Gov. Charlie Baker is refiling a bill that would toughen the civil commitment process for holding convicted sexual predators after they have served their time — after the current procedure took flak following the decision to free serial child rapist Wayne Chapman.
Baker’s bill would require a trial if someone who had been previously deemed a sexually dangerous person is found by psychological experts to be safe for release. Currently, if two independent experts find a civilly committed sexually dangerous person to be safe, the law requires that person to be freed without any further judicial proceeding.
The Supreme Judicial Court upheld that process last week, barring the state from indefinitely holding 71-year-old Chapman, a notorious predator who’s admitted to raping up to 100 boys.
The wheelchair-bound Chapman has been held on civil commitment since 2007, when his prison sentence expired but the state deemed that he was too dangerous to release. The SJC found because the two independent experts who reviewed Chapman last year determined that he’s no longer a danger, the state cannot continue to hold him under the current law. If either or both of the experts had found that Chapman wasn’t dangerous — as happened in past years — there would have been a trial.
Chapman remains behind bars on $25,000 bail on subsequent lewdness charges stemming from an incident last year behind bars. He faces up to three more years in prison on those charges.
“The case of Wayne Chapman proves that the Massachusetts’ criminal justice system is falling short when it comes to keeping serial child predators out of our communities and behind bars, and this bill is aimed to address this very concern,” Baker said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Legislature to pass our legislation, protect our children, and keep our neighborhoods safe by preventing the future release of extremely dangerous individuals convicted of heinous crimes.”
Baker filed the bill last session, but the Legislature didn’t pass it.
The bill also would require anyone convicted of forcible child rape who has previous sexual offenses to face life without parole, and would create a new criminal charge of multiple child rapes that would also require life in prison.
Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, threw her support behind the Republican governor’s bill, which the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association and Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police also also support, according to a release from the governor’s office.