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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hickley Granted Day Visits With Parents

Aired December 17, 2003 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We have just learned that a judge has ruled on the bid by John Hinckley, the man who was convicted of trying to assassinate President Reagan, for whom you worked, and let's go right now quickly to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena for the latest -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, officials tell us that John Hinckley Jr. has been granted unsupervised visits. Now, the details of exactly what that means, we don't know at this point. We're waiting for more information to come in.

But John Hinckley Jr. had gone before the court and asked for unsupervised visits to visit his parents' home without hospital staff. He has been out before with hospital staff and other hospital residents. He's been ever since that shooting in St. Elizabeth's.

If you remember, he pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Which the jury went along with at the time. He's been at St. Elizabeth's undergoing rehabilitation since 1981. He has, like I said, been out publicly before. But he has been wanting to visit his parents on his own. A judge agreeing. We'll have more details the minute we get them, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Kelli Arena, thank you very much. Our justice correspondent. Now I also want to bring in our legal analyst. Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, I understand -- I have just been told that the judge has said these visits may be unsupervised but they are not overnight unsupervised visits. The significance of that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a limitation on the family's victory. But it is still a victory. This is basically what he wanted. And the pattern has been each time that Hinckley has gone to court, he has gotten somewhat more freedom. And Judge Friedman obviously believed the mental health professionals who were pretty much unanimous in saying that Hinckley was not a threat to anyone on the outside. So he basically gave Hinckley just about everything he wanted.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, are these visits truly unsupervised? I think it's hard for some of us to believe that the government wouldn't be watching this man very closely. Even though it's been over 20 years since he shot President Reagan.

TOOBIN: I think this will not be unsupervised in the sense of any other person walking down the street. At least, initially, to be sure. The police, the FBI, the Secret Service will be keeping tabs on him. But this has been a long time. This has been 22 years since the crime. Hinckley has been out and about quite a bit over the past few years. That was a critical issue in this trial.

This is not the first time Hinckley's going to be out on the streets of Washington. And so, yes, it is true there will be some supervision, I suppose, from a distance. But I imagine gradually that will wither away as well.

WOODRUFF: Literally? You mean that at some point before long John Hinckley could be walking the streets without anyone watching him?

TOOBIN: I think it is entirely possible. I think it is difficult, not impossible, but difficult to maintain surveillance on someone for whom you have no real reason to maintain surveillance. It's possible you can do it. But Hinckley has not shown himself to be a threat and in the absence of any evidence suggesting that he will be a threat, I think this supervision, this surveillance is likely to wither away.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst. Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent.

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