John Hinckley Jr. already spends 17 days a month at the home of his mother, Jo Ann, 89, in a gated community that surrounds a golf course in Williamsburg, Va.
The would-be assassin of President Reagan is “clinically ready” to live full time outside a mental hospital, his lawyer argued in federal court on Wednesday.
John Hinckley Jr. has been in “full and stable remission” for more than two decades, his lawyer Barry Levine argued.
Prosecutor Colleen Kennedy argued to the contrary, saying more restrictions and conditions are needed to keep Hinckley and others safe.
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Hinckley was 25 when a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shootings, which also seriously wounded Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady. Ever since, Hinckley has lived at St. Elizabeths, a Washington mental hospital. But for a dozen years now, he’s gradually been given more freedom.
Now 59, he already spends 17 days a month at the home of his 89-year-old mother, Jo Ann, in a gated community that surrounds a golf course in Williamsburg, Va. He goes to movies and the bookstore, shopping and eating out like anyone else, and mostly goes unnoticed, although the U.S. Secret Service keeps watch now and then.
Levine, told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman: “There is broad agreement by all medical experts that Mr. Hinckley will not be a danger to himself and others,” adding: “He’s clinically ready.”
Hinckley, clad in a gray sports coat and a white shirt, sat quietly throughout the hearing, sipping water and showing no emotion, even when prosecutors raised his past failed relationships with women and the violence he unleashed on March 30, 1981.
Levine has argued that living full time with his mother while she’s still alive will enable Hinckley to show the world he’s no longer a threat. Levine and hospital officials are asking that Hinckley be granted “convalescent leave,” living full time on the outside but meeting regularly with a psychiatrist and therapists.
Prosecutors have consistently opposed more freedom for Hinckley, saying he has a history of deceptive behavior. They have pointed to a 1987 journal entry in which he wrote that his psychiatrists would “never know the true John Hinckley.”
Kennedy said Wednesday that Hinckley had lied to health-care providers as recently as 2011, when he told them he attended a movie. He instead visited a bookstore, where he browsed shelves that contained books about presidents, assassinations and near assassinations.
Kennedy also expressed concerns that the hospital and Hinckley’s family have not engaged in enough planning for future contingencies and didn’t have the funds to sustain his current level of care. Hinckley’s older brother and sister testified Wednesday, saying they thought their younger sibling was ready to move to Williamsburg and that the family had at least $500,000 it could access to finance his care over the next few years. Both live in the Dallas area and visit Williamsburg frequently when Hinckley is staying with their mother, they said.
They both described a man who does his chores, yearns to get a paying job and enjoys his volunteer work at a Virginia psychiatric hospital.
Scott Hinckley said his brother has a girlfriend, though his sister testified that the woman was just a female friend, and still loved composing music and had gotten interested in photography.
Friedman approved the 17-day visits, but said Hinckley would need to demonstrate his success before being granted any additional freedom. Several days of hearings this week are meant to determine whether he’s met this test.
Hinckley grew up in Texas, but the judge agreed years ago it was better to watch how he handles life on the outside in Williamsburg, where he can have his mother’s support. He still has many restrictions when he visits there, including a ban on traveling to anywhere “the President or members of Congress may be visiting.”
He can drive solo, but only to places where “people will be expecting him.” Talking to the media is a no-no. Weekly therapy visits are a must. He’s allowed two, two-hour walks daily, and six unsupervised outings of up to four hours each. All his activities must be put in a daily itinerary, and he’s required to carry a GPS-enabled cellphone so his movements can be tracked.
Hinckley’s attorney has called for an urgent resolution, since his mother won’t be around to supervise him forever.