Once again, a lawyer representing would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley is petitioning the court to grant him an “unconditional release” that would allow him to live the remainder of his life free from court supervision or any other consequences of his actions. Barry Levine claims that a recent risk assessment of Hinckley shows that he is mentally stable and does not pose a danger to himself or others.
Nevertheless, when Hinckley’s case is heard in August by U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman, the answer to this latest request should be an unconditional “no.”
On March 30, 1981 Hinckley, who was 25 and apparently in the throes of a psychotic breakdown, shot then-President Ronald Reagan, White House Press Secretary Jim Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy and D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. All of them suffered serious injuries.
Although the .22 caliber bullet that hit Reagan in the chest just barely missed his heart, the president survived only due to the swift action of the Secret Service who took him to the closest hospital and the skill of the surgeons there who saved his life. Brady, who was shot in the eye and sustained major brain damage and paralysis, never recovered from his life-altering injury.
Hinckley did not serve any time in prison for his crimes. After being found not guilty by reason of insanity due to a narcissistic obsession with the movie “Taxi Driver” and actress Jodie Foster, he was sent to St. Elizabeth’s, a psychiatric hospital in D.C., and spent 30 years there for treatment of his mental illness.
In 2016, he was allowed to leave the hospital and live with his mother and brother in a gated community alongside a golf course in Williamsburg.
In 2018, Hinckley was granted even more freedom to live by himself within a 75-mile radius of Williamsburg, provided he met certain conditions, including meeting regularly with his psychiatrist and a social worker, working at least three days a week as a volunteer or paid employee, keeping a daily log of his activities, and carrying a GPS-enabled cellphone whenever he leaves his residence.
In addition, Hinckley is not allowed to search for information about himself on the Internet; contact Foster, his victims and their families, members of Congress or the news media; join any social media sites; possess weapons; or consume alcohol or illegal drugs. These precautions are not a punishment for his mental illness. They are designed to protect society from a person who has a past history of violence and should continue indefinitely.
Levine says that his client is merely trying to live “a regular life like the rest of us.” But it’s way too late for that. People like Hinckley who—for whatever reason—have seriously harmed others no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt.
The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star