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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 12/08/2011

Judge doesn’t want to hand Hinckley freedom decision to doctors

A federal judge indicated Thursday that he is not likely to allow doctors to determine whether would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. may live full-time with his mother in Williamsburg.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said he would rather keep that job.

“I am extremely reluctant to give up that responsibility,” Friedman said from the bench as he presided over hearings meant to help him determine whether to grant a request to grant Hinckley more freedom from his psychiatric hospital.

Hinckley has been held at St. Elizabeths Hospital since being found not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting President Ronald Reagan and three other men in 1981.

In recent years, Friedman has granted Hinckley more freedom from the hospital, and its doctors are now asking him to further expand the presidential assailant’s privileges from 10-day visits to Williamsburg to trips as long as 24 days.

Friedman made his comments from the bench during testimony by a member of Hinckley's treatment team.

If those visits go well, the doctors also would like the authority to place Hinckley on “convalescent leave” in Williamsburg, meaning they would have the authority to place him there as a full-time outpatient.

Such a move would essentially free Hinckley from St. Elizabeths.

Hinckley’s lawyer, Barry Wm. Levine, is pushing the proposal, in part, because his client’s mother is 86, and there has been much discussion about what to do if she “becomes unavailable.”

“Time is not our friend,” Levine has said. The hearings often take months to schedule and can run on for days. The most recent proceedings started on Nov. 30 and are likely to continue into next week.

Federal prosecutors are fighting the plans. They say Hinckley isn’t ready for expanded freedom because he is deceptive and remains dangerous.

By  |  11:35 AM ET, 12/08/2011

Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber, The District, From the Courthouse

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