Hinckley's Mother To Be His Sole Escort
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Presidential assailant John W. Hinckley Jr. can continue to leave a psychiatric hospital for visits at his family's home as long as his mother closely supervises him, a federal judge ruled this week.
The decision came amid prosecutors' concerns that Hinckley's 81-year-old father, Jack Hinckley, has grown infirm and incapable of helping to monitor his son during his four-day-long stays at the family's home in the Williamsburg area.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman agreed that the father is no longer up to the task of chaperoning. But in a ruling issued Tuesday, he said that John Hinckley's mental health is reported to be improving on these visits and that he poses no danger to the community.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to permit visits only if Hinckley's brother and sister, who live in other states, helped to supervise him.
Hinckley, 51, who shot President Ronald Reagan and three others in March 1981, gradually has gained more freedoms from St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Southeast Washington psychiatric facility where he has been held since a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity 24 years ago. His parents have long pushed for the outings, which they view as an important step toward his eventual release from the hospital.
The judge also ruled that much of a government psychiatrist's report that explains the illness of Jack Hinckley should be made public, despite privacy objections from the Hinckley family. Sources close to the case say that Hinckley's father is exhibiting memory loss and confusion. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Friedman said that psychiatrist Robert Phillips's discussion of Hinckley's father's infirmity undoubtedly will be discussed in public court hearings as prosecutors and the family spar over appropriate conditions for Hinckley's ventures away from the hospital.
The trips to the parents' home -- the most freedom Hinckley has had since his arrest in 1981 -- began after a ruling from Friedman last December. After psychiatric experts on both sides agreed that Hinckley's depression and psychotic disorder were in full remission, Friedman agreed that Hinckley would visit his family for three- and then four-day stays without the supervision of hospital personnel.
In his most recent decision, Friedman said there was little reason to change the conditions for those visits, other than to remove the father from the job of helping to monitor his son. He said he would propose that the two sides next prepare for hearings in March on Hinckley's anticipated proposal to increase the length of his visits.
Friedman noted that Phillips and hospital personnel agree that Hinckley's mother, Jo Ann, 80, "is perfectly adequate as the sole responsible party for her son."
Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment on the decision yesterday. Barry Wm. Levine, Hinckley's attorney, could not be reached for comment yesterday.