Man who shot Reagan 'ready' for life outside hospital: psychiatrist

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Becca Milfeld
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Washington (AFP) - Staff treating the man who shot US president Ronald Reagan testified Friday that he was "ready" for life outside the mental hospital and is so extensively trailed by the Secret Service that the government can know where he is anytime.

John Hinckley, 59, who attempted to kill Reagan in 1981, was committed to St Elizabeth's mental hospital in the US capital but already spends around half the month at his mother's house in southeast Virginia.

On March 30, 1981, Hinckley shot Reagan, his press aide Jim Brady and two others outside a Washington hotel in an effort to impress Hollywood actress Jodie Foster with whom he said he was obsessed.

St Elizabeth's, which says Hinckley is ready to leave the facility, is embroiled in a debate with the government about what that release would look like. Staff testified at a federal hearing Friday in Washington.

"This is not a hearing for him to be out without conditions," Hinckley's lawyer Michelle Tupper Butler told AFP.

In opening remarks Wednesday the US government insisted that Hinckley's behavior -- including "stalking," writing letters to serial killers and "violations of his itinerary" -- continued to raise red flags that should dissuade federal judge Paul Friedman from relaxing restrictions on his movements.

Hinckley was the subject of Secret Service surveillance some 120 times in 2013 -- nearly every day he was out on release -- and around 90 times in 2014, his lawyers said.

"I think the government can know where Mr Hinckley is anytime they want, yes," psychiatrist Deborah Giorgi-Guarnieri said.

Lawyers prodded those testifying Friday about the effectiveness of ankle bracelets, GPS phones and whether the Hinckley family finances were sufficient to care for him.

Hinckley, who kept his eyes lowered and on the video screen at his table for most of the day's hearing, wore black slacks, a gray jacket and a white button-down shirt.

"It was my opinion he was ready for convalescent leave and would not present a danger," Giorgi-Guarnieri said.

The category of leave is intended as a transition period during which conditions are still imposed on a patient.

- No band for Hinckley -

Giorgi-Guarnieri and Hinckley's social worker testified that he showed no evidence of depression, isolation or psychosis and had curbed what has been diagnosed as a narcissistic personality disorder.

"I think John works all the time to keep his narcissistic traits in his mind and under control," Giorgi-Guarnieri said.

She said she had to tell Hinckley, who has expressed interest in being in a band, that she didn't think he "should be able to perform publicly, but I did say I thought it was okay to publish music anonymously."

The 1981 shooting left press aide Brady wheelchair-bound and with brain damage. When he died in August last year at the age of 73, his death was ruled a homicide, due to "a gunshot wound and consequences thereof."

"John (Hinckley) spoke about how Mr Brady's death -- how he wished he could have taken all that back," said Jonathan Weiss, a case manager.