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26 Sep 2004 06:35
Mark Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, could be released from jail next month in a move that has sparked fears of retribution from Beatles fans.
Chapman will have a parole hearing in the week beginning 4 October, officials at the New York State Parole Division said. It will be held behind closed doors.
However, one official said they had ‘no idea’ what the outcome of the hearing would be.
But if Chapman is released after 24 years in prison, some Lennon fans have already threatened to take action.
‘Chapman should be executed. I would gladly get rid of him myself,’ wrote a fan from Finland on one website. Another fan has already set up an online petition to have Chapman’s parole denied. It is already full of messages that show Chapman’s safety outside jail would be difficult to maintain. ‘If Mark David Chapman is let out of jail, he wouldn’t last a day. There are too many people who want him dead,’ wrote a New York-based female fan.
Any security conditions for protecting Chapman if he is released will be down to the New York State Parole Board. ‘It is up to them. It is nothing to do with the police,’ said a spokesperson for the New York Police Department.
New York is used to handling such releases. Recently Joel Steinberg, jailed for 17 years after the violent death of his six-year-old daughter, was released from jail in a move that shocked New York and generated huge media interest. Steinberg faced numerous death threats from the public but still travelled back to the city from jail in a white limousine trailed by a pack of journalists. He has since been living in a charity-run halfway house in New York and reportedly considering a career in television.
However, other recent attempts by high-profile prisoners to get parole have failed. In August a California prison board refused to parole Leslie Van Houten for the 15th time. Van Houten was a disciple of notorious 1960s killer Charles Manson and was convicted for her role in cult murders carried out by Manson’s ‘Family’. Van Houten, now 55 was rejected in her bid for parole despite having been a long-term model prisoner and making a tearful apology for her part in the grisly 1969 crimes.
Chapman has had two previous requests for parole, in 2000 and 2002, denied. In 2000 he outraged Lennon fans by saying he believed his victim would want him to be freed. ‘I think he would be liberal, I think he would care,’ he said.
He was originally sentenced to at least 20 years in prison. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, has supported keeping Chapman in prison out of a fear for her own safety and that of their child Sean and Lennon’s other son Julian. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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