St. Elizabeths Mental hospital submitted a proposal for the limited conditional release of patient John Hinckley, who

Question:

St. Elizabeth’s Mental hospital submitted a proposal for the limited conditional release of patient John Hinckley, who was committed to the hospital upon a jury finding of not guilty, by reason of insanity, for the attempted assassination of the president of the United States. The Court granted the request but modified its terms.

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, DJ. This matter is before the Court on the proposal of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the conditional release of John Hinckley. This is the third such proposal that the Hospital has submitted in the last four years. On each occasion, after considering the Hospital’s proposal, Mr. Hinckley’s views on the Hospital’s proposal, sometimes Mr. Hinckley’s own petition, and the government’s opposition, and after an evidentiary hearing, the Court has granted the Hospital’s request—never precisely under the terms and conditions proposed by either the Hospital or Mr. Hinckley, and usually with additional conditions crafted by the Court. 

At first, the Court allowed local day visits by Mr. Hinckley with his parents outside of the confines of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital without the supervision of Hospital personnel within a 50-mile radius of Washington, D.C.—so called Phase I visits. It then permitted local overnight visits by Mr. Hinckley with his parents within a 50-mile radius of Washington, D.C. (Phase II). Each visit was thoroughly assessed by the Hospital before a subsequent visit took place. There were a total of six Phase I visits and eight Phase II visits. 

By order of December 30, 2005, the Court permitted so-called Phase III visits to begin in January 2006; these were visits outside of the Washington metropolitan area to Mr. Hinckley’s parents’ community. The Court permitted three initial visits by Mr. Hinckley to his parents’ home, each visit to last three nights or 76 hours. Thereafter, the Court permitted visits of four nights, or 100 hours in duration. These periodic visits have continued to this day and each, according to the Hospital’s reports to the Court, has been therapeutic, without incident and, by all measures, successful. 

On August 18, 2006, the Court issued an order granting Mr. Hinckley’s request to permit additional four-night Phase III visits of no specific number in the same form and under the same conditions. On November 21, 2006, the Court issued a further opinion and order permitting an indefinite number of additional four-night Phase III visits to Mr. Hinckley’s parents’ home outside the Washington, D.C. area, with slightly modified conditions. To date there have been a total of 13 visits by Mr. Hinckley to his parents’ home. 


QUESTIONS 

1. Summarize the arguments for and against St. Elizabeth’s proposal for John Hinckley’s furloughs. 

2. Summarize Judge Friedman’s reasons for attaching additional conditions to Hinckley’s furloughs. 

3. In your opinion, were the conditions Judge Friedman attached to the furlough “fair”? Back up your answer with details from the case. 

4. Has your opinion of the insanity defense changed after reading the excerpt? Explain your answer.

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Criminal Law

ISBN: 9780495807490

10th Edition

Authors: Joel Samaha

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