WASHINGTON – A federal judge is considering whether to allow more freedom for John Hinckley Jr. (search), who has lived at a psychiatric hospital since trying to assassinate President Reagan (search) in 1981.
His attorneys are asking a federal judge Monday to allow five-day, unsupervised visits every two weeks at his parents' home in Virginia. Since late last year, Hinckley has been allowed shorter visits with them, and now his lawyers say he is ready for longer trips.
Government attorneys oppose the request, saying these trips are not appropriate. In court filings, they reminded the judge that in trying to kill Reagan — an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster — Hinckley shot three other people, including James Brady (search), who was permanently disabled and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.
Hinckley has lived at St. Elizabeths hospital in Washington since he was acquitted of the shootings in 1982 by reason of insanity.
Since then, experts have determined that he has made substantial progress, and his attorneys told the court he has proven that he poses no danger to himself or others.
Their motion is part of an incremental effort they hope will eventually allow Hinckley to leave the hospital and live with family full time. His attorneys say he will spend the time away from the hospital looking for work and education opportunities "so that he can work towards becoming a productive, self-sufficient member of society."
"It is important to start this transition and allow Mr. Hinckley to begin to integrate himself into that community," his attorneys wrote the court.
Last December, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman allowed Hinckley limited unsupervised day trips with his parents, though he rejected his request for longer, extended visits at his parents' home in Williamsburg, Va., about three hours south of the nation's capital.
Since late last year, Hinckley has had six of these day trips in the Washington area, and has stayed overnight with his parents in an area hotel on one occasion, his attorneys said.
They said he visited restaurants, shopping malls, museums and a movie theater, all without incident and without anyone recognizing him.
Government attorneys counter that Hinckley has been deceptive about his relationship with a former girlfriend and is not ready for the unstructured trips he seeks. If his request is granted, they said, he will be allowed to "roam at will over an undisclosed distance for anything he deems related to vocational or educational pursuits."
His involvement with Leslie DeVeau, the former girlfriend, is "disturbingly unclear," the government lawyers told the court. They said he calls her twice a day when not on supervised release and hopes for a relationship in the future. DeVeau, they said, would not be interviewed about their relationship under appropriate conditions.
The Reagan and Brady families strongly objected to Friedman's ruling last year granting the unsupervised visits.
All of Hinckley's trips off hospital grounds have been conducted under surveillance by the Secret Service, and his lawyers said Hinckley would not object to the Secret Service alerting local law enforcement authorities of the visits.