The fate of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother recently convicted for having
drowned her five young children in a bathtub, may well have been tied to the
trial of John Hinckley. When a Washington D.C. jury found Hinckley "not
guilty by reason of insanity" on thirteen counts relating to his shooting of
President Ronald Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, and two officers,
legislators in most states--including Texas--responded by making the
insanity defense all but impossible to prove. If not for John Hinckley,
Andrea Yates would probably be in a mental institution rather than a prison.
The trial of John Hinckley opened twenty years ago this month. Apart from
its significance in triggering reform of insanity laws, the Hinckley trial
merits study for what it reveals about the difficulties of unraveling the
mysteries of a disturbed mind.
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
The verdict of "not guilty" for reason of insanity
in the 1982 trial of John
Hinckley, Jr. for his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan
stunned and outraged many Americans. An ABC News poll taken the day
after the verdict showed 83% of those polled thought "justice was not done"
in the Hinckley case. Some people--without much evidence--attributed
the verdict to an anti-Reagan bias on the part the Washington, D. C. jury
of eleven blacks and one white. Many more people, however, blamed
a legal system that they claimed made it too easy for juries to return
"not guilty" verdicts in insanity cases--despite the fact that such pleas
were made in only 2% of felony cases and failed over 75% of the time.
Public pressure resulting from the Hinckley verdict spurred Congress and
most states into enacting major
reforms of laws governing the use of the insanity defense.
The Hinckley trial highlights the difficulty
of a system that forces jurors to label a defendant either "sane" or "insane"
when the defendant may in fact be close to the middle on a spectrum ranging
from Star Trek's Mr. Spock to the person who strangles his wife thinking
that he's squeezing a grapefruit. Any objective evaluation of John
Hinckley's mental condition shows him to be a troubled young man--not,
as one prosecution witness described him, "a normal, All-American boy."
But how troubled? The prosecution contended that Hinckley suffered
only from "personality disorders" of the type affecting five to ten percent
of the population, whereas the defense saw the same evidence as demonstrating
Hinckley's serious mental illness.
The Hinckley trial, perhaps better than any
other famous trial, reveals the difficulty of ascertaining what exactly
is going on in the head of another human being--and then in using that
imperfect knowledge to answer a legal question that reduces complex and
changing mental states to two oversimplified categories.
The Troubled Life of John Hinckley
The youngest of three children born to a workaholic
oil executive and an agoraphobic stay-at-home mother, John Hinckley from
an early age was clingy and very dependent upon his mother. Reviewing
Points, JoAnn and Jack Hinckley's book about their coming to terms
with their son's mental illness, Laura Obolensky writes--too critically,
perhaps--in The New Republic
of life inside the affectless Hinckley
Perhaps it is fear of
what lies outside that makes the interior of the family so rigid and subdued,
like life in a well-run bunker. The world of the Hinckleys was the
rootless, middle-class Sunbelt culture that nurtures pro-family values,
Christian fundamentalism, and occasional mass murderers. Families
move frequently, but without compromising their parochialism. Everywhere,
people are white, Christian, Republican (JoAnn explains John's egregious
prejudices by saying he had "never been around people of other races.")
Somewhere outside there are malign elements--minority groups, rock musicians,
big government, and the cynical, Godless cosmopolites who dominate the
media. Mothers in this culture do not lavish attention on their children,
but on their furniture.
Hinckley drifted aimlessly through two years of
college at Texas Tech, in Lubbock, playing his guitar, listening to music,
and watching television. In the spring of 1976, he dropped out of
school and headed for Hollywood, where he hoped--despite a lack of musical
education--to make it as a songwriter.
While in Hollywood Hinckley first viewed a
Driver, that seemed to give dramatic content to his misery and
meaning to his life. Fifteen times over the next several years he
watched this tale of a psychotic taxi driver, Alex
Bickle (played by Robert DeNiro), who contemplates political assassination
and then rescues--through violence--a vulnerable young prostitute, Iris
(played by Jodie Foster), from the clutches of her pimp. In the movie,
Hinckley seems to find clues to escape his depression. He begins
to adopt the dress, preferences, and mannerisms of the Bickle character.
Like Bickle, Hinckley begins keeping a diary, wearing an army fatigue jacket
and boots, drinking peach brandy, and develops a fascination with guns.
In letters to his parents in Evergreen, Colorado, Hinckley describes a
fabricated relationship with a "Lynn," who shares many characteristics
with Bickle's initial love interest in the movie, a campaign worker named
"Betsy" (played by Sybil Shepherd). Most significantly, however,
Hinckley begins a long-term obsession with actress Jodie
In the spring of 1977, admitting defeat in
his attempt to launch a musical career, Hinckley returned Texas Tech, where
he sporadically attended class and spent most of his time alone.
Over the next two years, Hinckley's parents expressed increasing concern
to their son about his occupational goals. His depression deepened.
Life seemed to lack purpose. In August, 1979, he bought his first
gun and took up target-shooting. Two times that fall he played "Russian
Roulette." By Christmas of 1979, fear of facing his family caused him to
spend the holiday by himself in Lubbock. A photo
Hinckley took of himself in early 1980 shows him holding a gun to his
In the summer of 1980, Hinckley informed his
that he had a new career goal, writing. He asked his parents to pay
for writing course at Yale. Hinckley never intended to enroll in
writing course; his interest in visiting New Haven centered on one of Yale's
undergraduates: Jodie Foster. With $3,600 of his parents' money and
promising to work diligently at Yale, Hinckley set off for Connecticut
on September 17.
Not surprisingly, Hinckley failed in his efforts
to win the love of Jodie Foster. Too shy to approach her in person,
Hinckley left letters
and poems in her mailbox and talked to her twice--awkwardly--over the
Soon after his disappointment at Yale, Hinckley
began to stalk President Carter at campaign appearances. In a three-day
period, Hinckley visited three cities where Carter rallies were held: Washington,
D. C., Columbus, and Dayton. Although assassinating the President
was clearly on his mind, Hinckley explained later that at that time he
was unable to get himself into "a frame of mind where he could actually
carry out the act." Video taken in Dayton showed Hinckley to have
gotten within twenty feet of the President.
For the next few weeks, Hinckley continued
frenetically around the country. He reappeared in New Haven,
then flew to Lincoln, Nebraska on October 6, where he hoped to meet with
"one of the leading ideologicians" of the American Nazi Party. The
hoped-for meeting never took place. From Lincoln it was on to Nashville,
for another Carter campaign stop. Security officers at the Nashville
airport arrested Hinckley for carrying handguns in his suitcase, and confiscated
both the guns and handcuffs also found in his luggage. Hinckley paid
a fine and was released. After yet another short visit to Yale, Hinckley
flew to Dallas, where he purchased more handguns. Then Hinckley boarded
a flight for Washington, continuing his trailing of Carter.
On October 20, his $3,600 exhausted, Hinckley
flew home to Colorado, where his parents expressed strong disappointment
in his failure to carry out his promises. After Hinckley overdosed
on antidepressant medication, the Hinckleys arranged for their son to meet
with a local psychiatrist, Dr.
John Hopper. Hopper met with Hinckley several times over the
course of the next four months, but learned nothing of Hinckley's thoughts
of assassination and little of his obsession with Foster. Hopper
urged JoAnn and Jack Hinckley to push John toward emotional and financial
Hinckley's mental health did not improve--rather,
it deteriorated. He continued flying across the country to Washington
(where the new President-Elect, Ronald Reagan, was staying), New York (where
John Lennon had just been assassinated), and New Haven. While in
New York, Hinckley seriously contemplated killing himself in front of the
Dakota Hotel, at the exact spot where Lennon had been shot. On New
Year's Eve of 1980, Hinckley recorded a deeply disturbing
monologue in which he spoke of not "really" wanting "to hurt" Jodie
Foster, his fears about losing his sanity, and the likelihood of "suicide
city" if he failed to win Foster's love.
Hinckley returned to Colorado for his last
time on March 7, 1981. Jack
Hinckley met John at the Denver airport and told John--having failed
to obtain a job--he would not be allowed to go home to Evergreen.
Jack Hinckley gave his son $200, which John used to pay for motel rooms
in Denver where he sat alone watching television and reading.
Hinckley--unbeknownst to his father--interrupted
his stays in cheap motels to visit his mother several times. On March
Hinckley drove John to the Stapleton Airport in Denver. They
drove in virtual silence. At the curbside in front of the terminal,
as he reached for his suitcase John said to his mother, "I want to thank
you, Mom, for everything you've ever done for me, all these years."
JoAnn Hinckley felt fear "climb into my throat" as she replied, "You're
After a one-day stay in Hollywood and a cross-country
trip by Greyhound Bus, Hinckley checked into the Park Central Hotel in
Washington, D. C. on the afternoon of March 29. After a restless
night, Hinckley rose the next morning for a breakfast at McDonald's.
On the way back to the hotel, he picked up the Washington Star. Hinckley
noticed the President's schedule, on page A-4, indicating that Reagan would
be speaking to a labor convention at the Washingon Hilton in just a couple
of hours. Hinckley showered, took Valium to calm himself, loaded
his twenty-two with exploding Devastator bullets purchased nine months
earlier at a pawn shop in Lubbock, then wrote a letter to Jodie Foster.
The Foster letter shed light on the bizarre motive for Hinckley's plan:
is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to
get Reagan. It is for this very reason that I am writing you this
you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months
I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope
that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the
phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and
introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to
bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left
at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was
the most painless way for me to express my love for you.
I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and know
how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I've
come to realize that I'm the topic of more than a little conversation,
however full of ridicule it may be. At least you know that I'll always
Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could
only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether
it be in total obscurity or whatever.
I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now
is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I've got
to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that
I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and
possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me. This letter
is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel.
Jodie, I'm asking you to please look into your heart and at least give
me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love.
At one-thirty, Hinckley took a cab through
a light drizzle to the Hilton.
The President waved to a crowd as he walked
toward the hotel entrance at 1:45. Hinckley waved back. At
2:25, accompanied by aides and bodyguards, Reagan left the hotel and began
moving towards his waiting limousine. A voice yelled, "President
Reagan, President Reagan!" As
the President turned in his direction, Hinckley--crouching like a marksman--emptied
the six bullets in his gun in rapid succession. The first bullet
tore through the brain of press secretary James Brady. The second
his policeman Thomas Delahanty in the back. The third overshot the
President and hit a building. The fourth shot hit secret service
agent Timothy McCarthy in the chest. The fifth shot hit the bullet-proof
glass of the President's limousine.
The sixth and final bullet nearly killed the
President. As aides rushed to push Reagan into his car, the bullet
ricocheted off the car, then hit the President in the chest, grazed a rib
and lodged in his lung, just inches from his heart. At first it was assumed
that the bullet missed the President, and the limousine headed for the
White House. Within seconds, however, the President began coughing
up blood and the limousine changed course and sped for George Washington
University Hospital, where the President underwent two hours of life-saving
Hinckley was still clicking the trigger on
his twenty-two when secret service agents wrestled him to the ground.
An agent recalled a "desperate feeling of 'I've got to get to it and stop
it.'" as he came down on Hinckley with his right arm around his head.
With dozens of witnesses and the shootings
captured on videotape, the government knew as well as John Hinckley's own
defense lawyer, Vince
Fuller, that the only plausible defense was the insanity defense.
After a brief detention at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia--where
Fuller first met Hinckley--, he was transferred to a federal penitentiary
in Butner, North Carolina. Fuller informed Hinckley's parents of
the reasons for the move: "They want to do a psychiatric evaluation, and
Butner has the facilities." Over the next four months, psychiatrists
for both sides probed nearly every aspect of Hinckley's life.
When the psychiatric reports came in, there
were no surprises. All the government psychiatrists concluded that
Hinckley was legally sane--that he appreciated the wrongfulness of his
act--at the time of the shooting. All three defense psychiatrists
diagnosed Hinckley as psychotic--and legally insane--at the time of the
shooting. Further evidence of the severity of Hinckley's mental
problems came in May, two days before his twenty-sixth birthday, when he
attempted suicide by overdosing on Valium. In November, he tried
again--this time hanging himself in his cell window.
Hinckley insisted that his lawyers get Jodie
Foster to testify in his trial. If they didn't make every effort
to do so, he said, he would refuse to cooperate in his own defense.
Eventually, Fuller arranged with Foster's lawyer to have the actress testify
in a closed session with only the judge, lawyers, and Hinckley present.
The tape could later be introduced into evidence at the trial. When
Hinckley received the news he excitedly told his parents, "Mom! Dad! I'll
be right there in the same room!"
On March 30, 1982, authorities took Hinckley
to the federal courthouse in Washington for Jodie Foster's videotaped testimony.
The testimony sorely disappointed Hinckley, who received not a single glance
or word on his behalf from Foster. As Foster completed her testimony,
Hinckley hurled a ballpoint pen at her and yelled, "I'll get you Foster!"
Marshals surrounded Hinckley and hauled him from the room.
Jury selection for the Hinckley trial began
on April 27, 1982. Selected from a pool of ninety potential jurors
were eleven blacks and one white, seven women and five men.
The first phase of the prosecution case, uncontested
by the defense, established the obvious: that a shooting had occurred and
that Hinckley had done the shooting. Early prosecution witnesses
included two of Hinckley's victims, police officer Thomas Delahanty and
secret service agent Timothy McCarthy, and a neurosurgeon who described
the path of Hinckley's bullet through the brain of James Brady. Prosecutor
Adelman also attempted to show premeditation by introducing video footage
showing Hinckley's face in a crowd at a Carter campaign rally in Dayton
and producing an attendant at a Colorado rifle range who testified that
Hinckley engaged in target practicing there in December, 1980.
When the prosecution rested its formal case,
the real trial--the insanity trial--began. Defense attorney Vince
Fuller opened by asking JoAnn Hinckley about John's childhood, his letters
to home from Texas Tech about the imaginary "Lynn," missing money (presumably
stolen by John) from Jack Hinckley's study. In cross-examination
of JoAnn Hinckley, Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Chapman tried to establish
through his questions that Hinckley couldn't have been too sick--or his
parents would have known about it. Why, Chapman wanted to know, did
JoAnn Hinckley in the months before the shooting tell John's psychiatrist,
Dr. Hopper, that "things are fine."
Jack Hinckley testified about his decision
to cut off John's financial support. He told about the day in Denver
when he left him to find a cheap motel and try to make a life: "O.K., you
are on your own. Do whatever you want to do." Jack Hinckley
said, "Looking back on that, I'm sure that it was the greatest mistake
in my life." He tried to take the blame for what happened: "I am
the cause of John's tragedy--I forced him out at a time when he simply
couldn't cope. I wish to God that I could trade places with him right
Dr. John Hopper, wearing aviator glasses and
talking in a weary tone, testified about his misdiagnosis of Hinckley.
John was not merely an "unmotivated kid who needed behavioral therapy,"
as he first thought, but someone suffering from serious mental illness.
An autobiography written by John in November 1980 at Hopper's request was
introduced into evidence. In it, Hinckley wrote of "a relationship
I had dreamed about" that "went absolutely nowhere" and a mind that was
"on the breaking point." Hopper, relying on his face-to-face judgment
of Hinckley, had failed to appreciate the seriousness of the warnings contained
in the autobiography. Hopper also testified that he knew nothing
of Hinckley's stalking of President Carter or his purchase of handguns.
As technicians set up television sets at various
locations in the courtroom, Judge Barrington Parker told the jury: "Ladies
and gentleman, at this point in time you will see a video tape rendition
of a deposition of the witness Jodie Foster." At the defense table,
John moved from his habitual slump to an upright position. Foster
described Hinckley's first sets of letters to her as "lover-type letters."
The last batch of letters Foster called "distress-sounding" and she said
"I gave them to the dean of my college." One letter, dated March 6, 1981,
said only: "Jodie Foster, love, just wait. I will rescue you very
soon. please cooperate. J.W.H." Asked whether she'd "ever
seen a message like that before," Foster replied, "Yes, in the movie Taxi
Driver the character Travis Bickle sends the character Iris a rescue
letter." Then came a series of questions that caused Hinckley to stand
and bolt through the courtroom door--pursued by federal marshals:
"Now with respect to
the individual John W. Hinckley, looking at him in the courtroom today,
do you recall seeing him in person before today?"
After Foster's videotaped testimony, the defense
case continued with the introduction of tapes of brief phone conversations
with Jodie Foster found in Hinckley's Washington hotel room. The
tapes revealed a puzzled Foster trying to put a quick end to the call:
"I can't carry on these conversations with people I don't know."
"Did you ever respond to his
"No, I did not."
"Did you ever invite his approaches?"
"How would you describe your
relationship with John Hinckley?"
"I don't have any relationship
with John Hinckley."
The lead psychiatric expert for the defense
William Carpenter. One commentator described Carpenter as looking
Time" with his gray beard and shoulder length hair. From forty-five
hours of conversation with John Hinckley, Carpenter concluded the defendant
suffered from schizophrenia. He saw Hinckley has having four major
symptoms of mental illness: "an incapacity to have an ordinary emotional
arousal," "autistic retreat from reality," depression including "suicidal
features," and an inability to work or establish social bonds.
to Carpenter, Hinckley's lack of conviction about his identity led
him to snatch fragments of personality from book and movie characters--such
as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. As he played his guitar alone
in dormitory and hotel rooms, Hinckley had come to think of himself as
John Lennon--and thus was thrown into mental chaos by Lennon's sudden death.
The monologue Hinckley recorded on New Year's Eve showed the depth of his
John Lennon is dead.
The world is over. Forget it. It's just gonna be insanity, if I even make
it through the first few days. . . . I still regret having to go on with
1981 . . . I don't know why people wanna live . . . John Lennon is dead.
. . I still think-I still think about Jodie all the time. That's all I
think about really. That, and John Lennon's death. They were sorta binded
When Jack Hinckley refused to let their son come
back home in 1981, John's last link to the real world was severed, Carpenter
testified. At his low-rent hotel, Hinckley signed the guest register,
"J. Travis." with normal moorings lost, Hinckley followed the "dictates
from his inner world." He felt compelled to "rescue" Jodie Foster.
According to Carpenter, "He feels like he is on a roller coaster, and cannot
escape." Carpenter saw in the shooting of Reagan thoughts of suicide:
"His state of mind during the time is depression, the need to terminate
all of this, to have his own death." He noted that Hinckley "personalized"
Reagan's wave--he thought it was a wave just to him, when it was actually
intended for the crowd--, and said that seeing personalized messages in
ordinary events was a classic symptom of mental illness.
Carpenter ended three days of testimony by
concluding that Hinckley could appreciate the wrongfulness of his act "intellectually,"
but not emotionally. To him, the President and the others he shot
were just "bit players." So focused was he on achieving a "magical
unification with Jodie Foster" that he didn't see the consequences of his
action for his victims.
David Bear joined in Carpenter's diagnosis of psychosis. He testified
that Hinckley thought Travis Bickle was talking to him. He began
to feel "like he was acting out a movie script." It was highly unlikely
that Hinckley was faking illness, because those that do almost always report
fake "positive" signs like hearing voices of having visions. Hinckley's
signs were all "negative," like showing no emotion and jumping in his thought.
Hinckley's shooting of the President, according to Bear, was "the very
opposite of logic." Finally, Bear suggested that a CAT-scan of Hinckley
showing widened sulci in his brain was "powerful" evidence of his schizophrenia:
about one-third of schizophrenics have widened sulci, but only about 2%
of the normal population.
Dr. Ernest Prelinger, a Yale psychologist,
testified concerning testing he performed on Hinckley. With an I.
Q. of 113, Hinckley could be classified as "bright normal." But on
the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Hinckley was near the
peak of abnormality. According to Prelinger, only one person out
a million with Hinckley's score would not be suffering from serious mental
A complete showing of the movie Taxi Driver
closed the defense case.
The prosecution, in its psychiatric evidence,
attempted to shift the focus of the jury back to March 30, 1981.
The government's lead expert, Dr.
Park Dietz, put forward the diagnosis of the government's psychiatric
team: Hinckley suffered from various personality disorders, but was not
psychotic or insane. Essentially, Hinckley was a bored, spoiled,
lazy, manipulative rich kid. The teams' report concluded:
Mr. Hinckley's history
is clearly indicative of a person who did not function in a usual reasonable
manner. However, there is no evidence that he was so impaired that
he could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or conform his
conduct to the requirements of the law.
Dietz had a contradictory interpretation of nearly
every piece of a defense evidence. Hinckley's frequent flying showed
an ability to make complex travel arrangements more than it did an insane
obsession. His choice of Devestator bullets, his concealing of his
handgun, and his timing of his assassination attempt showed planning.
Hinckley imitated Travis Bickle much as would the fan of rock star--he
didn't "absorb" his identity as the defense contended. Hinckley did
not have an "obsession" with Foster, but only the sort of infatuation a
young man might often have for a starlet. His bizarre writings were
"fiction" that were "not that useful" in determining his mental state.
testified that Hinckley viewed his actions on March 30 as successful.
"It worked," Hinckley told Dietz in an interview. "You know, actually,
I accomplished everything I was going for there. Actually, I should
feel good because I accomplished everything on a grand scale....I didn't
get any big thrill out of killing--I mean shooting--him. I did it
for her sake....The movie isn't over yet."
After the testimony of another psychiatric
expert, Dr. Sally Johnson, who confirmed Dietz's basic findings, Adelman
announced, "Your honor, the prosecution rests."
arguments contained moments of drama. Adelman, in the government's
summation, strode back and forth in front of the jury with the actual gun
used in the shootings as he shouted to the jurors, "This man shot down
in the street James Brady, a bullet in his brain!" Defense attorney
Vince Fuller's recounting of Hinckley's "pathetic" life left John crying
at the defense table, his face in his hands, bent forward, and shaking.
Judge Barrington Parker ended eight weeks of
evidence and arguments by reading his instructions
to the jury. Most importantly, Parker told the jurors that the
prosecution had the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinckley
was not insane: that on March 30, 1981 he could appreciate the wrongfulness
of his actions. Parker did not tell the jury should reach its conclusion
by focusing solely on Hinckley's intellectual awareness of the wrongfulness
of his action, as the prosecution suggested, or by some broader notion
that included emotional appreciation of wrongfulness.
For over three days the jury deliberated Hinckley's
fate. Finally, a verdict. Judge Parker asked the twenty-two
year-old jury foreman to unseal the envelope containing the verdict and
hand it to a clerk, who passed it to the judge. Parker read the verdict:
"As to Count 1, Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. As to Count 2,
Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity." The reading continued, the same
verdict for each of the thirteen counts.
Insanity Defense Reform in the Trial Aftermath
Within a month of the Hinckley verdict, the
House and Senate were holding hearings on the insanity defense. A
measure proposed by Senator Arlen Specter shifted the burden of proof of
insanity to the defense. President Reagan expressed his support for
the measure with the comment, "If you start thinking about even a lot of
your friends, you would have to say, 'Gee, if I had to prove they were
sane, I would have a hard job.' "
Joining Congress in shifting the burden of
proof were a number of states. Within three years after the Hinckley
verdict, two-thirds of the states placed the burden on the defense to prove
insanity, while eight states adopted a separate verdict of "guilty but
mentally ill," and one state (Utah) abolished the defense altogether.
In addition to shifting the burden in insanity
cases, Congress also narrowed the defense itself. Legislation passed
in 1984 required the defendant to prove a "severe" mental disease and eliminated
the "volitional" or "control"aspect of the insanity defense. After
1984, a federal defendant has had to prove that the "severe" mental disease
made him "unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness
of his acts."
Hinckley at St. Elizabeths
Following his acquittal, John Hinckley was
transferred to St.
Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington. He is entitled to his freedom
once it is proved that he is no longer a threat, because of his mental
illness, to himself or others.
In 1998, a federal
appeals court rejected Hinckley's request for once-a-month, twelve-hour
unsupervised releases to his parents. As of the end of 2001, Hinckley remains
at St. Elizabeth's, with no immediate prospect of release
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
For further information and documentation, see Professor Linder's Web site on The Trial of John Hinckley
© 2002 by Douglas Linder. All rights reserved.