WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia – Lawyers for John Hinckley Jr., the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, are expected to argue in court on Monday that the 66-year-old should be released from the restrictions placed on him after leaving a Washington hospital in 2016.
Since Hinckley’s move to Williamsburg, Virginia, a federal judge has made him live in various conditions that dictate much of his life. For example, doctors and therapists need to monitor his psychiatric medication and decide how often he attends individual and group therapy sessions.
Hinckley has monthly – now virtual – appointments with the Washington Department of Behavioral Health, which files progress notes in federal court. And he has to give three days’ notice if he wants to travel more than 120 kilometers from home.
Hinckley must also reset passwords for computers, phones, and online accounts such as email. He can’t have a weapon. And he can’t contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families or actress Jodie Foster – who he was obsessed with at the time of the 1981 shooting.
Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, said Hinckley should get what’s called “absolute discharge” because he is no longer a threat.
“He has adhered to all the requirements of the law,” Levine told The Associated Press last month. “And from the views of various mental health professionals … he no longer suffers from a mental illness and he has not suffered from a mental illness in decades.”
A status conference is scheduled for Monday before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington.
In a court filing in May, the US government said it opposed ending the restrictions. He also retained an expert to examine Hinckley and determine “whether or not he would constitute a danger to himself or to others if he were released unconditionally”.
The findings of such a review have not been filed in court. But a 2020 “violence risk assessment” conducted on behalf of the Washington Department of Behavioral Health said Hinckley would not pose a danger.
Timothy McCarthy, a Secret Service agent who was shot dead in the assassination attempt, told the AP he didn’t have “many good Christian thoughts” about Hinckley.
“But anyway, I hope they’re right,” McCarthy, 72, said of mental health professionals and the court. “Because the actions of this man could have changed the course of history.”
Hinckley was 25 when he shot and wounded the 40th US President outside a Washington hotel. The shooting paralyzed Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014. It also injured McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty.
Hinckley suffered from an acute psychosis. When jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity, they said he needed treatment, not life imprisonment. He was ordered to live at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington.
In the 2000s, Hinckley began visiting his parents in a gated community in Williamsburg. A 2016 court order granted her permission to live with her mother full time, albeit under various restrictions, after experts said her mental illness had been in remission for decades.
Stephen J. Morse, professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said that Hinckley’s acquittal on account of insanity means “that he is not to blame for these terrible things that have happened. produced and that it cannot be punished “.
Decades of legal precedent are on Hinckley’s side when it comes to lifting restrictions, Morse said. Most people in Hinckley’s situation are released from a mental hospital if they are no longer considered to be mentally ill or dangerous, he said. And if they follow court-ordered rules, full release almost always follows after a certain period of time.
“People tend to age out of harm’s way, even people with terrible records, in their early 40s,” Morse said. “If he hadn’t tried to kill President Reagan, this guy would have been released a long time ago. “
In recent years, Hinckley has sold items from a stall at an antique mall he found at estate sales, flea markets, and consignment stores. He shared his music on YouTube and had a relationship with a woman he met in group therapy.
Friedman, the federal judge, also relaxed Hinckley’s restrictions from about 30 conditions in 2018 to 17 conditions last year. For example, Hinckley was granted the right to publicly exhibit his works of art and was allowed to leave his mother’s house. But he still can’t get to places where he knows there will be someone who is protected by the Secret Service.
Hinckley’s mother passed away in July. By that time, he had already moved, according to his lawyer. Levine did not say where Hinckley lives now, but he was reportedly obligated to let his treatment team know where he was moving.
Hinckley’s 2020 risk assessment indicated that he plans to stay in the Williamsburg area after his mother’s death and that his brother Scott has expressed interest in living with him.
Last year’s risk assessment recommended that he be considered for unconditional release. The report states that there is no indication that he has requested access to weapons. And it is said that he is unlikely to contact the people he is not allowed to contact. He has not tried to contact Foster, the actress, since the 1980s, according to the report.
Hinckley is said to have said he would continue to take his psychiatric medication and undergo group therapy.
“Not much would change,” Hinckley said.