John Hinckley, Jr. Free to Roam?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, November 19, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The man who shot Ronald Reagan (search) wants to leave a mental hospital without supervision to visit his parents. Federal court is deciding if John Hinckley Jr. (search) is too dangerous to be allowed out on his own.

Joining me now to talk about Hinckley's case, The Washington Post's Carol Leoning (search). Will there be freedom for the would-be presidential assassin?

CAROL LEONING, WASHINGTON POST: Well, what is really interesting is after three days of testimony from psychiatric experts hired by John Hinckley's family and hired by government prosecutors, the judge indicated for the first time today that he would be willing to release John Hinckley for short brief visits without supervision if there are certain strict conditions and safety precautions taken.

GIBSON: What kind of safety precautions?

LEONING: They are numerous, and he has not signed on and said any specific one, but a few of the examples of precautions would be identifying a mental health official in every community that John Hinckley might actually go to, like, for example, Williamsburg, where his family lives.

Another precaution that might be considered is that the mother, for example, has all these phone numbers, wherever they travel, that they can call police in that community, if something uncomfortable happens, like if somebody recognizes Hinckley and says, “Are you the man who tried to assassinate President Reagan?”

GIBSON: What is John Hinckley like these days? Did you get an impression of that from these hearings?

LEONING: Well, on purpose, John Hinckley's legal team has kept him silent and quiet and non-emotional. He sits quietly throughout the testimony, both experts who are talking about all incredibly detailed and personal revelations about what his life is like in the hospital, the breakup of a 16-year romance he had, the cats he takes care of on the hospital grounds. He, without any emotion listens. He's well groomed. He looks very similar to how he looked 20 years ago, of course, with a little age, a little gray in his hair is still blonde.

GIBSON: Is he drugged?

LEONING: Drugged is a strong word. He takes one milligram a day of Respidol. Respidol is a drug that is usually prescribed to people with bipolar disorders. He's agreed to take it at his psychiatrist's suggestion, almost volunteering to take this drug as a preventive step. It's actually not a required medication for him. Most people with bipolar disorders take up to four to 10 to 20 milligrams a day.

GIBSON: Did the name Jodie Foster (search) come up in these hearings?

LEONING: Numerous times. There's a huge fight going on between Hinckley's legal team, the lawyers hired by his family and the government prosecutors, who are fighting against him being able to leave the hospital without supervision, over whether or not John has indicated a continuing infatuation with Jodie Foster.

And the most recent evidence that the government presents of this is that his former girlfriend, also a patient at the hospital, had purchased a book, a biography written by a British author of Jodie Foster. And that Mr. Hinckley did not reveal this to his therapist, as he should have according to the government.

GIBSON: Carol, thanks very much.

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