Calling for Change Before Offender Chapman is Free
Violent sex offender Wayne Chapman may soon be walking free in your neighborhood because the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the decisions of two “qualified examiners” to release him. We need to fix this disastrous decision, now!
I’ve been representing several of Chapman’s victims for a year now, fighting alongside the Department of Corrections to keep him behind bars. One of my clients started retching when she heard the news. Another still has nightmares about how Chapman threatened to kill him and his family.
The SJC sees no problem with letting two psychological examiners release him, though they work for a for-profit company, and under our existing flawed law have zero accountability to the legal system or the public. The SJC says that’s OK because it’s “unlikely” both examiners could get it wrong.
“Unlikely” would be small comfort to Chapman’s next victim.
We’re not talking about an ordinary sex offender. Wayne Chapman, by his own admission, raped as many as 100 boys, and fantasized about cannibalizing them. His history of abusing children is as long and disturbing as any I’ve seen. By 1960, when Chapman was only 12, he’d already been arrested four times for sexual assaults on other children. In 1966, he gagged and tied a boy to a tree, then left him there after sexually assaulting him. In 1967, he was convicted in Pennsylvania of “corrupting” a 12-year-old boy. In 1971, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy. In 1974 he sexually assaulted two 9-year-olds, and one 8 year-old boy. In 1975, there was another indecent assault and battery charge involving a child victim, and in 1976, nine more little boy victims were identified — all 7 to 8 years old. That same year, Chapman was charged with sex crimes against two boys, ages 9 and 11. In 1977, he was convicted of raping two boys, aged 10 and 11, in Lawrence. In August 1978, he was convicted of sexually assaulting four boys in Bristol County. In short, Chapman didn’t stop abusing children until he was incarcerated.
Chapman was declared sexually dangerous virtually the moment he went to prison in 1977. The judge said he showed no empathy or remorse, and that his convictions “culminated a 10-year history of child abuse” in several states, involving “about 50″ victims.
Chapman tried repeatedly to get released from his commitment as a sexually dangerous person, but was unsuccessful as recently as 2016. In 2018, however, two qualified examiners decided he was no longer dangerous. One of them examined Chapman in the 2016 case, and found him too dangerous to release. Only two years later, that same examiner decided Chapman was no longer dangerous.
He was then charged with committing more sex crimes in prison.
The SJC didn’t mention the new charges. The high court said the Department of Corrections “failed to provide any evidence” that public safety had been compromised.
The current Chapman nightmare began 10 years ago when the SJC decided the Johnstone case, ruling that if two qualified examiners agree an offender is no longer dangerous, he must be released. Since then, many sex offenders have been released without any public proceeding or judicial review to ensure that the examiners got it right. My appeal on behalf of the victims asked the SJC to clarify the Johnstone case, and require some sort of judicial review of examiners’ reports before releasing an offender. The Department of Corrections similarly asked the court to fix Johnstone, but the SJC declined. All hope is not lost, however.
Because Chapman was charged with new sex crimes in 2018, he is being held on high bail. Assuming he’s convicted, he could be sentenced to five years behind bars, and subjected to another sexual dangerousness assessment. So for now, he’s not going anywhere.
The Baker administration and the Legislature need to step up now and enact a new law to put an end to this nightmare once and for all. Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill last year that will prevent the release of dangerous sex offenders solely on the say-so of two examiners. My clients, like all victims of sexual violence, would greatly appreciate it if the Legislature would get this done quickly. Come reelection time, voters will rightly ask: what could possibly have been more important than protecting children from monsters like Wayne Chapman?
Wendy Murphy is a Boston attorney and a victims’ rights advocate. Follow her on Twitter @wmurphylaw.