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Published December 01, 2011, 09:10 AM

John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan, seeks more time outside hospital

LOS ANGELES - A federal hearing began Wednesday morning on whether John Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will be allowed to spend more time outside the mental hospital where he is being held.

LOS ANGELES - A federal hearing began Wednesday morning on whether John Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will be allowed to spend more time outside the mental hospital where he is being held.

The hearing began promptly at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District Court for the District of Columbia, said a court spokeswoman in a telephone interview. The proceedings are expected to take days but will end no later than next Friday, she said.

A jury decided that Hinckley was insane when he shot Reagan outside a Washington hotel. Reagan recovered and served two full terms as president before he died in 2004.

Hinckley said he did the shooting to show his feelings for actress Jodie Foster.

Presidential press secretary James Brady was shot and permanently disabled in the shooting and went on to become one of the nation's leading voices against gun violence. A Secret Service agent and a police officer were also wounded.

Hinckley has been living in St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric facility operated by the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health. The current proceeding, at the request of the hospital, is to ask the judge to allow Hinckley to have extended visits outside the facility with the idea of eventually living near his 85-year-old mother in Williamsburg, Va.

Hinckley already has had several outside visits for as long as 10 days. Friedman, who has approved more visits for Hinckley in the past, is being asked to allow visits of 17 to 24 days.

"There is no evidence of him being dangerous, not a little bit, not marginal evidence," Hinckley's attorney Barry Levine said in October. He added government claims to the contrary are "shameful fear-mongering without any factual basis."

Government lawyers, however, oppose the extension, arguing there are questions about the potential danger from Hinckley.

"The proposal fails to adequately address the risks presented by Hinckley's clinical record, which reveals the persistence of several behaviors that universally have been recognized as risk factors for Hinckley's future violence," lawyers argued in their court papers. "The hospital's motion should be denied."

Among those expected to testify are Hinckley's relatives and doctors.

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