On March 30th, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. unloaded six rounds from a .22 caliber revolver with the goal of assassinated President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley ended up wounding press secretary James Brady, police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. A stray bullet that ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine hit President Reagan in the chest, less than 1 inch away from his heart. Hinckley was arrested on the scene, and after a long trial, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Since August of 1981, Hinckley has spent most of his time at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. Now, nearly 30 years later, Hinckley hopes to gain more free, personal time away from the hospital to be with his mother and “enjoy the outside world.” This would be time spent entirely on his own, without the supervision of doctors.
Over the last few weeks hearings have taken place in Washington D.C. in which Hinckley’s lawyer, Barry Levine has asked for his client to receive additional time away from the hospital, during which he stays with his 85 year old mother and is allowed to live as a free man. Levine, has called Hinckley “flawed, but fundamentally decent” and has primarily used testimony from Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who has overseen Hinckley’s treatment. Torrey, was quoted as saying “as long as he (Hinckley) takes his medication he could move next door to me as far as I’m concerned, but if he doesn’t, I’d do everything in my power to keep him away from me.” Additionally, over the last few months, Hinckley has been allowed to leave the hospital to spend time on his own, where he is told to see movies or go shopping. This is done with the hope that Hinckley will be able to reacclimatte himself to the outside world. However, the Secret Service has spied on Hinckley during his personal time and has observed many startling things. For example, last July when Hinckley was told to go view the movie Captain America, Secret Service agents observed that he never went to the movie, and in fact went to a local bookstore where he looked through numerous books about President Reagan and presidential assassinations.
Additionally, Hinckley, who originally attempted to assassinate the president in hopes of impressing actress Jodie Foster, whom Hinckley had an obsession with, has been caught by his doctors looking through pictures of his dentist on the internet and sending her love letters. When he was caught by his doctors, Hinckley lied, saying the woman was not his dentist, and the two were in fact friends….something the dentist vehemently denied. In addition to these disturbing findings by the government, federal prosecutors have argued that if Hinckley is freed or given more time outside of the hospital, there is no way to be sure he is taking his medicine. Also, the prosecutors argue that if he is released the Secret Service would have to allocate valuable resources and manpower to monitor Hinckley, assets that would otherwise be used to protect government officials.
There is no doubt that John Hinckley is a troubled man, who needs medical attention, but how do you all feel about him roaming the streets freely…potentially on an everyday basis? Does someone who attempted to assassinated the most important political figure not only in our country, but in our world deserve to live life as a free man, regardless of whether a jury found him to be insane? How would Locke, Hobbes or Rawls feel about this man potentially being freed? Does Hinckley deserve to maintain his individual freedoms after coming just an inch away from putting our nation in major turmoil? Is it worth taking the risk of freeing Hinckley and forcing the Secret Service to spend value time and resources monitoring him, or do you think this man has lost his right to freedom?