WASHINGTON – Would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley has been found ready to spend more time away from a Washington psychiatric hospital, but a federal judge said hospital administrators have not proposed a structure to ensure such trips would be safe.
Hinckley, who shot and wounded President Reagan in 1981, has been committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster.
Hinckley's doctors say his psychotic disorder and depression are in remission and they want to give him more freedom so he can begin relearning how to behave in society.
Hinckley has been allowed four-night visits to his family home in Virginia but wants to extend those visits to two weeks at a time and has asked that he be allowed to make one monthlong visit. He wants to get a driver's license and begin volunteering or working in the community, all under the supervision of his doctors.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman denied that request late Tuesday but not because Hinckley wasn't ready.
"The reasons the court has reached this decision rest with the hospital, not with Mr. Hinckley," Friedman said, adding that Hinckley's prior visits have been uneventful and his family has done all that has been asked of them. "Unfortunately, the hospital has not taken the steps it must take before any such transition can begin."
Friedman agreed with doctors who, testifying as government witnesses, said the hospital's proposal was too vague and left Hinckley with too much unstructured time in the community without appropriate oversight and counseling.
Friedman expanded Hinckley's visits to six days but said he would not rule on more lengthy visits until the hospital put forth a better proposal.
Hinckley shot Reagan, press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a Washington policeman March 30, 1981 as the president emerged from a hotel.