Freedom for Child Rapist Depends on SJC’s Ruling
By Laurel J. Sweet
BOSTON -- The Department of Correction is urging the state’s top justices to overturn a controversial 2009 decision that could block its effort to stop child rapist Wayne W. Chapman’s court-ordered return to society.
The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments Tuesday by DOC and Chapman’s lawyers on whether to reverse its own wisdom as to when a sex offender is no longer a threat to public safety.
Chapman’s discharge order from last summer is stayed indefinitely. The 71-year-old was also supposed to go on trial last month on charges of open and gross lewdness and lewd, wanton and lascivious acts stemming from alleged sexual misconduct in at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
He was accused of the new charge after the SJC granted his release from civil commitment. That trial has been postponed to June 10.
A wheelchair-bound Chapman has been incarcerated more than 40 years for raping two Lawrence boys in 1977 and for his subsequent 2004 civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person. He is suspected of molesting as many as 100 children.
The 2009 decision DOC wants overturned centers on the case of Level 3 sex offender George Johnstone, a convicted child molester from Fall River. Johnstone, 54, was convicted in 1992 of indecent assault and battery on a child under age 14. He is now a free man. The SJC ruled in his case that if two qualified examiners agreed an offender was no longer sexually dangerous -- as is Chapman’s case -- the state could not introduce “other sources of potential expert evidence” to try and block the offender’s release.
In their brief, Chapman’s attorneys call qualified examiners “the gatekeepers for determining who may be civilly committed and who may be released. Johnstone affirmed their role. It protects against public outcry and expert shopping by ensuring a fair, consistent system of evaluation.”
Attorney Wendy Murphy, who represents some of Chapman’s victims, will argue her companion case Tuesday challenging Johnstone and Chapman’s freedom. “My clients are hopeful that all their hard work keeping Chapman behind bars thus far, and shining a light on a major problem in the law that almost set Chapman free, will persuade the SJC to fix the law,” she told the Herald, “so Chapman and other dangerous sex offenders never have a chance to hurt another child.”