Wayne Chapman's Release Sparks Renewed Push for Tougher Laws

After a convicted sex offender was released from custody this month, prosecutors are urging the state to change the law that allowed him to get out.

Wayne Chapman, 71, was able to go free after he was acquitted of lewdness charges in Middlesex Superior Court. The verdict allowed him to leave prison after 40 years because of a decision from two state doctors who ruled Chapman was no longer sexually dangerous, which enabled him to leave a civil commitment.

"I think that person shows that he has a history of hurting people. He has a history of hurting young boys and destroying lives," said Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz.

Since last year, Cruz has been asking the legislature to support a proposal from Gov. Charlie Baker, which states that defendants, like Chapman, would have to go before a judge or jury before they are deemed safe for release.

"If you put those facts in front of a jury, I'm confident that they're going to find this individual as a sexually dangerous person," Cruz said. "Doesn't it make more sense for us to have a hearing?"

However, lawmakers failed to act on the proposal last year, prompting Baker to refile it. The proposal is currently sitting in the Joint Judiciary Committee, which currently has no plans to review it.

"We have a statute that's working. It's really unnecessary," said defense attorney Pasqua Scibelli.

Since the law established its procedure for releasing sexually dangerous people from civil commitment, Scibelli said it has worked. According to data from the Department of Corrections, roughly 50 people have been released from commitment in a manner similar to Chapman, which entails the agreement of two doctors. If there is a disagreement, the case goes to a jury.

"There's a lot of emotion around these issues and I think that's what is driving this," Scibelli said. "It's not based on evidence or any facts."

But the facts of Chapman's case warrant further review, according to Cruz.

"There's a very small percentage of truly evil people that have to be dealt with. And they have to be removed from the streets," Cruz said. "I put Wayne Chapman in there."

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