John W. Hinckley Jr. is not obsessed with his former girlfriend and will not pose a danger if he is allowed on extended, unsupervised visits with his parents in Williamsburg, a therapist testified in federal court yesterday.
Hinckley has accepted the breakup with Leslie deVeau and respects her wishes to remain friends, according to Sidney Binks, who interviewed the former girlfriend this week.
Binks said deVeau, 61, told him that she and Hinckley want to be close, supportive friends. The psychotherapist said deVeau told him she broke off the relationship because she could not tolerate the scrutiny of being his girlfriend.
Attorneys for Hinckley, 49, have argued that four-day visits every two weeks are part of a natural progression that should lead to his freedom. But the government, which has opposed all attempts to allow Hinckley to leave St. Elizabeths Hospital, said the relationship with deVeau has not been carefully examined and could make him dangerous.
Binks said St. Elizabeths officials hastily arranged the interview with deVeau on Wednesday to counter the government's argument that the nature of Hinckley's relationship with her was "disturbingly unclear."
The relationship has emerged as a central issue in the hearing before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman. Hinckley has been confined since 1982, when a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Hinckley and deVeau met at St. Elizabeths, where she was confined after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting death of her 10-year-old daughter. She was released in 1990 but spoke with Hinckley daily by phone and visited him weekly at the hospital.
The hearing was extended to a fourth day as the relationship continued to be the focus of scrutiny. The government has argued that the staff at St. Elizabeths should have investigated Hinckley's feelings for deVeau, noting that it was his obsession with actress Jodie Foster that led to the assassination attempt.
Attorneys for Hinckley argued that the government is grasping for any argument to block Hinckley from getting more liberty and to delay his eventual release. They noted, as did St. Elizabeths officials, that Hinckley's mental illness has been in remission for more than a decade and that he has been a model patient in eight shorter unsupervised outings with his parents this year.
"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and I see absolutely no evidence of dangerousness," said Paul Montalbano, a hospital psychologist who has assessed Hinckley's risk level.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Zeno said doctors this summer did not notice that deVeau brought Hinckley a commemorative edition of The Washington Post's coverage of Reagan's life and funeral. Montalbano said he considered it more important that Hinckley told him that he had been very saddened by Reagan's death. He said Hinckley also called Reagan a great man for trying to arrange to meet him in the mid-1980s, a visit that never took place.
Hinckley's attorneys are seeking to have his outings approved for Thanksgiving. The hearing will resume Monday.