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Ron Jackson: Why John Hinckley shouldn’t be released

July 30, 2016 GMT

Besides being warned to always wear clean underwear, “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” is possibly the second most important piece of advice I have received. Just in case I got into an accident, I should always leave the house wearing clean underwear. For sure, it would embarrass the family should I end up in the hospital emergency room and expose my uncleanliness. I’ve been lucky so far.

But, the leopard proverb has been a good guide to observe character, especially the bad parts that don’t typically change throughout time. Yes, there always are exceptions. Some grade school bullies turn out to be nice people. Some work ethic challenged individuals can grow up to be industrious contributors. Some drug dealers can turn into law-abiding entrepreneurs. And some politicians can become real public servants.

I would never have guessed it, but we now can add insanity to the list of leopard spots that can be changed by either medication or time. No later than Aug. 5, a formally insane convicted felon must be set free to live as if he is as normal as the rest of us.

John H. Hinckley Jr. was once so insanely infatuated with an actress, he tried to impress her by trying to kill a president. In 1981, he shot six times at President Ronald Reagan wounding him and his press secretary, James Brady, a police officer and a Secret Service agent. Brady was left paralyzed for 28 years before he died. In 1984, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sentenced to a mental institution, where he has resided since. Now, after 31 years, a federal judge has declared Hinckley is no longer a threat to himself or others. Yep, he is no longer insane. (It should be noted here that Hinckley already has been allowed to leave the institution for long stretches of time to stay with his elderly mother).

Upon the recommendations of the mental hospital that has been his home for decades, and doctors who “report his depression and psychosis are in full remission,” and his lawyer who testified that he now “plays guitar, goes to movies and browses bookstores,” Hinckley will be released to the custody of his 90-year-old mother. Now 61 years old, as part of his release, he won’t be allowed to drink, do drugs or own a gun.

Additionally, he cannot “knowingly travel” to areas where the current president or members of Congress are present. However, he can feel free to roam about wherever common citizens might be. And one year after his release, he can live on his own or in a group home.

It is most difficult to understand this decision. Trying to kill or killing the president, police or children should carry certain special circumstances that don’t allow freedom, ever. Especially, when we have thousands of citizens serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes.

Something as simple as selling a small quantity of marijuana has resulted in a life sentence without parole for hundreds of sane Americans. Thousands of others are serving the same sentence for committing petty crimes such as shoplifting. Why didn’t they just claim they were insane?

Hinckley will soon joins the ranks of a couple of other Americans who were ultimately set free after serving a life sentence for attempting to assassinate a president. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, both attempted to assassinate the same president in 1975. In a period of less than three weeks, the women attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford. Both were sentenced to life in prison. They were paroled after serving 34 and 32 years respectively.

Trying to understand Hinckley’s release is driving me insane. But, not insane enough to commit a crime such as selling pot.