John W. Hinckley Jr., accused of the attempted assassination of President Reagan on March 30, practiced target shooting at a Colorado rifle range in late 1980 and early 1981 and kept targets with bullet holes and ear protectors in his room at his parents' suburban Denver home, according to federal prosecutors.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court yesterday, the prosecution said FBI investigators who searched Hinckley's room after the shooting also found books, magazines and newspapers related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the wounding of Gov. George C. Wallace, and various other political shootings.
During that search, the prosecution said the FBI also found a recent photograph of Hinckley standing in front of Ford's Theater in Washington, where President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth in April 1865.
Details about the government's evidence against Hinckley, laid out in the court filing yesterday, were requested by Judge Barrington D. Parker, who will preside at Hinckley's trial, now scheduled for Jan. 4. Defense lawyers for Hinckley have admitted that Hinckley shot Reagan and three others outside the Washington Hilton hotel but will argue that he was insane at the time and was not criminally responsible for his acts.
In insanity cases, courts customarily hold a two-stage trial. In the first stage, a jury determines whether the defendant committed the crime. If the jury votes for a conviction, it then considers whether the defendant was insane at the time.
Since the defense has conceded Hinckley's guilt, they want Parker to eliminate the first stage and deal only with the question of Hinckley's sanity at the time -- a request the government prosecutors vigorously oppose.
Parker has not yet decided whether to hold such a "bifurcated" trial. He indicated at a prior hearing in the case that he wanted an outline of the government's evidence, apparently to help decide that question and to evaluate how much evidence will be introduced at the trial.
Hinckley's defense lawyers have said that the admission that Hinckley shot Reagan would eliminate the use of "inflammatory" evidence -- such as television videotape of the shootings -- at the first trial stage. Instead, the question the jury would have to consider would be limited to whether Hinckley was sane, the defense lawyers contend.
Government prosecutors, who characterized the case as a "rather straightforward shooting," denied they plan to use inflammatory evidence. In court papers, the prosecution accused the defense of trying to "have the jury forget about the crime altogether."
While there is no dispute that Hinckley fired the shots that injured Reagan and three others, that admission does not resolve the question of Hinckley's intent at the time he fired the shots, the prosecution argued.
The government maintains that evidence on the manner in which the crimes were committed and details about the events leading up to the shooting must be aired in court if the jury is to be able to decide whether he was responsible for his acts at the time.
Meanwhile yesterday, Parker took under advisement a renewed request by the government that it be allowed to use documents seized from Hinckley's prison cell last summer and statements he made to the FBI on the day of his arrest. Parker ruled last month that the information could not be used at Hinckley's trial because it was obtained illegally.