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Hinckley seeks unsupervised trips

The man who shot President Reagan was trying to persuade a judge Monday to allow him to visit his parents without being accompanied by staff from the psychiatric hospital where he has lived for two decades.

John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981, should be allowed to visit his parents without being accompanied by psychiatric hospital staff, his lawyer told a federal judge Monday.

BARRY LEVINE told U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman that unsupervised visits are the next step in Hinckley’s mental health treatment. Levine said that any other patient at a psychiatric hospital would have been allowed such trips by now.

“Is he going to be judged not by the law but by the identity of the victims of his crime?” Levine asked during his opening statement. “There is not a single basis to justify the rejection of this proposal.”

Government lawyers gave no opening statement.


The first witness, psychologist Sidney Binks, testified that Hinckley was not a danger and should be allowed the unsupervised visits.

Binks, who has treated Hinckley at St. Elizabeths for some five years, said that his mental illness is in “full remission.”

Binks said Hinckley’s supervised trips away from the hospital —— to go to bowling alleys, the National Theater, dinner with his parents and shopping malls — have been uneventful but have improved his mood at the hospital.

“They’ve gone very well,” Binks said. “They’ve been very therapeutic. He smiles more. Continued incremental releases are appropriate.”

Hinckley, 48, has been a patient at St. Elizabeths since his acquittal by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel in March 1981. Hinckley said he shot the president to impress actress Jodie Foster.

Hospital officials have said Hinckley’s mental health has shown significant improvement and he should be allowed to make unsupervised visits, though they said there should be only two trips initially. Others could follow if the first two go well.


Reagan’s family and the government oppose the idea. In a recent filing, prosecutors wrote: “No one knows what Mr. Hinckley is thinking. He has boasted that he can fool medical experts and he continually has been proven deceptive about important matters throughout the years of his hospitalization.”

In an interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan Jr., said the would-be assassin now wants a “free pass” for his actions.

“Maybe if John Hinckley isn’t insane any more he needs to just go to prison and there he can reflect for a while on what he did,” the former president’s son said.

Hinckley sought similar privileges three years ago, but U.S. District Judge June Green canceled a hearing after prosecutors said he had a “continued interest in violently themed books and music.”

Under a 1999 federal appeals court ruling, Hinckley has been able to take supervised day trips off hospital grounds. The Secret Service, which is responsible for the security of current and former presidents, is notified whenever Hinckley leaves St. Elizabeths.

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