Mark David Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in New York’s Attica Correctional Facility after pleading guilty to shooting the former Beatle to death in December 1980. He has previously applied for parole and been denied in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. He will have another opportunity to go before the parole board in 2012. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, has repeatedly said that she would fear for her safety and that of Lennon’s two sons if Chapman were released.
In its written decision, the New York State Parole Board acknowledged Chapman’s generally good behavior record behind bars. “This panel remains concerned, however, about the disregard you displayed for the norms of our society and the sanctity of human life when, after careful planning, you traveled to New York for the sole purpose of killing John Lennon,” the board’s decision went on. “This premeditated, senseless and selfish act of tragic consequence, when considered with required and relevant factors, leads to the conclusion that your discretionary release remains inappropriate at this time and incompatible with the welfare of the community. To hold otherwise would so deprecate the seriousness of your crime as to undermine respect for the law.”
New York State Parole Board spokesperson Marc Violette says the board released nine percent of the violent felony offenders appearing before it in the most recent fiscal year. While explaining that parole commissioners make these decisions based on factors including the inmate’s own statements and communications from the victim’s family, Violette acknowledges that Lennon’s status as a beloved cultural figure might also be playing some role in Chapman’s repeated failure. “At a purely theoretical level, the parole commissioners would probably just look at the facts as presented,” he says. “The notoriety of the crime or the fame of the victim, at a theoretical level, would not play into it. But they’re humans.”
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