Closing arguments at John W. Hinckley Jr.'s trial halted abruptly late yesterday when Hinckley apparently was overcome by emotion and began to cry while listening to his lawyer describe his pursuit of actress Jodie Foster.
U.S. District Judge Barrington Parker called a recess as Hinckley hunched over in his chair, his hands shielding his eyes. Hinckley left the courtroom, his face flushed. A deputy marshal followed him into the cellblock with a box of tissues and a pitcher of water.
Hinckley's reaction came as defense lawyer Vincent J. Fuller was describing to the jury "bizarre" love letters that Hinckley had written to Foster and his "pathetic" delusion that suicide or murder would somehow accomplish his desire to win her love. Fuller is expected to resume his closing arguments tomorrow, followed by he prosecution's rebuttal.
Earlier in the day, chief prosecutor Roger M. Adelman had mocked what he called a "smorgasbord of insanity" that the defense had presented to the jury to try to prove that Hinckley was legally insane when he shot Reagan and three others outside the Washington Hilton Hotel more than a year ago.
Adelman, urging the jury to find Hinckley responsible for his actions, accused the defense of dodging evidence that Hinckley went to the hotel armed with a gun loaded with exploding bullets, waited for Reagan to appear and then fired all six shots in his direction, tracking the president as he fired.
"When all is said and done, the. . . plain, simple unvarnished facts of this case are that this man, John Hinckley, shot four people right down in the street. At close range," Adelman told the jury.
"It all comes back to what John Hinckley said," Adelman told the jury, reminding them of what Hinckley told a government psychiatrist after the shooting: " 'I'll never have a better opportunity.' "
Hinckley, dressed in a tan suit, sat without reaction throughout Adelman's closing argument. He heard the prosecutor describe him as a "bored young man with a lot of money" who took so many plane trips in pursuit of Foster that he "qualified for the 10,000-mile club."
Hinckley remained cool as Fuller launched into the final argument for the defense, describing his client as lonely, withdrawn and isolated and calling Hinckley a "prisoner of himself for at least seven years before this tragedy."
Later, Hinckley covered his eyes with his right hand as Fuller began to read aloud a monologue Hinckley had recited into a tape recorder on New Year's Day 1981, in which he said, "Anything that I might do in 1981 would be solely for Jodie Foster's sake . . . I wouldn't want to stay here on earth without her . . . "
Fuller's voice boomed through the courtroom as he described what he called Hinckley's "bizarre" thoughts. Hinckley appeared to sink deeper into his chair, his shoulders hunched and his hands shielding his face.
As defense lawyer Gregory B. Craig and a deputy marshal both tried to talk to Hinckley, Judge Parker noticed the activity, interrupted Fuller, suggested a recess and sent the jury out of the courtroom. Parker then talked privately with the lawyers from both sides at his bench.
Hinckley went to the cellblock behind the courtroom but returned about 10 minutes later, appearing composed for a few minutes until his face began to redden again. Parker called the jury back shortly before 5 p.m. and advised its members that he was adjourning the session because of the late hour, noting that both Fuller and Adelman had additional arguments to complete.
During six weeks of testimony, the jury heard extensive evidence from both prosecution and defense experts about Hinckley's state of mind on March 30, 1981, when he shot Reagan, White House press secretary James Brady, now-retired D.C. police officer Thomas K. Delahanty and U.S. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy.
The question the jury must now decide is whether Hinckley was in control of his behavior or whether, as a result of mental illness, he could not abide by the law and could not appreciate that his acts were wrong.
Prosecutor Adelman told the jury that testimony they heard from people who saw Hinckley before and after the crime contradicts the defense claim that Hinckley was severed from reality, consumed by frenzy and driven by the compulsions of his inner world.
At one point, Adelman showed the jury a photograph that showed Hinckley standing in a crowd of spectators, reporters and cameramen outside the VIP exit of the hotel just before Reagan arrived.
"See how driven he is here? See the inner world? It's not there," Adelman told the jurors.
Adelman reminded them that Hinckley took no action as he watched Reagan enter the hotel.
"If he was so driven, if he was so compelled . . . why didn't he shoot him then? You know the answer. He wasn't," Adelman told the jurors.
Instead, Adelman said, Hinckley waited outside the hotel assessing the situation, thinking to himself, again in his own words to a psychiatrist, " 'Should I? Should I?' " That waiting and those statements, Adelman told the jury, prove that Hinckley had turned over the idea in his mind and knew the wrongfulness of what he thought of doing.
Adelman recalled other testimony that Hinckley had said after the shooting, " 'I just wasn't that desperate about it. I just wasn't that desperate to act that afternoon.'
"Is that a driven man? By his own admission he's not," Adelman told the jurors. "I submit to you that's the end of it. And that's from Mr. Hinckley."
During his closing argument, Adelman focused his ridicule on defense psychiatrist Dr. David Michael Bear of Harvard University.
"You know they don't give any degrees up at Harvard in common sense and I think Dr. Bear demonstrated that," Adelman said. He reminded the jury that Bear had testified that it was not "logical" for Hinckley to wait outside the hotel for Reagan to appear when he had no assurance the president would come out the same door he had entered.
"For goodness sake, what kind of an explanation is that?" Adelman asked.
Fame was on Hinckley's mind when he fired on the president, Adelman said, not delusions. "This is John Hinckley going down in a blaze of glory, a blaze of history."
When defense lawyer Fuller began to address the jurors, he reminded them that Hinckley had admitted long ago he fired the shots outside the Hilton. Fuller urged the jury to "put aside emotional reactions" to the tragic event, and said the only issue is whether the prosecution had met its obligation to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinckley was sane when he fired on Reagan.
Fuller said the prosecution had trivialized Hinckley's frenetic behavior in the months before the shooting. He said the "absolutely absurd travel pattern followed by this man . . . on its face is irrational, purposeless, aimless." Fuller said the government, focusing on the events on the day of the shooting, had deliberately "played down" Hinckley's long deterioration into mental illness.
"There is no way in this world that Mr. Hinckley or anyone else would become instantly insane on March 30, 1981. It took years and years of growth of mental illness to lead to the state he was in" that day, Fuller said.
Fuller said Hinckley's voluminous poetry, which a government expert dismissed as fiction, showed "some of the most confused inner thinkings one can imagine, from idolizing Jodie Foster as some kind of a God-like figure to maggots crawling in his brain."
The letter that Hinckley left behind in his hotel room "is the best evidence of what was on Mr. Hinckley's mind" when he set out for the Washington Hilton. In the letter, addressed to Foster, Hinckley said he hoped to win her respect and love through this "historical deed."
"It is a delusion," Fuller told the jury, "to think you can assassinate or attempt to assassinate the president of the United States and gain the love and respect of a woman--or anyone."