John Hinckley Jr. is on the verge of pulling off a feat no other American has: shooting a U.S. president and going home a free man, reports the Los Angeles Times. Hinckley, who tried to assassinate President Reagan in a bizarre attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster, is close to winning conditional release from a mental hospital. His successful insanity defense 34 years ago set the stage and prompted a nationwide movement to rein in the legal strategy. His road to freedom, something scarcely imaginable after the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt, was a bumpy one, beginning with erratic behavior at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. He penned letters to Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, and was caught keeping photos of a celebrity, a violation of hospital rules.
Over time, Hinckley’s behavior improved. For the last 15 years, he has been permitted increasingly longer furloughs from St. Elizabeths. Beginning in 2013, he has spent 17 days a month at the home of his 89-year-old mother in Williamsburg, Va. He has been allowed to drive to occasional jobs or visit with friends after filing strict itineraries. Secret Service agents often have followed him. In his spare time, he plays guitar, sings and hopes to start a band. St. Elizabeths and Hinckley’s family have asked a federal court to end his confinement, arguing that there is a no longer a legal justification or medical necessity to hold the 59-year-old Hinckley. Closing arguments are expected today before U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman, who has strongly hinted he will order Hinckley’s release.