For the first time since he shot then-President Ronald Reagan and three others, John W. Hinckley Jr. has “recovered his sanity” and wants the chance to prove it by having monthly unescorted visits with his parents off hospital grounds, his attorney said Wednesday.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, contends Hinckley is not a threat to himself or others. But he stopped short of calling for Hinckley’s unconditional release from a mental hospital because of the public outcry that would create, Levine said in an interview.
Hinckley, 41, has been confined to the facility in Southeast Washington since June 1982 after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the March 30, 1981, attack that he launched to impress actress Jodie Foster.
Levine wrote in his filing that “Mr. Hinckley has recovered his sanity. His earlier diagnosed psychosis has abated and is in full remission. To the extent that he still has some personality disorder, he is not dangerous to himself or others.”
In addition to Reagan, Hinckley shot press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy and D.C. police officer Thomas K. Delahanty.
In the court filing, Levine said Hinckley’s doctors at St. Elizabeth’s are so convinced Hinckley is well that they “unanimously and strongly” recommended he get the conditional release to visit with his parents. But the hospital’s review board, composed of the facility’s top-ranking officials, has balked at the request, Levine’s filing said.
Hinckley, through Levine, is asking U.S. District Judge June L. Green to intervene. “Mr. Hinckley, as a matter of mental health, is in very good shape, probably in as good a shape as anyone who comes into this building … in any government building,” Levine said after a brief hearing Wednesday before Green. “His mental health is sound.”
Yet “because we knew that the public and the government will look upon (his full release) with disfavor,” Levine said, he is asking for a conditional pass for Hinckley from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. one day a month so Hinckley can prove himself to the judge and the public.
Besides the visits with his parents, Hinckley also wants Green to lift a nearly 10-year-old court order that requires St. Elizabeth’s to give at least two weeks’ notice to her and to prosecutors if it wants to allow a hospital official to escort Hinckley on a community outing.
Attorney Robert R. Chapman opposes Hinckley’s requests, saying in court papers that he has little faith Hinckley’s parents can keep him in line. Green suggested she was just as skeptical.