Video: Time to let Hinckley out of psychiatric custody?

Actually, John Hinckley lives mostly out of the mental hospital already, as NBC News informed viewers yesterday. He stays with his mother in a tony gated community in Williamsburg for 17 days every month, mostly unmonitored if occasionally surveilled by the Secret Service. Thirty-four years after nearly killing Ronald Reagan and James Brady, Hinckley’s attorneys want him released from custody, claiming the insanity that a jury found responsible for his actions in March 1981 no longer presents a danger to anyone else:

The would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan is “clinically ready” to live full time outside a mental hospital, his lawyer argued in federal court on Wednesday.

John Hinckley Jr. has been in “full and stable remission” for more than two decades, his lawyer Barry Levine argued. …

Now 60, he already spends more than half his time — 17 days a month — at the home of his 89-year-old mother in a gated community that surrounds a golf course in Williamsburg, Virginia. He goes to movies and the bookstore, shopping and eating out like anyone else, and mostly goes unnoticed, although the U.S. Secret Service keeps watch now and then.

Levine has argued that living fulltime with his elderly mother while she’s still alive will enable Hinckley to show the world he’s no longer a threat. Levine and hospital officials are asking that Hinckley be granted “convalescent leave,” living full time on the outside but still meeting regularly with a psychiatrist and therapists.

So … is it time to let Hinckley out? Hinckley has served much longer than some people have for actually killing someone. Some first-time killers get parole long before that kind of stretch, although that’s become less common over the last couple of decades.  Those cases didn’t involve extenuating circumstances like significant mental illness, either.

That doesn’t quite balance out the alternative views, though. Joseph DiGenova had a good look at Hinckley, and I’m more inclined to trust his point of view than that of Hinckley’s defense team. Plus, Hinckley didn’t attempt to commit just some murder; he attempted what amounts to a coup, an affront to the American political system, by murdering the man elected by the states as President. His mental illness was a side issue. Hinckley wanted to impress the object of his obsession, Jodie Foster, but he wanted to impress her by killing the President. He knew enough of what he was doing to be held responsible for it. Hinckley avoided doing hard time for it, and he should be left there — and his leaves to fancy gated communities should be cut off forthwith.

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