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John Hinckley, Jr.

John Warnock Hinckley, Jr. (born May 29, 1955) attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.

He fired six times with a .22 caliber Rohm[?] revolver as the President left the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, after addressing an AFL-CIO conference, hitting the President in the chest and also wounding Press Secretary James Brady, police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Hinckley did not attempt to flee and was arrested at the scene. Reagan survived his wound after surgery at George Washington University Hospital.

At the trial in 1982, charged with thirteen offenses, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21, the defense psychiatric reports had found him to be insane while the prosecution reports declared him legally sane. He was inspired to make the assassination attempt by an erotomanic obsession with actress Jodie Foster, believing that a grand gesture was needed to impress her. Hinckley was confined at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington. He was allowed to leave the hospital for supervised visits to his parents in 1999 and longer unsupervised releases in 2000. These rights were revoked when he was found to have smuggled materials about Foster back into the hospital.

The not guilty verdict led to widespread dismay and as a result a number of states re-wrote the law regarding insanity defense and three states abolished the defense altogether. In the United States prior to Hinckley, the insanity defense was used in less than 2% of capital cases and was unsuccessful in almost 80% of the trials.

John Hinckley was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma and grew up in Texas and Colorado. He dropped out of Texas Tech and headed to Los Angeles in 1976, apparently with ambitions as a song-writer. He returned home in late 1977. A growing obsession with famous figures finally centered on Foster and in 1980 he moved to Connecticut to be close to her as she studied at Yale. Failing to develop any meaningful contact with Foster, in his mind, on her behalf he targeted Jimmy Carter. Trailing the President in Washington, Columbus, Ohio, and Dayton, Ohio, and then Nashville, Tennessee in October, he was arrested at Nashville airport for illegal possession of a firearm and fined. Penniless, he returned hope and despite a four month psychiatric stay, his mental health did not improve and he transferred his target to the newly elected President, Ronald Reagan.

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