John Hinckley’s lawyers not allowed to withdraw from his case, judge says

September 19, 2012

A federal judge ruled that it would be too prejudicial to John W. Hinckley to grant a request by his lawyers to withdraw from his case as he weighs a problematic hospital proposal to grant him more freedom.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman wrote that a key element of the hospital’s plan to give Hinckley more freedom in his mother’s hometown of Williamsburg had apparently fallen apart. He ordered the hospital to either submit a new plan or to revise the old one.

“At this point, the ball is in the hospital’s court,” the judge wrote, in giving St. Elizabeths Hospital until Oct. 19 to notify him about its plans.

The hospital and Hinckley’s lawyers last year asked Friedman to expand the would-be assassin's privileges by extending his unsupervised visits to Williamsburg for up to 24-straight days and to give St. Elizabeths’ doctors the power to place him there permanently. The judge held a lengthy set of hearings, which concluded in February, about the plan.

Friedman wrote that an “important component” of the proposal involved Hinckley participating in group therapy sessions at Colonial Behavioral Health, a government agency that serves citizens in the Williamsburg area.

However, in a letter to the judge in early August, St. Elizabeths wrote that representatives of Colonial Behavioral Health “has expressed their desire to withdraw their participation in Mr. Hinckley’s future treatment.” The hospital told Friedman it was investigating other options for Hinckley and promised to provide an update, though it has yet to do so, the judge wrote.

The presidential assailant’s long-time lawyers, led by Barry Wm. Levine of Dickstein Shapiro, filed a motion Aug. 24 to withdraw from representing the presidential assailant, citing the Hinckley family’s inability to continue paying their fees.

In rejecting that request, Friedman said it would not be fair to their client to let them bow out now. The lawyers “are most familiar with the filings in this matter including the voluminous expert reports, with the other relevant documents, and with the extensive testimony to date. Until the Court resolves the pending petition, it would be prejudicial to Mr. Hinckley to permit counsel to withdraw, and it would not be in the interests of justice to do so,” Friedman wrote.

Hinckley shot President Reagan and three other men outside of the Washington Hilton hotel on March 30, 1981. Reagan was nearly killed in the attack. His press secretary, James Brady, suffered a devastating head wound. Two law enforcement officials were also wounded — D. C. police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy. In 1982, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has been held at St. Elizabeths ever since. Over the years, the hospital and his lawyers have successfully convinced Friedman to expand his privileges and visits to his mother’s hometown. Federal prosecutors have resisted those efforts.

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