 years in exchange for stopping your existence in cold blood. There’d be no justice to that, to your memory, to anything good that you might have ever done with your life outside of internet blogging, to your family or to anyone who would remember you and be affected by you being gone.

    It also wouldn’t be justified to set a guy like that free to go about his remaining days to prance upon the fields of the earth, after senselessly taking the life of an artist who’s music touched likely billions of people world-wide.

    You or John Lennon being foolishly murdered that way, to me it’s the same thing.

    A person who’s willing to commit murder in that fashion should also be willing to find themselves resigning their freedoms to pursue an enriching life when they go so far as to intentionally take that same freedom of life from somebody else.

    Some people become successful musicians by their own choosing. They make a dedicated choice, early on in life, to write music. If they’re exceptionally well at their craft, the potential payoff to such a person is that lots of people will listen to their music, enjoy it and admire them in great regards. That kind of payoff is accepted across the board. We can all agree on that being fair.

    Now if you’re a plotting, cold-blooded killer, the payoff for taking someone’s freedom to live, if it has nothing to do whatsoever in self-defense, should be (at least) in resigning your freedom of life.

    Mark Chapman made his choice. And remember, Mark Chapman (as an adult, no less. Not a little kid) thought Long and Hard about what he was going to do; about the outcome and everything and just sat there waiting for the cops to come arrest him. He made a decision for his life’s work to be in ending the life of John Lennon.

    Isn’t it better to just want to be a musician?

  2. I absolutely agree with thegoodguy. A plotting, stalking cold blooded murder gives up his right to belong in society when he executes murder. It shouldn’t matter who was killed – the offender of such a murder should be looking at LIFE in prison. How do you rehabilitate such a person?? I don’t think you can. In Chapmans mind – he rationalized that it was OK to do such a thing as murder a person who had done him no wrong. (lennon was a phony right? Chapman had to expose him)

    Look at all of the human aspects of John’s life that he missed out on – never seeing his son Sean grow into a man, never making amends with Julian, never seeing his aunt Mimi again or his half sisters in England. Dead at 40. How did John’s murder affect all of them? The level of damage inflicted by the murder is very deep IMO.

    It is very cavalier of you to state basically “Well he has done 29 years, I feel justice has been served here” I hope if some stranger were to stalk and murder you, that your loved ones and family would be there at his parole – 25, 30, 45, 50 years later to remind the parole board that YOUR life was worth more than 29 years of the KILLERS life and that such a murderer should remain in prison.

    I’m 42 with a family and can’t imagine what would happen to my family if some stranger were to pass judgement on me and deem that I’m not good enough (or a phony) and setout to murder me. Oh well, according to you (and maybe our society) – as long as he did 29 years or so – that makes it OK.

  3. Another thing – just what makes you think Chapman has his “act together” and should be allowed to walk amongst the rest of us in society? Who’s to say he won’t start having thoughts – that say his postman isn’t delivering the mail properly and work himself up to the point where he decides that the postman needs to die. The voice may return and tell him to “do it!”.

    By all counts Chapman was an OK guy in his teens – doing all that gung-ho peace corps. work and working with foreign impoverished kids. Let’s not forget he was also a good little christian as well.

    So what happened? Well life happened and poor Mark could only get menial jobs. He couldn’t understand that someone as smart and clever as himself wasn’t adored by society and didn’t look at him as someone great. So he set about deciding on what famous person he could kill – then everyone would know Mark Chapman. After considering Marlon Brando and a few other celebs – he chooses John.

    So Chapman has been a model prisoner….are you surprised? I’ve seen the interviews with him – where he’s carrying around his little bible and talks about how he holds prayer meetings and such. Chapman is not stupid – what better way to improve his situation? It is time to play the nice mark now that he is in prison – and show his nice face. His prison behavior just shows me that prison is the right place for him. He can walk around with his bible and feel superior (a strong need of his) to all the other lowlifes in prison.

    I don’t believe for a second that Chapman is worthy of being in society. I don’t believe for a second that he is “cured”. I do believe that he can work himself up quite easily into a situation where he feels he needs to kill someone out of some percieved slight.

    You seem hung up on the fact that lennon was famous – and somehow that is why Chapman hasn’t been released. I don’t know, but to me even if the person Chapman murdered – unproked and unarmed, was just the postman I mentioned above, I would want Chapman in prison for life.

    I have a strong belief in the value of the innocent persons life. Much much much more than the life or well being of the murderer.

    Life in prison for Chapman – or any other murderer who kills for fun or because a little voice in their head tells them to kill.
    Show some value for the life of the innocent – regardless of their stature in society, but certainly don’t diminish the value of that life just because the person is famous.

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