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Doctors recommend Hinckley be given unsupervised trips off hospital grounds
In their report, officials at St. Elizabeths Hospital say Hinckley "exhibits no evidence of psychiatric decompensation" and has "sufficiently recovered" from his mental illness."
Doctors at St. Elizabeths sent a letter on March 31 to a federal judge overseeing appeals from Hinckley. The doctors asked that Hinckley be granted a "conditional release" from the facility without hospital staff supervision.
Hinckley has been confined to St. Elizabeths since 1982.
The request for unsupervised trips is the second step in a three-step process that ultimately seeks the court's permission for an "unconditional" or permanent release from the hospital, according to sources close to the case.
Hinckley, 44, is currently allowed supervised visits away from the hospital. He earned that first step last year after a protracted court battle with the government which considered Hinckley a threat to society despite promises from doctors that his mental health had improved.
He has since taken several visits to Washington-area "shopping malls, local eateries and bookstores without incident," according to the letter.
But U.S. attorneys oppose such proposals.
The government's motion to Senior U.S. District Court Judge June L. Green notes: "Mr. Hinckley would not be accompanied or supervised by hospital staff ... one weekend day per week, or up to 52 times a year."
"The psychiatrists may think that Mr. Hinckley is cured, but the truth is that Mr. Hinckley has demonstrated deception in the past," said Joe DiGenova, former deputy chief U.S. attorney. "He's very, very bright. He's good at making people believe things about him that aren't true."
Hinckley's doctors now want him to have more freedom of movement. Their recommendation is for Hinckley to be allowed day trips while in the custody of his parents, within 50 miles of the hospital, one weekend day a week.
The "interested authorities" would include the Secret Service, law enforcement sources told CNN. The Secret Service has closely monitored Hinckley's supervised trips during the past year.
Hinckley's day trips will "'bolster his support system' and otherwise contribute to his treatment," according to the letter sent to Green.
Green turned down a 1997 request by Hinckley for day trips, but her decision was overruled on appeal.
Hinckley is currently allowed to walk unescorted on the hospital grounds. He holds a job at the hospital and was recently engaged.
In the current issue of Time magazine, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis writes of her fears that Hinckley may still be dangerous.
"I believe that Hinckley knew full well what evil is: I believe he was drawn to it, excited by it and I believe that he may still be," she wrote.
Producer Ted Barrett and Reuters contributed to this report.
TIME: Don't let Hinckley roam free
April 10, 2000
Would-be Reagan assassin cleared for daytrips
July 26, 1999
Man who shot Reagan wins mental hospital release
January 15, 1999
Capitol shooting renews debate on mandated psychiatric care
July 30, 1998
For Secret Service, Proximity Is The Issue
July 16, 1998
Bell & Howell Information and Learning: Great Events Study Guides
Reagan Assassination Attempt 1981
Georgetown University: Federal Court Opinions
USA v. Hinckley Jr. John W
John F. Hinckley, Jr. Biography
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