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  • 12/8/2010

Today in History:

John Lennon Shot by Mark David Chapman (1980)

mark chapman

John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles and, with Paul McCartney, formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.

mark chapman

Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas) is the man who murdered British musician and activist John Lennon on December 8, 1980 in New York City.

Before his trial began, Chapman was allowed to plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life despite being diagnosed as delusional and possibly psychotic. He remains incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility in New York, having been denied parole four times. His applications for parole have been opposed by Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, as well as by a grassroots public campaign.

mark chapman

Murder of John Lennon

Chapman went to New York in October 1980 planning to kill Lennon. He left the city for a short while in order to obtain ammunition from his unwitting friend Dana Reeves in Atlanta. He returned to New York in November but reports that, after going to the cinema and being inspired by the film Ordinary People, he returned to Hawaii, telling his wife he had been obsessed with killing Lennon but had snapped out of it. On December 6, he flew back to New York. He reports having reenacted some fictional events from Holden Caulfield's stay in New York in The Catcher in the Rye.

On the morning of December 8, 1980, he departed from the Sheraton Hotel, having left personal items in his hotel room for police to find. Chapman bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from a New York bookstore, in which he wrote "This is my statement", and signed "The Catcher in the Rye". He then spent most of the day near the entrance to The Dakota apartment building where Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono lived, talking to other fans and the doorman. At one point, a distracted Chapman missed seeing Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota building on the morning of December 8. Late in the morning, Chapman met the Lennons' housekeeper, who had just taken their five-year-old son Sean for a walk. Chapman conversed with the housekeeper and shook hands with the boy as they departed.[8] Around 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left The Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked towards their limousine on the curb, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and held out a copy of Lennon's new album, Double Fantasy, for him to sign. Photographer Paul Goresh was present when Lennon signed Chapman's album and took a photo of the event. Chapman reported that, "At that point my big part won and I wanted to go back to my hotel, but I couldn't. I waited until he came back. He knew where the ducks went in winter, and I needed to know this" (a reference to The Catcher in the Rye).

Around 10:49 p.m., the Lennons' limousine returned to the Dakota. Lennon and Ono passed by Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building's courtyard. From the street, Chapman turned and fired five hollow point bullets from a Charter Arms .38 revolver that he had purchased in Hawaii, four of which hit Lennon's back and shoulder. One of the bullets pierced Lennon's aorta, causing severe blood loss by aortic dissection. It has been suggested that, before firing, Chapman called out "Mr. Lennon" and dropped into a "combat stance", but this is not stated in court hearings or interviews.

Chapman remained at the scene, took out his copy of The Catcher in the Rye and read it until the police arrived. The New York Police Department officers who first responded to the shooting recognized that Lennon's wounds were severe, and so they decided to transport him in their police car to Roosevelt Hospital. Chapman was arrested without incident. In his statement to police three hours later, Chapman stated, "I’m sure the large part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil."

Lennon was declared dead at 11:15 p.m. after having lost more than 80% of his blood.

mark chapman

Testimony and sentencing

Chapman was charged with second degree murder. At an initial hearing, in January 1981, Chapman's lawyer Jonathan Marks entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." His defense team sought to establish his mental state at the time, and Chapman was interviewed for hundreds of hours by psychiatrists. Nine were prepared to testify at his trial – six of the clinical opinion that he was psychotic and three of the clinical opinion that he fell short of the necessary criteria for psychosis, or of having any noticeable psychotic tendencies. It is reported that his defense team was confident he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity, in which case he would have been committed to a state mental hospital and received treatment. However, in June, Chapman told Marks he wanted to drop the insanity defense and plead guilty. Marks strenuously objected with "serious questions" over Chapman's sanity, and legally challenged his competence to make this decision. During a further assessment, psychiatrists concluded that Chapman was delusional but competent. In the pursuant hearing, Chapman said God had told him to plead guilty, and that he wouldn't change his plea regardless of his sentence. Judge Dennis Edwards declared him fit to plead. In August, Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, slightly less than the maximum possible of 25 years to life.




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