Vatican spokesman, deputy resign suddenly

Melissa Chapman is tearful on a snowy mid-February morning as she talks about how it will feel to walk free for the first
time in 31 years.
It's surreal to consider, she says, that she has lived longer in prison than she has anywhere else. She was granted the
chance at a new life, one outside a prison cell, in December, when outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder granted commutations to 26
prisoners, including her, and pardons to 35 others.

“I can’t wait to go out and look at the stars in the sky, just lay out on the ground and watch and see how beautiful they
are," Chapman says. "Here, I can’t go out and watch a sunrise. … I’ll never take it for granted again. … To be able to
appreciate the littlest things are so monumental to me.”

Chapman is scheduled to leave the state's only prison for women, Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti,
on March 26, says Holly Kramer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. She will then start four
years of parole supervision.

Clemency for Chapman was granted days after the Free Press wrote about five Michigan women serving life in prison
without parole for their role in slayings tied to domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Chapman was 18 years old when she was arrested on Christmas Eve 1987 and charged with murder in the death of
Michael Keith Gaines. Chapman's abusive boyfriend, Robert Goodyear, shot Gaines in a jealous rage.

The three of them were sitting in the front seat of a pickup in a Genesee County parking lot when Goodyear pushed her
down and fired two rounds at Gaines because he thought Chapman and Gaines were flirting.

Goodyear threatened to kill Chapman, too, she testified. And so she helped him hide Gaines' body, steal from his
apartment and the couple hid together from authorities.

Goodyear acknowledged in testimony at his trial in Genesee County Circuit Court that he tried to control Chapman,
regularly beat her and was violently jealous. She told the Michigan Parole Board at a June public hearing that Goodyear
had threatened to rape her mother and kill her parents if she tried to leave him.

They both were sentenced to life in prison without parole and convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder.

Watching Goodyear shoot Gaines, she says, "was the most horrifying moment of my life. It was worse than any beatdown.
A person died, and you can never, ever take that back. That’s the guilt I take with me. I am partly responsible for the
actions I took.”

She looks away, and fresh tears fill her eyes.

“I always thought it would be me,” who would be killed, not Gaines. “I thank God every day that I wake up and have an
opportunity to do better.”
Few lifers are set free

Chapman sits alone at a table in a small, semi-private, cinder-block walled room at the prison.  She wears prison-issued
navy blue cotton pants and a top. It's square-cut and made for men, she says. The uniform material is so thin that the wind
seems to blow straight through it on the walk outdoors in the 20-degree air across the prison complex to the visiting area,
she says.

Granting commutations is generally not a popular political move. Most come at the end of a governor's final term in office,
when it's less likely they will face political backlash from angry voters at the polls.

“I want to say thank you to the governor,” Chapman says. “There are so many women who are just as deserving as me,"
for a chance at freedom. "I’ve been their strength and they’ve been mine. I am so appreciative, but it’s a lot because I have
to go out and represent these women. I am going to go out there and do good.”

In prison, Chapman underwent years of therapy, substance-abuse treatment programs and took part in a domestic violence
group as well as Chance for Life, which teaches prisoners conflict resolution and mediation.

“I think one of the biggest things was going from victim to survivor,” she says, “and being able to admit my role in things.
That was transformational. It’s easy to point fingers and say, ‘You did this. And you did that.’ But to admit my role, that’s
when I really got the monkey off my back. If you can accept responsibility for what you’ve done, you have grown.”

It took her almost 20 years to get there, and it was with the help of a therapist in the substance-abuse treatment program
that she finally began to see herself change.

"It was intense, dealing with the behaviors that led me to use (drugs and alcohol) in the first place. Around 2005, I had my
revelation. … Before that, I had the idea that everyone was wrong but me.”

The program, she said, “helped me see my responsibility. Once I did that, everything changed."

Chapman got a GED and an associate’s degree in arts and sciences in prison. She took vocational, business tech and
graphics arts courses, is a certified legal writer and a certified yoga instructor. She also learned to play violin and now
teaches other prisoners how to play.

She’ll continue to take part in Chance for Life after her release, too.

“It’s lifelong mentorship,” she said. “My family and I can go to family reunification because when you haven’t been with
them for so long, even though we are well-meaning and well-intentioned, it will help.”
The unwritten chapter

Walking away from the only life she has known for three decades won't be easy, Chapman says. She's leaving behind
friends in the other prisoners who have become like a second family.

"These women have been my sisters for so long. We have lifted each other up. ... That was one thing that saved me.
There were good people in here and I surrounded myself with them," Chapman says. "I tell people, we’re all damaged. We
have to hold ourselves accountable and lift each other up."

Chapman says that as a condition of her parole, she can have no contact with anyone in prison, including the women who
have become her dearest friends.

She hopes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will consider the impact domestic violence and sexual abuse had in the cases of other
women who remain in prison, and grant them mercy. Whitmer's office did not reply to a Free Press request for comment
on clemency for battered women who were convicted of first-degree murder for playing a role in the slayings of their
alleged abusers.

However, following the November election, Whitmer said that clemency may be in order for people serving time for
marijuana-related convictions.

“I think that the people of Michigan have said that for conduct that would now be considered legal, no one should bear a
lifelong record for that conduct,” she said. “So yes, we will start taking a look at that and making some decisions and taking
some action early next year.”
Lessons learned the hard way

Another prisoner sitting nearby holds a weeks-old infant in her arms, a bottle to his lips. The baby is dressed in footie
sleeper pajamas, and squeaks and coos. His mother is wearing the same navy-blue top and matching pants as Chapman.

When the baby is not eating, he tries to cram a tiny fist into his mouth. Chapman says the child was born in prison, and will
get a couple hours to visit his mother before he is taken away.

Chapman shakes her head, and says she encouraged the new mother not to serve her prison time hard by bucking authority
and refusing to acknowledge the behaviors that led to her incarceration.

“She just had the baby like two weeks ago," Chapman says. "She had the baby in prison. I told her, 'I’m leaving after 31
years.' I said, 'If you want to do your time hard, then don’t follow the rules. But if you want to get out and stop the
revolving door (of the criminal justice system), find the people who tell you the truth and can help you. Don’t do the hard
time. Better yourself. Use this as an opportunity. Look at what brought you here. ... Don't hang out with people selling
stuff, getting into trouble. This is the place to grow up."

Chapman says it took her a long time to learn those lessons. She entered prison as a high-school dropout, addicted to drugs
and alcohol, and unable to accept responsibility for her own role in Gaines' death.

“Today, I am such a different woman,” she says.

Her long, straight brown hair is streaked gray and white. Chapman acknowledges she missed out on so much in prison,
including a chance to have children and a family of her own.

“I am 50 now," she says. "I have to focus on my parole and getting myself together.”

Looking back, she says she was a rebellious teen, and didn't realize that her bad decisions could have such dire
consequences. After she started dating Goodyear and the abuse began, she says, "I didn’t know who I could turn to.”

She doesn't once utter Goodyear's name. She refers to him only as "my codefendant" as she recalls a time when he had
taken her purse and what little money she had and briefly left her alone. She managed to call a local battered women’s
shelter while he was gone.

“I called a shelter in my area and asked them to come pick me up. They said, 'You need $12.' I said, 'I don’t have $12
because he took my purse. I need you to come get me now, while he’s gone. He’s coming back.'

“They never came and got me. At that point in the situation, I felt there was no one I could turn to. I couldn’t call my
parents because I had a lot of shame. I knew they didn’t want me to be with him, and he’d made threats against my
parents. That’s what really grounded me because I knew what he could do. He is violent. He knows how to break into
houses. I knew what he was capable of.”

She knows that gubernatorial commutations are extremely rare. In the decade leading up to Chapman's clemency, a paltry
0.149 percent of Michigan prisoners who had appealed for commutations were granted them, according to MDOC data.
Most came in the final years of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's tenure.

She had to tell one of those friends recently: “Your friendship is not worth coming back to prison for. That’s a hard truth. I
have to be out there to represent you. I need to do it so every one of you can follow in my footsteps.

"We’re very frank with each other, even though it hurts," she says.

She worries about the impact her actions have had on her parents, who are now in their 70s and 80s.

“I really let them down,” she says. “I want to make it up to them. They are the most amazing people in my life. All these
years, they’ve stood by me and even till this day. I am so grateful they are still alive."

When her mother learned Chapman was getting clemency, she says she wasn't sure how to react; there'd been false hope
in the past.

"My mom said, 'Melissa, when they told me, I didn’t jump up and down. I wasn’t overjoyed. I was numb.' ” But when it
finally dawned on her that her daughter was actually going to be freed, "Then the joy bubbled up. And she said, 'Melissa, it’
s really happening. You are really coming home!'

"Daddy, I love calling him Daddy, he said, 'I won’t believe it until you’re home with us.' ”

Chapman is hopeful things will go according to plan. She has a pair of jeans and a red top ready to wear home on the day
she's released. She hopes her parents will bring her some high-heeled booties when they come to pick her up.   

“I cannot wait to be a lady again, to put on heels and a dress," she says.

“I don’t even know what I’ve missed. It’s a whole new world for me."