Thursday 8 December 2016

Man who tried to kill Reagan to impress Jodie Foster fit for release, judge rules

Joseph Ax

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

John Hinckley Jr in 2003. Photo: Reuters
John Hinckley Jr in 2003. Photo: Reuters

John Hinckley Jr, who wounded US President Ronald Reagan and three other people in a 1981 assassination attempt prompted by his mental illness, should be freed after 35 years and released to live with his mother, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

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US District Judge Paul Friedman said Hinckley (61) no longer posed a danger to himself or others and could be released from St Elizabeth's, a government psychiatric hospital in Washington, as early as August 5.

Reagan at a hospital in Washington alongside his wife Nancy, after the assassination attempt by John Hinckley. Photo: Reuters
Reagan at a hospital in Washington alongside his wife Nancy, after the assassination attempt by John Hinckley. Photo: Reuters

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 for the attack on Reagan, which also badly wounded presidential press secretary James Brady, a policeman and a Secret Service agent.

Hinckley acted to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.

"Since 1983, when he last attempted suicide, he has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, exhibited no violent behaviour, shown no interest in weapons, and demonstrated no suicidal ideation," Friedman said of Hinckley in a 104-page opinion.

Attack

The attack helped launch the modern gun control movement, as Brady and his wife, Sarah, founded what is now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence after he was left disabled. The Bradys' support helped the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act become law in 1993, imposing federal background checks on gun purchases and a five-day waiting period.

Actress Jodie Foster. Photo: Getty
Actress Jodie Foster. Photo: Getty

The Hinckley verdict also led several states to rewrite their laws making it more difficult to use the insanity defence.

Friedman said Hinckley will be required to spend at least a year living with his mother, Jo Ann (90) in Williamsburg, Virginia, about 210 km south of Washington, where he has been making visits for several years. If his treatment team approves, he may then move into his own residence by himself or with room-mates, Friedman said.

Hinckley had unsuccessfully sought jobs in Williamsburg and tried to become involved in volunteer programmes in the town, 'Washingtonian' magazine said. He eventually took a volunteer job in the library of a psychiatric facility in Williamsburg.

Friedman's order imposes nearly three dozen conditions, including a requirement that Hinckley meet his psychiatrist at least once a month and notify the Secret Service when he travels for the appointment.

He is also barred from making contact with Foster or her family, Reagan's family and relatives of the other victims.

Reagan suffered a punctured lung in the attack but recovered. Brady died as a result of his wounds in 2014; prosecutors did not charge Hinckley with his murder.

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