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Survivor of Reagan assassination attempt contemplates Hinckley release

The hearing on whether John Hinckley, Jr., the man who shot President Reagan, should have greater and more permanent freedom ends Tuesday. Within a few weeks, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman is expected to rule on the matter, and he has already indicated that if he does decide to grant Hinckley more freedom, Hinckley will not be required to wear an ankle bracelet monitor, as the defense has requested. Hinckley's defenders say he has been in remission for years and poses no danger to anyone.

One person who isn't eager to see Hinckley go free is Tim McCarthy, one of the remaning survivors of the assassination attempt. Video from the shooting shows McCarthy, the Secret Service agent standing by Reagan at the time, instinctively snapping into a defensive position in front of Reagan when the shots were fired. He is to this day the only agent in U.S. history who has ever taken a bullet for the president. (Washington Police Officer Thomas Delahanty was also shot by Hinckley)

It's now been over 30 years since McCarthy recovered from the wounds he sustained - a punctured lung and diaphragm. He told CBS News in a telephone interview that "other than the notoriety," he doesn't really feel that the shooting changed his life very much. "I recovered quickly and was able to continue my career," he said. McCarthy remained in the Secret Service until 1993, and he is currently the police chief for Orland Park, Illinois.

The other thing that hasn't changed is McCarthy's certainty that Hinckley should not go free, or even nearly free. "I don't think it's reasonable to give him the type of freedom he's asking for."

Hinckley at the time explained the shooting as an attempt to impress the actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to St. Elizabeths mental hospital, where he's remained since 1982.

The New York Times that same year published excerpts of Hinckley's psychiatric evaluation, which said he suffered from "a severe, chronic mental disorder," and offered a diagnosis of "Schizotypal Personality (principal diagnosis); Borderline Personality; Narcissistic Personality; Major Depression, recurrent, in partial remission; and Schizoid Personality (premorbid)." The evaluation went on to say, "Mr. Hinckley remains a danger to himself as well as a danger to others, particularly Ms. Foster."

Hinckley ended up claiming one life in the shooting - one of his bullets entered the brain of Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, leaving him partially paralyzed and chronically ill for the rest of his life. When Brady died in August, the coroner in January ruled his death a homicide, related to the gunshot wound thirty years earlier. But because Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the original trial, the government could not argue that he was sane when he shot Brady. The U.S. attorney was also hindered by the District of Columbia's year-and-a-day rule, which dictated that a homicide prosecution can only be brought if the victim dies within a year and a day of the original injury.

The possibility that a man who tried to kill the president of the United States - and who succeeded in killing one person in the attempt - could have any measure of freedom confounds McCarthy. "I think we minimize that when we consider that he or anyone should be released after doing that," he said.

Although McCarthy says he hasn't been following the recent developments in Hinckley's case, it's unlikely he'd be moved by St Elizabeths argument that Hinckley is safely in remission and won't hurt anyone else. He said twice during our interview, "There is no way to predict future behavior, but we know the past."