Lennon's Killer Seeks Jail Release

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The man who killed John Lennon says the ex-Beatle would want him released from prison.

Mark David Chapman has almost finished his minimum sentence of 20 years in prison for the slaying of Lennon in 1980, and will have his first parole hearing Oct. 3. Chapman is serving a life sentence at Attica Correctional Facility.

In an interview to be aired on Court TV the day before the hearing, Chapman said he thinks Lennon would have wanted him to be set free.

``I think he would be liberal, I think he would care,'' Chapman said. ``I think he would probably want to see me released.''

Elliot Mintz, a spokesman for Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, said he has no idea whether Lennon would have approved of parole for Chapman.

``John would have loved to have been here to speak for himself,'' he told Tuesday's New York Post.

Chapman, in his first public remarks in eight years, says he wants to be released to start a new life.

``The mental illness is over. I often sit, particularly lately, and think, `Gee, I'm 45 years old, and I'm a living human being,''' Chapman said. ``Who knows when I'll get out? But I'm alive. I'm breathing. I'm eating. I'm playing guitar, singing.''

During the interview, excerpts of which were published in Monday's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Chapman described how he killed Lennon when the musician and his wife, Yoko Ono, were coming home from a late-night recording session.

``I grabbed the album I had leaning against the rail and I said 'John, would you sign my album?' He said 'Sure' and wrote his name and he handed it back to me. He looked at me and nodded his head down and said 'Is that all you want?'''

Lennon disappeared into a waiting car with his wife.

When Lennon returned to his Manhattan apartment building later that evening, Chapman approached him from behind and fired five bullets.

``It was a ruse,'' Chapman said. ``I really didn't want his signature, I wanted his life. And I ended up taking both.''

If Chapman's parole is approved, he could be released in December. Mintz told Tuesday's Daily News that Ono has written a letter to the parole board, but he would not disclose what the letter said.

Chapman has been disciplined for only minor infractions while in prison, where he has worked as a clerk in the law library.

He has also expressed remorse for killing Lennon.

``I see John Lennon now differently than only a Beatle or a famous musician, singer, songwriter,'' Chapman said during his interview for Court TV with Jack Jones, a reporter for the Rochester newspaper and author of a book on Chapman. ``I see him as a person, a father. It's a terrible thing that he's gone.''