WOBURN — Jurors must now decide if Wayne Chapman is a calculated predator who exposed himself to prison staffers in a healthcare unit, or a helpless elderly man who struggled to cover himself up and get comfortable.
Jurors heard closing arguments Thursday afternoon and began deliberations in the lewdness case involving Chapman, a convicted child rapist on trial for repeatedly exposing himself to workers in the health services unit at MCI-Shirley, a state prison.
Now 71, Chapman also remains the longtime suspect in the unsolved Aug. 21, 1976 disappearance of Andy Puglisi, 10, of Lawrence.
He is currently on trial in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of open and gross lewdness and wanton and lascivious acts and remains held on $25,000 bail.
Chapman did not testify in his own defense during the trial, which opened Monday. Defense attorney Melissa Devore called just one witness, a neurologist who is considered an expert witness in Parkinson's disease, which Chapman suffers from in addition to other ailments.
In his defense, Devore also entered some four hours of video surveillance footage taken at the health services unit where Chapman was accused of exposing himself June 3 and June 4, 2018, to both nursing staff and correctional officers.
Devore said Chapman did not intentionally expose himself to anyone and that he repeatedly told workers he could not cover himself up.
"I can't. I would fall down ... I can't stand up. I can't get up," said Devore concerning what Chapman said.
She had jurors watch the extensive video for themselves so they could see him having difficulties with his mobility.
"You could tell this was a person who was struggling ... This (was) not a person who could simply get dressed," Devore said in her closing argument.
She also said the "notion" he could stand up and simply put on his pants in the room in the prison unit "was absurd" and that he had fallen in the unit 12 times before June 2018.
Devore said Chapman made repeated attempts to "hide himself" and "to have some modesty."
"The rest of the story is Mr. Chapman is a 70-year-old man with Parkinson's with a fall risk ... The rest of the story is about the struggles Mr. Chapman has in getting dressed. The rest of the story is the false statements submitted by these witnesses," Devore said.
But prosecutor Emily Jackson said Chapman intentionally exposed himself to the prison staffers and video shows him "exposing himself more and more and more."
"I want to be clear. The defendant is not being prosecuted for having Parkinson's disease. ... But this defendant's diagnosis is not an excuse for his intentional criminal acts," Jackson said.
Nursing staff and correctional officers from the health care unit all testified that Chapman was repeatedly told to "cover up." But he didn't, she said, noting his medical records do not indicate he has any issues communicating with medical staff.
"He didn't ask for help. He didn't say he couldn't do it," she said. "There are people all around he could have asked for help. But he didn't."
Jackson pointed to numerous staffers, including a female corrections officer, who testified she was disgusted and shocked and that she had never had an incident such as this one before. Also, Chapman chose to expose himself to the workers during the busiest time in the health services unit, Jackson said.
He "would like you to believe he was just itching himself. But use common sense," Jackson continued, urging jurors to find him guilty on both charges.
If convicted, Chapman faces up to three years in prison on each charge.
Chapman has previously admitted to sexually abusing as many as 100 boys in the United States and Canada, starting when he was a child himself.
He has been brought into court every day in a wheelchair and wears beige prison scrubs with the letters “DOC” stamped on the back of his shirt.
Chapman’s history in Lawrence dates back more than four decades.
In 1975, he was convicted of raping two boys in Lawrence.
He also remains the prime suspect in the disappearance of Puglisi, who vanished from a South Lawrence swimming pool Aug. 21, 1976.
After decades behind bars, Chapman became eligible for release from state prison May 21, 2018, when two qualified examiners — Dr. Gregg Belle and Dr. Katrin Rouse Weir — said he is too old and sick to re-offend.
If and when he’s released, Chapman will have to go to a facility that can manage his deteriorating health as he cannot live independently, another of his defense attorneys, Eric Tennen, said previously.
Chapman would need a specialized facility that can accommodate his daily medical needs, Tennen said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.