HEARINGS POINT TO RELEASE OF HINCKLEY

–Headline, Washington Post / May 1, 2015

The medical official charged with custody of John Hinckley, arguing that he be released from a psychiatric hospital, says that requiring Hinckley to wear an ankle monitor if set free would be “stigmatizing” the would-be presidential assassin “for no good reason.”

Question re political correctness: On reading that quote in the Post, was it appropriate to (1) laugh, (2) cry, or (3) simply wince?

At the same hearing Hinckley’s lawyer, while admitting that his client has a “highly attenuated narcissistic personality disorder,” argued that Hinckley ‘has a right grounded in the Constitution to the least-restrictive environment consistent with public safety.”

Question for legal scholars: Conceding that the Constitution is a pliable document, under what attenuated clause is a right grounded regarding an “environment” suitable for someone with a “narcissistic personality disorder”?

As far back as my first year in law school – in the prehistoric days when lawyers weren’t allowed to advertise and Supreme Court justices didn’t hawk their books on TV shows – I’ve wondered about a criminal justice system rooted in ecclesiastical law.

Under this system, a societal hangover from the Dark Age, if a crime is committed the first question before the judge and jury is whether the accused was possessed by the Lord or the Devil. Did he know the difference between right and wrong? Or, in its modern psychiatric form, was he mentally aware of what he was doing?

Was John Hinckley in his right mind when he wounded President Reagan and a Secret Service agent and forever crippled the life of press secretary Jim Brady? Of course not, say his legal and medical retainers: He wasn’t responsible for his actions because, at the time, he had no “right mind.”

But that being the case, how do we differentiate between a deranged Hinckley, who is sent to a caring government clinic, and a deranged Charles Manson, sent to prison for life and “stigmatized” as an unredeemable instrument of the Devil?

According to the Post, D.C. Circuit Judge Paul L. Friedman seems inclined to release Hinckley, though his final release may take months; hopefully, as far as Hinkley’s retainers are concerned, before the next White House Correspondents dinner, at which time the only question to be answered is whether their narcissistic celebrity client will be seated in the least-restrictive environment of the CNN or the Fox table.

Sound bite to remember

Wealth is one idol of the day, and notoriety is a second. Never could notoriety exist as it does now that the news of the hour from all parts of the world is brought day to day to every individual by processes so uniform, so unvarying, so spontaneous that they almost bear the semblance of natural law. And hence notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world, has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground for veneration.”

–John Cardinal Newman (1849)