John Hinckley Jr. changed the world in many ways, in March, 1981, when he shot President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley delivered a nearly fatal injury to Press Secretary James Brady and shot two secret service agents, as well. His crimes also included stalking the then 19-year-old actress Jodie Foster.
Ronald Reagan was injured, but recovered well. Press secretary James Brady was shot in the head, suffering extensive brain damage after a nearly fatal injury. Hinkley’s actions resulted in changes to the law that still impact society today. Hinckley’s crime increased gun control laws, inspired the creation of stalking laws, and changed laws governing the insanity plea.
Jodie Foster was horrified when she heard about the attempted assassination of United States President Ronald Reagan by a fan who wrote disturbing love letters according to Hollywood Reporter. John Hinckley Jr. was clear in his letter to Foster: he did it all for her. Hinckley shot Reagan to win Jodie’s love. The legal school at the University of Kentucky — Kansas City has the letter in its entirety as part of an extensive study and report on the case.
“I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you. I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I’m doing all of this for your sake!… I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your love and respect.”
John Hinckley Jr. changed the public view of stalking, with his actions toward Jodie Foster. This was the first time stalking had gained public attention. Today stalking laws are part of our body of law, but until Foster’s stalker turned into an assassin, stalking was never considered illegal, or even a serious problem.
The Brady Bill, named after James Brady, is among the toughest gun control laws ever written. The gun law was, at the time, unprecedented and strongly opposed. The decision was a difficult one for lawmakers. On one side was horrifically injured James Brady, still in a wheelchair and still obviously disabled in so many ways, and on the other side was the second amendment.
John Hinckley Jr.’s crime against Ronald Reagan impacted the world again a dozen years later when the Brady Bill became law. After many years of debate, the controversial gun control law was finally passed in 1993, forcing that 5 day waiting period to purchase a handgun, according to the ATF.
Stalking laws and the Brady Bill involving gun control were not enacted until the 1990s. However, the Hinckley case was part of both discussions. Foster’s name was irrevocably tied to stalking.
While Jodie Foster never wanted to be the poster child for stalking and was obviously brave but embarrassed about the whole situation, she none the less became the very symbol of stalking for decades. Hinckley’s last letter to her describes the very definition of stalking. Jodie is still often mentioned in legal conversations about stalking.
“Over the past seven months, I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself”
John Hinckley Jr. admits in this letter that he left messages at Jodie Foster’s door and in her mailbox. He called her on the phone. The man who shot Ronald Reagan, and nearly killed John Brady, was so infatuated with Foster he hid outside her college dorm and listened to her conversations. The infamous Reagan would-be assassin admitted to eavesdropping outside Jodie’s dormitory on a regular basis. The stalker was listening to her express fears about him to her friends.
“I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance… I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I’ve come to realize that I’m the topic of more than a little conversation.”
John Hinckley Jr. also impacted laws concerning mental health as it relates to culpability in a crime. According to the Los Angeles Times, there was such an uproar about his acquittal, on grounds of insanity, that Jurors were interrogated by the Senate subcommittee. Congress then passed laws narrowing the definition of insanity. Today it is much more difficult to get off with an insanity plea.
John Hinckley Jr. impacted three different bodies of law when he attempted to take the life of Ronald Reagan, stalked Jodie Foster. and got off with an insanity plea. Hinkley’s actions resulted in tougher gun control, helped create stalking laws and weakened the insanity plea as a defence in a criminal case.
John Hinckley Jr. changed stalking and gun laws when he shot Ronald Reagan and James Brady, trying to impress Jodie Foster.
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