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1981: Chapman pleads guilty to Lennon murder
A man has pleaded guilty to shooting dead former Beatle John Lennon in New York.

The court heard Mark Chapman dramatically change his plea to admit responsibility for the murder, saying God had told him to do so.

Even his own defence team were taken by surprise by the decision, and his lawyer has asked the judge to examine his client to ensure he is mentally fit to stand trial.

Appearing at a pre-trial hearing, Chapman said nothing in open court.

The drifter now faces a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, although the judge has indicated it will be more like 20.

Lennon, 40, was shot several times as he entered his luxury apartment building, the Dakota on Manhattan's Upper West Side, opposite Central Park, in December 1980.

The musician was rushed in a police car to St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he died.

Explaining that Chapman had decided to plead guilty after "God told him" to do so on June 8, his lawyer revealed he had "serious questions" over his client's sanity.

"I have asked that he be examined to determine whether or not he is fit to go to trial or to change his plea," he said.

The judge will receive a full report on the defendant before passing sentence in August.

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John Lennon
John Lennon was shot in New York in December 1980

In Context
Mark Chapman is serving 20 years to life in Attica prison near New York after he was deemed competent to plead guilty.

He said he had heard voices in his head telling him to kill the world-famous musician.

In 2000 the killer had his appeal for early release turned down, the same happened in October 2002 when he made another appeal for early release.

A third appeal was rejected in October 2004.

Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has said she would not feel safe if Chapman were released, and experts believe it is quite possible he will stay behind bars for the rest of his life.

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