John Hinckley Wants Out

Since 1999, John Hinckley, the man who shot my father, has been walking off the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Hospital accompanied by a member of the hospital staff. These "supervised day trips" have included visits to shopping malls, book stores and bowling alleys, as well as meals with his family. The U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Columbia has gone to court numerous times trying to convince judges that Hinckley should not be wandering around the nation's capital even with a hospital attendant accompanying him, but they have not succeeded. The supervised day trips have continued.

If Hinckley has his way now, even the supervision will be a thing of the past. At a hearing to be held in Washington on Sept. 2, John Hinckley, represented by his longtime attorney Barry Levine, will ask permission for unsupervised visits to his parents' home. He wants to start with five twelve-hour visits to the family residence--9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.--and then extend his privileges to five overnight visits. He says he would be constantly under his parents' supervision. He says he has proved himself with a "track record" of supervised visits-for years now-with no incident, no hint of danger.

He just may get what he wants. John Hinckley, the man who waited outside the Washington Hilton on a gray March afternoon in 1981 with a loaded gun, the man who shot people out of the way in order to get a clear shot at the president of the United States--that man is now one step closer to total freedom.

Full release for Hinkley is understood to be a three-step process. His attorney knows that. So does Hinckley. John Hinckley is sick but he isn't stupid. The first step in his reintroduction into society is "supervised visits." Those are already occurring. The second step is "unsupervised visits"--which on September 2 may also become a reality. The third step is permanent release. The man who sought fame as a presidential assassin, who missed his mark by one-quarter of an inch--the bullet fragment that would have killed the president stopping just that far from his heart--this man wants you to believe he is healed, no longer mentally ill, no longer a danger to anyone.

I am not objective about this story. How could I be? The man tried to kill my father and almost succeeded. But I have learned about the many aspects of this case. I have done my homework, and while that doesn't make me any more objective, it does make me more knowledgeable.

Consider this: In the late 1980s, when Hinckley and his attorney first started arguing for supervised visits off the hospital grounds, it was discovered that Hinckley had been writing to Ted Bundy and Charles Manson. These pen-pal exchanges had been going on for a while, but the hospital staff, who were at that time pushing for his day passes, were unaware of them. Why? They hadn't been searching his room; they hadn't wanted to intrude on his privacy.

Also consider the shooting itself and the prelude to it. John Hinckley wanted to be world-famous. One aspect of his psychological diagnosis is narcissistic personality disorder. He had stalked other people, including Jodie Foster. He had considered shooting himself on the steps of the Dakota, near the spot where John Lennon was killed. He had then decided that his goal to become famous would be best achieved by assassinating the president. He had with him a copy of "Catcher in the Rye"--he had studied Mark David Chapman (Lennon's assassin) and had chosen to imitate him. He had left behind a diary, meant to be found later, after the whole world knew his name.

Court papers regarding Hinckley's latest request were sealed until a few days ago, so my family and the other victims and their families were only just notified about the upcoming hearing. Hinckley's attorneys have said that giving him more freedom is "a critical component" of his treatment. My response to that is: Who cares? The man plotted carefully, calculating his moves, in an attempt to go down in history as the man who killed President Reagan. He forever changed the lives of the Brady family when he left Jim Brady lying in a pool of blood, his brain irreversibly damaged. Two other men, a secret service agent and a Washington police officer, were shot and injured. Justice was not served when he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is certainly insane; he is just as certainly guilty.

I don't believe for a second that John Hinckley is no longer mentally ill. Neither do the attorneys for the government who have collided with Hinckley and his attorney for many years now. I also don't believe that mental illness means a person is not also extremely smart, deceptive and calculating.

If on Sept. 2 John Hinckley is granted the right to walk off hospital grounds with no supervision, we should all ask some very serious questions about our legal system. A methodical, narcissistic man who sought fame through murder knows the value of tenacity, patience, and deception. His ultimate fame might come from his ability to work the system.