John Hinckley Goes Home for Good After 35 Years

In 1981, at age 25, John Hinckley shot and wounded former President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, a police officer and a member of the secret service. In 1982, after an 8 week trial, a jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. He was placed in a mental hospital.

In 2003, after 19 years in the mental hospital, the Judge granted him unsupervised visits with his parents. He was then 48 years old.

In 2005, at age 50, he was allowed overnight visits at his parents' home .

In July, 2016, after 35 years at the mental hospital, the Court ordered him released on full-time convalescent leave (outpatient placement.) (The 103 page opinion is here.)

Today, John Hinckley went home for good to live with his now 90 year old mother in Williamsburg, VA. Hopefully, someone will give him a job, and someone will offer to be his friend. [More...]

Hinckley's progress has been gradual but steady.

Until Saturday, he was spending 17 days each month at his mother’s home. He has gone bowling, attended lectures and concerts, and volunteered at a nearby church.

From the court's July opinion:

All of the experts and treatment providers who testified during the evidentiary hearing, including Dr. Patterson, are in agreement that Mr. Hinckley's Axis I diagnoses- his major depression and psychotic disorder- are in full and sustained remission and have been for more than twenty years. During this long period of sustained remission- more than 27 years, in the Court's view- Mr. Hinckley, by all accounts, has shown no signs of psychotic symptoms, delusional thinking, or any violent tendencies.

After 34 years as an inpatient at St. Elizabeths Hospital, and in view of the findings of fact set forth in this Opinion and the successful completion of over 80 unsupervised visits to Williamsburg over the last ten years, the
Court Jinds that Mr. Hinckley has received the maximum benelits possible in the in-patient
setting, that in-patient treatment is no longer clinically warranted or beneficial, and that- as
even Dr. Patterson has acknowledged- Mr. Hinckley is clinically ready for full-time convalescent leave. On the ultimate mixed question of law and fact- dangerousness- the Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Hinckley presents no danger to himself or to others in the reasonable future if released on full-time convalescent leave to Williamsburg under the conditions proposed by the Hospital, as modified and supplemented by the Court....

How much does the Court know about Hinckley? A lot. As the judge wrote:

Between the many psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, case managers, therapists, and other professionals who have treated John Hinckley since 1982, or independently examined him as part of the proceedings before this Court since 2003 -many of whose work and opinions have been dissected by lawyers on direct and cross-examination in open court for over a decade -it is fair to say that the lives of few people have been scrutinized with the care and detail that John Hinckley's has been. Indeed, it is difficult for the Court to imagine a more thorough evidentiary and clinical record on which to base a conclusion as to whether a specific person will present a danger to himself or others in the reasonable future.

The judge imposed a lot of conditions. He has to live with his mother for a year (if she is no longer available, one of his siblings has to live with him.) He can only drive by himself within a 30 mile radius, except to go to DC to meet with his treatment team. He must continue with psychiatric care and medications. He has to keep a daily log of his activities.

The judge rejected the Government's request for Hinckley to wear an ankle monitor, for 24/7 tracking on his car, and to install tracking software on his computer. When not at his mother's, he has to carry a GPS-enabled cell phone. But he can make calls from any phone.

The hospital's social work staff were ordered to determine all public benefit programs for which Hinckley might be eligible and assist him in applying for the programs. He can use the internet, but he can't open or use social media accounts without permission. He cannot contact the media.

Good luck, John Hinckley.

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    Off topic (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Yman on Sun Sep 11, 2016 at 07:17:46 AM EST
    Your comment has nothing to do with this post.  But your claim about the media is laughable.  If you're having trouble finding coverage about her comment, you're doing something wrong.

    NateNYC is now (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Sep 12, 2016 at 11:52:25 AM EST
    banned for his deliberate hijacking of the thread. He's been banned before for violating our comment rules and I allowed him to come back. He's now banned and may not open another account here.

    Other attempted assassins (none / 0) (#1)
    by CMA on Sat Sep 10, 2016 at 09:07:21 PM EST
    Interesting points of comparison are the cases of would-be assassins from the same general time period: Arthur Bremer, Sara Jane Moore, and Lynette ("Squeaky") Fromme. Moore and Fromme, who were both convicted in federal court of attempting to assassinate Gerald Ford (no one was injured) and who were sentenced to life in prison, are now on parole. Moore spent 32 years in confinement and Fromme 34. Arthur Bremer (after an unsuccessful plea of insanity) received a 63-year sentence (later reduced to 53 years) in Maryland for his near-successful attempt to assassinate George Wallace (who was severely injured and suffered greatly, like James Brady). Bremer was paroled after 35 years.

    Although St. Elizabeths is presumably a less punitive place of confinement and Hinckley did have furloughs, it is interesting that he otherwise served a term roughly similar to what he would have served if he had been found guilty.

    even more interesting is that, in the over 30 (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sun Sep 11, 2016 at 01:54:21 AM EST
    years since all of these various attacks took place, we, as a society, have decided that it's better that people with emotional/mental illness have an even easier time gaining access to guns. in fact, people with these problems now have even more powerful weapons at their disposal, then they did 30 years ago.

    the wonder is that we don't have more mass killings than we do.


    as powerful 30 years ago as they are now. The technology has really not changed much at all.

    I don't even know what this means:

    people with emotional/mental illness have an even easier time gaining access to guns [today, vs 30 years ago].

    i dont understand your comment (none / 0) (#11)
    by linea on Tue Sep 13, 2016 at 08:41:16 PM EST
    this person was involuntarilly commited. i believe that permanently excludes him from owning a gun?

    i'm also not sure what you mean by "people with emotional illness" unless you are refering to things like postpartum depression (and similar).