Judge considering whether to let John Hinckley Jr. live full time outside mental hospital

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Barry Levin, attorney for John Hinckley arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. A judge who will decide whether to let the would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan live full time outside a mental hospital will hear closing arguments in the case. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)


WASHINGTON — A judge is considering whether to allow President Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin to live full time outside a mental hospital.

Lawyers for the government and John Hinckley Jr. on Tuesday concluded seven days of hearings that were meant to help Judge Paul L. Friedman decide whether Hinckley should be allowed to live permanently outside the hospital and, if so, under what conditions.

Friedman has incrementally expanded Hinckley's freedom since ruling in 2003 that he could leave St. Elizabeth's hospital for daylong visits with his family. Hinckley now spends 17 days a month at his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the hospital and his lawyers say he's ready to live there full time. The government wants more restrictions, to ensure Hinckley won't be a danger.

The judge gave no indication about when he would rule and said his decision was a "very hard" one. Still, the judge seems to be preparing to allow Hinckley to live full time with his 89-year-old mother, as long as he abides by certain restrictions. The judge asked both sides to draft a roadmap for what that might look like, working together on a document that lays out the restrictions they can agree on as well as where they disagree.

There are many points of agreement, the judge noted. Both sides agree Hinckley, who turns 60 this month, must continue to see a psychiatrist and therapist. They also agree he should make at least monthly visits to St. Elizabeth's, where he has lived since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting that wounded Reagan and three others. They agree there should be certain restrictions on his travel.

But prosecutors also want more stringent conditions, including requiring Hinckley to create a weekly itinerary saying where he will go and putting a GPS tracking device on the car he uses. They also want Hinckley to start wearing a monitoring bracelet on his ankle, a condition the judge suggested he would not agree to.

Prosecutor Colleen Kennedy said the proposal made by St. Elizabeth's and Hinckley's lawyers is "not a safe plan."

Barry Levine, Hinckley's long-time attorney, called the government's proposal "punitive," and told the judge the law requires that Hinckley be allowed to live under conditions that are the least restrictive while still ensuring the public's safety.

The mental illness that drove Hinckley to shoot Reagan in a delusional effort to impress actress Jodie Foster has been in full and sustained remission for years, Levine has said. He said Hinckley has shown he is a "law-abiding citizen" and not dangerous, and he accused the government of "fear-mongering."


Follow Jessica Gresko at https://twitter.com/jessicagresko .

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