Those are the questions a federal judge must answer as he weighs a request by Hinckley’s doctors and therapists to expand his liberty and give them the authority to place him in Williamsburg, his mother’s home town.
In the first five days of court hearings that will help determine Hinckley’s future, testimony and records provided a rare glimpse into the life and mind of a loner who, driven by a delusional obsession with a movie actress, nearly killed President Ronald Reagan and wounded three other men in 1981.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman heard from Hinckley’s relatives, doctors and therapists, who said he was ready to more fully reenter society as part of his continued therapy. Prosecutors disagreed, and they may begin making their case as soon as this week. The proceedings should wrap up next month, and Friedman could rule anytime after that.
Hinckley’s depression and unspecified psychotic disorder are in remission and his narcissistic personality disorder has receded, according to court testimony. Doctors and therapists have testified about more than a dozen 10-day visits Hinckley has made to his mother’s home in a luxury golf community; they have delved into his relationships with women; and they have probed his honesty and his maturity. The portrait that has emerged is not flattering.
Still, his lawyers and doctors say that while Hinckley has occasionally exhibited what his doctors call “poor judgment,” he remains a “low risk” for future violence, the standard upon which Friedman will rule.
“Although flawed,” says his attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, “he is surely not a danger to himself or others.”
Federal prosecutors say that Hinckley is too deceptive and lazy to be trusted and that the hospital is “gambling” in seeking more freedom for a gunman who nearly killed the president and permanently disabled a White House press secretary.
“Mr. Hinckley has not been a good risk in the past and, therefore, is not going to be a good risk in the future,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Chasson said.
Hinckley, who has been held at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982, has said nothing during the hearings. Wearing a sports coat and tie, he has slumped in his seat at the defense table, chewed his bottom lip, fiddled with plastic cups, yawned and whispered to his lawyers.
In Williamsburg, which he has visited regularly since Friedman expanded such privileges in late 2005, Hinckley’s days are strictly regimented, according to hospital records. On most days, he awakens early and does chores. If his arthritis isn’t acting up, he goes on a two-hour walk. He then sees movies or shops at outlet malls or stores selling music, books or pet supplies.