A transcript obtained by 95.5 WSB gives a revealing look inside the eleventh parole hearing for Mark David Chapman, who was imprisoned in 1981 for the murder of John Lennon. The 40-page document describes Chapman’s motivations for the December 8, 1980 assassination, his feelings since, and even how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his day-to-day life in New York’s Wende Correctional Facility. The full transcript can be read below.
Although redacted to protect sensitive names and details, the transcript of the August 19 interview offers many surprising details. Chapman, who attended Columbia High School in Decatur, notes that he purchased the hollow-point bullets used to kill Lennon in Georgia after failing to obtain them in New York. He recalls playing John Lennon’s music in a high school band, then becoming “angry and jealous” after seeing photos of Lennon in his luxury apartment home. Throughout the interview, Chapman maintains that his key motive was “self-glory.”
Chapman also admits that there were other celebrities on his hit list, should he have failed to assassinate John Lennon. Although the names are redacted, the murderer has revealed previously that television host Johnny Carson and film star Elizabeth Taylor were alternate targets. Chapman references an additional redacted name, saying “I went to see the play with him in it.” This is a possible reference to music legend David Bowie, who was told by authorities that Chapman had purchased tickets to see Bowie in a Broadway show, The Elephant Man, while in New York.
The transcript touches upon Chapman’s infamous obsession with the J.D. Salinger novel, The Catcher in the Rye. At his sentencing, the murderer read a passage from the book aloud to the court. Chapman explains to the board that at the time, he identified with the novel’s hero and developed a “messiah complex.” Today, says Chapman: “I don’t read the book anymore.”
Life in prison looks very different today from when Chapman entered in 1981. He is provided with a tablet to download books (he has over 300), read the news and make approved communications with his wife. His job as a clerk includes preparing meals, doing administrative work and cleaning the prison. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is required to wear a mask and use a strong bleach when cleaning.
Throughout the interview, Chapman accepts his punishment willingly, saying “I deserve the death penalty” for the premeditated murder. “If you choose to leave me in here for the rest of my life,” he concludes, “I have no complaint whatsoever.”
Some commissioners present at the board hearing had met Chapman at previous interviews, and noted that the inmate has maintained an “exemplary disciplinary record,” commending him on his “personal growth and productive use of time.” In the 39 years since his incarceration, Chapman has performed clerk duties and volunteered with prison ministry programs.
However, Chapman’s good behavior could not outweigh the grave, violent nature of his crime for the parole board. In their final decision, the board states that Chapman “carried out this assassination in the presence of [Lennon’s] wife, who will forever be impacted by your heinous actions. [Lennon’s] children lost an opportunity to experience life with their loving father.” They add that his release would “deprecate the seriousness of your crime as to undermine respect for the law.”
Mark David Chapman’s next appearance before the board will be in August of 2022. By then, he will be 67 years old. Had he lived, John Lennon would be 79 today.