WASHINGTON — A lawyer for John Hinckley Jr., the man who tried to assassinate then-president Ronald Reagan in 1981, sought Monday to prove his client can be safely released 30 years after the attack.
Hinckley, 56, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan and three others, including White House press secretary James Brady.
Since then, he has been at St Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in Washington.
In federal court, Hinckley’s attorney Barry Levine argued that his client’s friendly and loving relationships, social and therapeutic activities and even hopes for a job showed he should be able to function in society.
He is asking the hospital to allow Hinckley to spend more time with his mother who is 85 and lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Asking therapist Carl Beffa about the patient’s relationships with women in the hospital including an engagement he broke off, the attorney asked: “Do these relationships elevate his mood, make him hopeful, reduce the risks?”
Beffa said he believed the relationships gave Hinckley “the opportunity of learning life.” He also said he favored parole for the patient, and the possibility of his working in a pet store that was said to have offered him a job.
“Ideally, it would be three weeks … to develop a relationship and also an interaction with the group,” Beffa said, referring to his possibly working and attending group therapy, guitar classes and volunteering at a hospital.
A prosecutor, Sarah Chasson, asked Beffa for an example of Hinckley’s willingness to join the Williamsburg community.
“I can’t think of any,” Beffa said.
Hospital lawyers and doctors filed a motion under seal at the end of July asking that Hinckley eventually be placed on “convalescent leave,” but prosecutors quoted it in their own filing, making it part of the public record.
A college dropout, Hinckley waited for Reagan to walk out of a Washington hotel where he had given a speech on March 31, 1981.
Hinckley fired his six-shot .22 revolver at Reagan, who was seriously wounded but recovered.
Brady suffered a serious brain injury and never was able to return to his White House duties. Wheelchair-bound for the last three decades, he is now an advocate for gun control in the United States.
The hearings were to resume December 9.