By Keyonna Jones-Lindsay
After over three decades, “would be” Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr. has been released from St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital. 35 years ago, Hinckley was arrested for shooting President Ronald Reagan and three others outside the Washington Hilton hotel. A verdict that stunned the public and politicians across the country, the jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to St. Elizabeth’s for treatment and has been there ever since.
A federal judge granted the 61 year old permission to live full-time with his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Va. stating the treatment Hinckley was receiving is “no longer clinically warranted or beneficial.” Despite old age, various physical ailments and a judge’s belief Hinckley is no longer posing a threat to himself or others, there are still people who aren’t supportive of his release. “Contrary to the judge’s decision, we believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others, and we strongly oppose his release,” the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said in a statement. “Mr. Hinckley recognizes that what he did was horrific,” longtime attorney Barry Wm. Levine spoke in his defense. “But it’s crucial to understand that what he did was not an act of evil. It was an act caused by mental illness,” Levin said.
Since 2014, Hinckley has been allowed 17-day stays in Williamsburg, working voluntary jobs, exercising and attending lectures and outdoor concerts. Following his release, Hinckley is faced with more restrictions to include living with his mother for at least a year and carrying a cellphone to track his movements. The judge also prohibited Hinckley from speaking to or contacting the news media.
Hinckley was 25 when he opened fire, striking President Reagan in the chest, Press Secretary James S. Brady in the head, wounding a police officer and a secret service agent. The story stands that Hinckley was psychotic, depressed and became infatuated with actress Jodie Foster in the 1976 film “Taxi Driver”. Hinckley allegedly moved to New Haven, Ct. to be close to Foster while she attended Yale University and began sending her notes, letters and poetry. Hinckley began stalking the newly elected President Reagan in efforts to impress Foster and wrote her a letter explaining his plans to kill the President. Reagan was scheduled for a speech at the Washington Hilton Hotel where Hinckley waited and fired six shots as the President exited.
After a grueling eight-week trial and the federal jury’s ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ verdict clearing Hinckley of all the 13 counts against him, there was severe backlash and immediate law modification. The federal government, along with 38 states, subsequently rewrote laws to raise the standard of proof required for the insanity defense, which is now rarely used and is even more rarely successful.
Hinckley’s mother and siblings have all guaranteed their full support and encouragement in this transition. The judge noted that Hinckley’s historically concerning relationship with women have grown healthier. Although his family is prepared, the new community Hinckley will be moving into are cautious. Despite how highly he thinks of Hinkley’s mother, her neighbor Joe A. Mann plans to assemble friends and local networks to be on alert. ““I don’t know one single person who says, ‘Yeah, bring him on,’” he said.
Unlike Reagan’s eldest son, Michael, who forgave Hinckley, Patti Davis never came to terms with the attempted assassination. Hinckley successfully waited out and wore down the justice system, Davis said. “I’m not surprised by this latest development, but my heart is sickened,” she said. In the federal judge’s 14 page order for release, if Hinckley relapses or violates any of the 34 conditions and terms of his release he will have to return to the St. Elizabeth hospital.