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Could John Lennon's killer be paroled at his seventh hearing?

August 18, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • Mark David Chapman, who shot John Lennon to death, in a 1975 file photo. He is scheduled for a parole hearing as early as next week.
Mark David Chapman, who shot John Lennon to death, in a 1975 file photo. He… (Greg Lyuan / Associated…)

The man who shot John Lennon 32 years ago on a New York City sidewalk could have his seventh parole hearing as early as Tuesday.

Mark David Chapman, 57, is scheduled to be interviewed by the New York Department of Corrections parole board next week, officials told the Associated Press. The board could reach a decision Thursday or Friday.

Chapman shot the Beatles musician on Dec. 8, 1980, as Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, returned to their Manhattan apartment building after an evening recording session.

PHOTOS: Remembering John Lennon

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. Chapman was transferred in May from the Attica Correctional Facility to the Wende Correctional Facility, both maximum security prisons near Albany.

He has requested parole every two years since 2000.

"I felt like nothing, and I felt if I shot him, I would become something,” Chapman said at his first parole hearing in 2000, according to the Associated Press. He told the board that he had a job on a farm waiting for him, and that he and his wife planned to start a ministry.

Ono had written a letter to the board not long before urging his continued imprisonment, the Los Angeles Times reported. Were her husband’s killer freed, she wrote, she “and John’s two sons would not feel safe for the rest of our lives.”

Board members at the time wrote that Chapman had an excellent disciplinary record in prison, where he worked in the kitchen and as a clerk in the law library, the AP reported. The board said he had served time in special protective housing and did not undergo anti-violence or anti-aggression training.

The board came to a decision quickly. They wrote in their report that Chapman had "acceptable" behavior in prison, but that they could not guarantee he would not pose a threat to society. Releasing him early, they wrote, would "deprecate the seriousness of the crime and serve to undermine respect for the law."

Chapman was inspired in part by "The Catcher in the Rye," he told police shortly after he was arrested in 1980, according to the documentary "The Man Who Shot John Lennon," which the Los Angeles Times reported on in 1988.

The novel tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a tempestuous teenager who tries to scorn the “phonies” of the adult world for the innocence of childhood. Lennon had become one of the “biggest phonies of our time,” Chapman said -- and he, the generation’s Holden Caulfield.  

"Unless you know me and know the book," Chapman said in one taped interview with police, “you can’t understand it.”

Nearly 10 years later, from isolation in his cell in Attica, Chapman told a reporter that while he felt guilty for killing Lennon, the slaying did not make him an evil person.

"It was an end of innocence for that time," Chapman said. "And I regret being the one that ended it."

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com.

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