Chris Lange, FISM News
A federal judge said Monday that he will issue a ruling this week, lifting all remaining restrictions of John Hinckley Jr. next year on the condition he remains “mentally stable.”
“I am going to, after all these years, grant unconditional release to Mr. Hinckley,” said U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman during a 90-minute court hearing in the District of Columbia. “If he hadn’t tried to kill a president he would have been released unconditionally a long time ago.”
Among the restrictions being lifted are those that prohibited Hinckley from owning a gun or contacting members of the Reagan family and Jodie Foster. He claims to have made the assassination attempt in an effort to impress the actress, with whom he was obsessed with at the time of shooting.
Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, 68, condemned the judge’s ruling. In an op-ed to the Washington Post Davis, who was 28 at the time of the assassination attempt, said she now fears for her family’s safety.
“’I think I always knew this day would come,” she wrote. “People’s memories have faded. That burst of gunfire outside the Washington Hilton was a long time ago. But for me, for my family, for Foster, the memory of that day will never fade. In my mind’s eye, I will always picture Hinckley’s cold eyes as he blew open White House press secretary Jim Brady’s head, as he wounded Secret Service Special Agent Tim McCarthy and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Thomas Delahanty. I will always picture my father being shoved into the limousine after a shot struck his lung and nearly grazed his heart.”
Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, on the other hand, praised the judge’s decision, saying it was a “great day for mental health.”
Levine said that the ruling was “well earned” in response to a question posed by a member of the press who had gathered outside the courtroom.
“I think John has done exceedingly well over a long period of time, his disease is in full remission, he’s done nothing dangerous,” he said. “There have been a multitude of risk assessments, and the risk of danger is exceedingly low. It was described in one of the reports as remote, and another report as the lowest possible on a testing scale.”
Federal Prosecutor Kacie Weston said during the hearing that the U.S. Justice Department agreed with the court’s decision but suggested that the restrictions remain in place until June 22. This would afford prosecutors the ability to continue to monitor Hinckley as he transitions to living on his own following the Aug. 2021 death of his mother, Jo Ann Hinckley. The pair had been residing together in a gated community in Williamsburg, VA since 2016, when Friedman released him from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington where he had spent the prior 35 years.
In 1993, Congress passed HR 1025, also known as “Brady’s Law,” for White House press secretary James Brady, who was left permanently disabled from a gunshot wound in the attack. The law requires background checks for handguns bought from federally licensed dealers. Brady’s 2014 death, at the age of 73, was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office in Virginia, who cited lingering health issues resulting from the shooting.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity at a 1982 jury trial, prompting Congress and some U.S. states to adopt laws limiting use of the insanity defense.