WOBURN — After seven hours of deliberation, a jury found convicted child rapist Wayne Chapman not guilty of open and gross lewdness and wanton and lascivious acts Friday afternoon.
Chapman, 71, was accused of exposing himself and masturbating in front of nursing staff and correctional officers at MCI-Shirley, a state prison where he was held for sex crimes in the health services unit.
After decades behind bars, Chapman — who has admitted to sexually abusing as many as 100 boys and remains a longtime suspect in the unsolved Aug. 21, 1976, disappearance of Andy Puglisi, 10, of Lawrence — became eligible for release from state prison May 21, 2018. At that time, qualified examiners Dr. Gregg Belle and Dr. Katrin Rouse Weir said he was too old and sick to re-offend.
But in early June 2018, Chapman was arrested for exposing himself and masturbating publicly at the prison. His bail was set at $25,000, which he could not meet, and therefore he became unable to leave prison.
His new trial began Monday and the jury started deliberating Thursday, reaching a not-guilty verdict shortly after 4 p.m. Friday at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.
Had he been convicted, Chapman would have faced up to three years in prison on each charge.
Now he is now eligible for release — a free man — but it is unclear where he will go because of his failing health.
Chapman is too sick to live independently, his attorneys have said, and needs a specialized facility that can accommodate his daily medical needs.
Chapman did not testify during his trial this week. Defense attorney Melissa Devore called just one witness, a neurologist who is considered an expert witness in Parkinson’s disease, from which Chapman suffers 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 4, 2018, to both nursing staff and correctional officers.
Devore said Chapman did not intentionally expose himself to anyone and that he repeatedly told staffers he could not cover himself up because of his physical limitations.
But prosecutor Emily Jackson said Chapman intentionally exposed himself to the prison staffers and video shows him “exposing himself more and more and more.”
Nursing staff and correctional officers from the health care unit all testified that Chapman was repeatedly told to “cover up.” But he didn’t, Jackson said, noting his medical records do not indicate he has any issues communicating with medical staff.
Jackson pointed to numerous staffers, including a female correctional 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 staff during the busiest time in the health services unit, Jackson said.
A female correctional officer who was assigned to the health services unit testified as a prosecution witness saying she was in “shock, disbelief, disgust” by Chapman’s actions.
He was brought into court every day in a wheelchair and wore beige prison scrubs with the letters “DOC” stamped on the back of his shirt.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.