Saturday, June 7, 2008

When Will They Leave John Hinckley Alone?

President Reagan's would-be assassin, John Hinckley, is back in court asking a federal judge to give him more unsupervised free time when he visits his Mom in Virginia Beach. Hinckley wants to be able to perform volunteer work and to take driving lessons. Prosecutors say Hinckley does not deserve more free time because he continues to have "continued inappropriate and unrealistic relationships with several women as well as a reluctance to accept responsibility for his own behavior".

Look - John Hinckley is never going to have an appropriate or realistic relationship with a woman. How could he? He's spent virtually his entire adult life in a mental institution, and before that, he was nuts! But should the fact that Hinckley is not, by "normal" standards, "normal" himself, does that mean he should spend his life rotting away behind the walls of St. E's?

I may be in the minority here, but I've long felt that John Hinckley has been given the shaft by the U.S. Justice system. A jury operating under the laws of our nation found Hinckley NOT GUILTY by reason of insanity for his attempted assassination of President Reagan. The government was not satisfied with that verdict, and prosecutors have done everything they can for the past 25 years to make sure Hinckley never again enjoys freedom. A lot of people seemingly agree - that despite the verdict, Hinckley should not have the right to walk among us - even if his doctors feel he is not a threat to himself or to others.

Hinnkley's doctors have long argued for more freedom for Hinckley. They obviously feel he has sufficiently recovered over the past 27 years to be out in public, and in fact, Hinckley has enjoyed a limited amount of unsupervised free time in recent years.

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on television (or on radio, for that matter). I have no idea whether John Hinckley would be better off free in society or in a mental hospital. But I am far more willing to believe the medical advice of his doctors than I am of the federal prosecutors trying to keep him locked up.

I am a First Amendment and civil liberties hawk. Most Americans do not appreciate the rights they have because pragmatically their rights will never be tested in their lifetime. But people like John Hinckley - even partially broken, mentally-damaged John Hinckley - are living examples of WHY we must demand that individuals be allowed to enjoy their freedoms whenever possible. If Hinckley can be kept locked up, so could you or one of your loved ones in a similar situation. The government would like you to forget that, by the laws of our land, John Hinckley was found NOT GUILTY... NOT responsible for what he did. If he's not a threat (and his doctors clearly don't think he is), he should be free.

Otherwise, with the government running things, how free are the rest of us, really?

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