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John W. Hinckley, Jr.
Born John Warnock Hinckley, Jr.
May 29, 1955 (1955-05-29) (age 54)
Ardmore, Oklahoma
Parents John Warnock Hinckley, Sr., and Jo Ann Moore

John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., (born May 29, 1955) attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981, as the culmination of an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has remained under institutional psychiatric care since then. Public outcry over the verdict led to the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984.

Contents

Early life

John W. Hinckley, Jr., was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma. His father was John Warnock Hinckley, Sr., and his mother was Jo Ann Moore Hinckley. He has two siblings – sister Diane and brother Scott. Hinckley grew up in University Park, Texas[1] and attended Highland Park High School in Dallas County, Texas. The family, owners of the Hinckley Oil company, later settled in Evergreen, Colorado. Hinckley graduated in 1973 from high school in Texas which prompted the move to Evergreen, Colorado (Hansell & Damour, 2005). An off-and-on student at Texas Tech University from 1974 to 1980, in 1975 he headed to Los Angeles in the hope of becoming a songwriter. These efforts were unsuccessful, and his letters home to his parents were full of tales of misfortune and pleas for money. He also spoke of a girlfriend, Lynn Collins, who turned out to be a fabrication. He returned to his parents' home in Evergreen before the year was out. During the next few years, he developed a pattern of living on his own for a while and then returning home poor.

Obsession with Jodie Foster

Hinckley developed an obsession with Foster, who played the 12-year-old child prostitute Iris/Easy in Taxi Driver (she was really 14 at the time).

Akin to Howard Hughes's repeated viewings of Ice Station Zebra Hinckley watched the 1976 movie Taxi Driver on a continuous loop in which a disturbed protagonist, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. Hinckley developed an obsession with actress Jodie Foster, who had played a child prostitute in the film.[2] Hinckley would re-edit the film, removing parts of Cybill Shepherd and mainly focusing on Travis and Iris. His routine was to masturbate during the film's climax. As Travis enters Iris's flat, Hinckley, an obsessive compulsive, would try to reach orgasm as soon as Iris says "don't shoot him", something which gave him extreme euphoria. The Bickle character was in turn partially based on the diaries of Arthur Bremer, the attempted assassin of George Wallace.[1] When Foster entered Yale University, Hinckley moved to New Haven, Connecticut for a short time to stalk her, slipping poems and messages under her door and repeatedly contacting her by telephone.

Failing to develop any meaningful contact with Foster, Hinckley developed such plots as hijacking an airplane and committing suicide in front of her to gain her attention. Eventually he settled on a scheme to win her over by assassinating the president, with the theory that as a historical figure he would be her equal. To this end, he trailed President Jimmy Carter from state to state, but was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee on a firearms charge. Penniless, he returned home once again, and despite psychiatric treatment for depression, his mental health did not improve. In 1981, he began to target the newly elected president, Ronald Reagan. It was also at this time that he started collecting information on Lee Harvey Oswald, the person charged with John F. Kennedy's assassination, whom he saw as a role model.

Just prior to Hinckley's failed attempt on Reagan's life, he wrote to Foster:[3]

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. [...] the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.

Assassination attempt

Crowds outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

On March 30, 1981, Hinckley fired a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver six times at Reagan as he left the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., after addressing an AFL-CIO conference.

Hinckley wounded press secretary James Brady, police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Hinckley did not directly hit Reagan, but seriously wounded him when a bullet ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine and hit him in the chest.[4] Hinckley did not attempt to flee and was arrested at the scene. All of the shooting victims survived, although Brady, who was hit in the right side of the head, endured a long recuperation period and remained paralyzed on the left side of his body.[5]

Bush-Hinckley family connections

According to the March 31, 1981, edition of the Houston Post, and reported by AP, UPI, NBC News and Newsweek, Hinckley is the son of one of George H.W. Bush's political and financial supporters in his 1980 presidential primary campaign against Ronald Reagan; John Hinckley, Jr.,'s elder brother, Scott Hinckley, and Bush's son Neil Bush had a dinner appointment scheduled for the next day.[6][7]

Associated Press published the following on March 31, 1981:

The family of the man charged with trying to assassinate President Reagan is acquainted with the family of Vice-President George Bush and had made large contributions to his political campaign ... Scott Hinckley, brother of John W. Hinckley, Jr., was to have dined tonight in Denver at the home of Neil Bush, one of the Vice-President's sons ... The Houston Post said it was unable to reach Scott Hinckley, vice-president of his father's Denver-based firm, Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, for comment. Neil Bush lives in Denver, where he works for Standard Oil Company of Indiana. In 1978, Neil Bush served as campaign manager for his brother, George W. Bush, the Vice-President's eldest son, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. Neil lived in Lubbock, Texas, throughout much of 1978, where John Hinckley lived from 1974 through 1980.[8]

Trial

At the trial in 1982, charged with 13 offenses, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21. The defense psychiatric reports found him to be insane while the prosecution reports declared him legally sane.[9] Hinckley was confined at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.[9]

Hinckley, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) # 00137-177, was released from BOP custody on August 18, 1981.[10]

Reaction to verdict

The verdict led to widespread dismay; as a result, the U.S. Congress and a number of states rewrote laws regarding the insanity defense. Idaho, Montana, and Utah have abolished the defense altogether.[11] In the United States prior to the Hinckley case, the insanity defense had been used in less than 2% of all felony cases and was unsuccessful in almost 75% of the trials in which it was used.[9] Hinckley's parents wrote a book in 1985, Breaking Points, about their son's mental condition.[9]

As further fallout from the verdict, federal and some state rules of evidence exclude or restrict testimony of an expert witness' conclusions on "ultimate" issues, including that of psychologist and psychiatrist expert witnesses on the issue of whether a criminal defendant is legally "insane."[12] However, such is not the majority rule among the states today.[13]

St. Elizabeths

Shortly after his trial, Hinckley wrote that the shooting was "the greatest love offering in the history of the world," and was upset that Foster did not reciprocate his love.[14]

After being admitted, tests found that Hinckley was an "unpredictably dangerous" man who may harm himself, Jodie Foster or any other third party. In 1983 he told Penthouse that on a typical day he will

"see a therapist, answer mail, play (his) guitar, listen to music, play pool, watch television, eat lousy food and take delicious medication."[15]

He was allowed to leave the hospital for supervised visits with his parents in 1999, and longer unsupervised releases in 2000.[1] These privileges were revoked when he was found to have smuggled materials about Foster back into the hospital. Hinckley was later allowed supervised visits in 2004 and 2005. Court hearings were held in September 2005 on whether he could have expanded privileges to leave the hospital. Some of the testimony during the hearings centered on whether Hinckley is capable of having a normal relationship with a woman and, if not, whether that would have any bearing on what danger he would pose to society.

On December 30, 2005, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be allowed visits, supervised by his parents, to their home in Williamsburg, Virginia. The judge ruled that Hinckley could have up to three visits of three nights and then four visits of four nights, each depending on the successful completion of the last. All of the experts who testified at Hinckley's 2005 conditional release hearing, including the government experts, agreed that his depression and psychotic disorder were in full remission and that he should have some expanded conditions of release.

After requesting further freedoms including two one-week visits with his parents as well as a month long visit, the U.S. District Judge, Paul L. Friedman, denied that request on Wednesday, June 6, 2007; he did not deny the request out of a concern that Hinckley was not ready.

The reasons the court has reached this decision rest with the hospital, not with Mr. Hinckley... the hospital has not taken the steps it must take before any such transition can begin.[16]

On June 17, 2009, a Federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be given the ability to visit his mother for nine days at a time, rather than six, spend more time outside of the hospital, and even have a driver's license. This was done over the objections of the prosecutors who said that he was still a danger to others and had unhealthy and inappropriate thoughts about women. Records show that he has had sexual relations with two women, one who was married for a long time, and another who has bipolar disorder. Hinckley also has recorded a song, entitled "Ballad of an Outlaw" which the prosecutors claim is "reflecting suicide and lawlessness."[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c The American Experience - John Hinckley Jr by Julie Wolf. Retrieved March 5, 2006.
  2. ^ Taxi Driver: Its Influence on John Hinckley, Jr.
  3. ^ Letter written to Jodie Foster by John Hinckley, Jr., March 30, 1981.
  4. ^ Reagan, Ronald (Reagan said this on January 11, 1990. The episode of Larry King aired on March 30, 2001.), Larry King Live: Remembering the Assassination Attempt on Ronald Reagan, http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0103/30/lkl.00.html, retrieved November 13, 2008 .
  5. ^ Jim Brady, 25 Years Later, CBS News Exclusive: Reagan Aide And Wife Reflect On Life Since Shooting - CBS News.
  6. ^ Wiese, Arthur; Downing, Margaret (March 31, 1981). "Bush's Son Was To Dine With Suspect's Brother". 
  7. ^ UPI (Mar 31, 1981). "Hinkley's kin slated to dine with Bush's son". Bend, Deschutes County Oregon: The Bulletin. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HpASAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EPcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4273,846911&dq=hinckley+neil+bush+1981&hl=en. Retrieved November 23 2009. 
  8. ^ Associated Press-Houston (March 31, 1981). "Hinckley family had ties with vice president". Fredericksburg Virginia: The Free Lance Star. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=q1MQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=h4sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1462,4604289&hl=en. Retrieved November 23 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d The Trial of John W. Hinckley, Jr., by Doug Linder. 2001 Retrieved March 10, 2007.
  10. ^ "John W Hinckley Jr." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 9, 2010.
  11. ^ The John Hinckley Trial & Its Effect on the Insanity Defense by Kimberly Collins, Gabe Hinkebein, and Staci Schorgl.
  12. ^ "Barring ultimate issue testimony". Springerlink. http://www.springerlink.com/content/j0116723h6r18kp0/. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  13. ^ C. McCormick, Evidence (3d Ed.) § 12, p. 30.
  14. ^ Hinckley Hails 'Historical' Shooting To Win Love by Stuart Taylor, Jr. New York Times. July 9, 1982. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  15. ^ Life at St. Elizabeths by Denise Noe. Crime Library. Courtroom Television Network, LLC. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
  16. ^ "More freedom for Hinckley no certainty". June 20, 2007. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-06-20-2215243452_x.htm. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Court gives would-be assassin John Hinckley more freedom". June 17, 2009. http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/17/john.hinckley/index.html. 

Further reading

  • Clarke, James W. (1990). On Being Mad or Merely Angry: John W. Hinckley, Jr., and Other Dangerous People. Princeton University Press.
  • Hinckley, John W. "The Insanity Defense and Me". Newsweek, September 20, 1982.

External links








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