- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reports from St. Elizabeths Hospital are raising questions about whether the parents of would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. can continue to supervise him on overnight trips, according to the Justice Department.

“It is now clear that the physical condition of Mr. Hinckley’s parents has deteriorated considerably,” prosecutors wrote in a memo filed Monday in federal court in the District.

Hinckley, 51, who shot President Reagan in 1981 and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982, last year won the right to leave St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast for seven overnight visits with his parents in Williamsburg. A judge extended the order last month pending a hearing in November.

Hinckley’s attorneys last week sought to postpone the Nov. 6 hearing. They said officials need more time to gather information.

The Justice Department on Monday objected to a delay.

In the memo, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Zeno and Sarah Chasson said Hinckley’s trips were conditioned on supervision by his parents. However, the parents’ “physical ability to supervise Mr. Hinckley is questionable,” the memo states.

“The reports also reveal persistent tension within the Hinckley family stemming from this deterioration,” the memo states.

Hinckley attorney Barry Levine did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

In a filing last week, Mr. Levine noted that officials at St. Elizabeths are preparing a proposal for a “significant expansion” of Hinckley’s conditions of release.

The Justice Department objected to Hinckley’s request to postpone the upcoming hearing, citing recent reports from St. Elizabeths and concerns about the ability of Mr. Hinckley’s parents to supervise him.

The reports are not public record.

The dispute is the latest disagreement between the Justice Department and Hinckley’s attorneys over increasing freedoms that Hinckley has won in recent years.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman wrote that Hinckley “does not present a danger to himself or others if permitted to make visits to his parents’ home.”

He allowed Hinckley visits as many as four nights at a time pending the scheduled hearing.

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