Guest Author - Carol Taller
On June 20, 1982 John Hinckley Jr. was declared not guilty of the attempted assassination of President Reagan by reason of insanity. This decision outraged much of the country that believed that justice was not served. The verdict caused many states and Congress to change insanity defense laws.
John Hinckley was the youngest of three children. His father was a workaholic and his mother was a stay at home mom that John was very dependent on. He attended Texas Tech for two years before dropping out and moving to Hollywood in hopes of a career in music. While in Hollywood he became infatuated with the movie “Taxi Driver” and falling in love with actress Jodie Foster.
Within a year he returned back defeated to Texas Tech. He was a loner without a purpose in life and rarely attended classes. His parents were concerned about his lack of direction.
In 1979 he bought his first gun and took photos holding a gun to his head. His depression grew deeper and he started avoiding his parents. In 1980 he told his parents he wanted take a writing class at Yale and become a writer. His parents gave him money for the class and he took off for Connecticut. In reality, he was following his obsession for Jodie Foster all the way to Yale. Hinckley claimed to have made several contacts with her but Foster denied knowing him. Hinckley left Yale, defeated again.
He began following President Carter’s presidential campaign. He had plans to assassinate the President but he claims he could not “get in the proper frame of mind to carry it out.”
Hinckley ran out of money by the end of the year and returned to his parents defeated again. He overdosed on antidepressants and his parents arranged for him to see a psychiatrist. The doctor suggested his parents work aggressively to assist Hinckley become financially and emotional independent. It didn’t work and his depression and delusions grew.
On March 7, 1981 Hinckley’s father gave his son $200 and told him not to come home without a job. Hinckley secretly visited his mother several times, and on March 25 she drove him to the airport. Upon leaving he thanked her for all that she had done for him over the years. She claims that his words left her fearful for his future.
He travelled across the country and stayed overnight in a Washington, DC hotel. After noticing President Reagan’s schedule Hinckley wrote another letter to Jodie Foster. The letter outlined his plan to assassinate President Reagan. His letter claimed that he was doing this for her and would change his plans if she would change her mind about him.
Hinckley took a cab to the Hilton. When President Reagan exited the hotel Hinckley called to him and then shot six rapid fire bullets. One of the bullets hit him and nearly cost him his life, while the secret service agents arrested Hinckley. There was an abundance of witnesses and videos to corroborate the events.
Everyone knew the only defense that could possibly save Hinckley was reason of insanity. While it was clear that Hinckley suffered from mental illness, it was not clear if he was legally insane. The burden of proof was to prove that he was sane and that couldn’t be done.
Hinckley was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington. He is entitled to freedom once he was not a threat to himself or others, and has been granted visitation rights to his mother for longer and longer visits.