WASHINGTON — The gunman who tried to assassinate president Ronald Reagan in March 1981 appealed on Wednesday to be allowed more time outside the psychiatric hospital where he has held for nearly 30 years.
John Hinckley, 56, “won’t be a danger to himself and to others,” his attorney Barry Levine told a federal judge in Washington.
Hinckley has already had “countless excursions into the city,” and there has not been “a single act of violence, not one,” Levine said.
Since 2009 Hinckley has been allowed 12 days of supervised freedom per month to visit his 85 year-old mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, 240 kilometers (152 miles) south of Washington.
Hinckley’s attorneys want this to be extended to 17 days per month, then 24 days and eventually want to see him released. “Freedom is an essential part of the therapy process,” Levine said.
Prosecutors however fear Hinckley is still dangerous.
Hinckley was just 23 years old when, on the afternoon of March 30, 1981, he opened fire at the president with a .22 caliber revolver as Reagan was leaving an event in the US capital.
Reagan was wounded in the chest and rushed to a hospital. Three other people were wounded, including the president’s press secretary.
Hinckley, who said he shot Reagan in an attempt to impress Hollywood actress Jodie Foster, was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to St. Elizabeth’s, a psychiatric hospital in the US capital.
On Wednesday Hinckley, now with graying hair and wearing a striped tie, waved at people in the courtroom before sitting quietly for the hearing.
Hinckley “has a long history of deception and misconduct,” said Assistant US Attorney Sarah Chasson. “Is this deception new? Of course not.”
Chasson told the judge how on two occasions Hinckley was allowed to go to the movies, but instead was seen at a bookstore flipping through literature about Ronald Reagan and presidential assassins.
“This court must deny more release, for public safety,” Chasson said.
Psychiatrist Tyler Jones told the court he believed there was little chance that Hinckley would commit and act of violence.
“In my opinion Mr Hinckley represents a low risk of danger for himself and to others,” said Jones, explaining why St. Elizabeth’s was recommending more freedom for Hinckley.
Judge Paul Friedman, the same judge that earlier allowed Hinckley to leave St. Elizabeth’s for short visits, wondered what would happen when the shooter’s elderly mother died — Hinckley’s brothers and sister, who live in Texas, are not willing to host him if he is released.
Hearings on the case will continue next week, and the judge will make a decision several weeks later.