The lawyer for four people fighting to keep serial child rapist Wayne Chapman behind bars won a victory Monday as the Supreme Judicial Court requested that Attorney General Maura Healey file an amicus brief in their appeal to prevent Chapman’s release.
Wendy Murphy, the lawyer behind the appeal, said she has never seen a similar request.
“It’s a very good sign for us,” she said.
Murphy said Healey’s opinion will bring “a lot more attention to the issues that led to the release of Wayne Chapman.”
“It’s what I’ve been fighting for,” Murphy said.
The attorney general’s office said it is reviewing the SJC request.
Murphy said she is urging the SJC to clarify its 2009 decision about the release of sex offenders. The current interpretation of the decision is what allowed for the potential release of Chapman without any government oversight, she said.
“There’s something very wrong with how things are happening when it comes to this issue of releasing dangerous sex offenders,” Murphy said. “It’s so disturbing that it happens without any kind of oversight.”
Under state law, people civilly committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for being sexually dangerous must be released if two independent “qualified examiners” conclude they no longer pose a threat to society.
Chapman, 70, spent more than 40 years in state prison after he was convicted in 1977 of raping two boys in Lawrence. A year later, he was convicted of several more sex offenses for attacks on four boys in 1974 and 1975. He has also been linked to the 1976 disappearance of a 10-year-old boy.
Chapman, who was cleared for release in May, was arrested last week on new charges of indecent exposure and lewd behavior stemming from alleged incidents that happened a week ago, according to the state Department of Correction.
Chapman’s lawyer, Eric Tennen, questioned the timing of the new charges Monday, saying at a news conference Chapman was “never accused of anything sexual” during his decades behind bars and that the accusations were filed the day before he was set to be released.
“We should all be skeptical and cautious when the government openly criticizes a lawful process and then manages to avoid the result they did not want,” he said.
Tennen said the opposition to Chapman’s potential release echoes the “panic” that surrounded the release of the Rev. Paul Shanley, a key figure in the Catholic church sex abuse scandal who served 12 years for raping a boy in the 1980s.
Shanley now lives “a quiet life, without incident,” he said.
Tennen said that before the news about Chapman’s imminent release, there was no outcry over the process that allows for the release of sex offenders.
“We trusted the process over to experts,” Tennen said, adding that “we live in an era where expertise is ridiculed instead of embraced.”
Tennen said he welcomed Healey’s input because he is confident that she, along with the Essex district attorney, “will both say that there was nothing wrong with this process.”
Tennen said he understands why Chapman’s victims “never want him to be released,” but added that “everyone should understand that Mr. Chapman was given a sentence, which he served. He was then civilly committed under a process we all accept, and that same process allowed for his release.”
“If we’re going to have civil commitment then we must accept it cannot be permanent,” Tennen said. “If it’s permanent, it’s not civil commitment, it’s a life sentence.”