On Being Mad or Merely Angry
John W. Hinckley, Jr., and Other Dangerous PeopleBook - 1990
In American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics (Princeton, 1981), James Clarke told the often bizarre stories of sixteen political murderers from the would-be assassin of Andrew Jackson in 1835 through the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, and Sirhan Sirhan. The book's popular appeal was created by a mixture of the fascinating stories behind the assassination plots, Clarke's discovery of the four character types represented by these assassins, and the book's horrifying relevance at the time of publication, when John W. Hinckley attempted to kill Ronald Reagan. Now James Clarke turns his attention to the Hinckley case. Who was this strange young man who sought fame and the love of a movie star by his attempt on the life of the president? How does his acquittal as innocent "by reason of insanity" affect the legal and psychological definitions of this plea? And, critically, can the people entrusted with guarding the president learn to identify "dangerous" people before attempted assassinations? In his usual lively and nontechnical style, Clarke tells the story of Hinckley's life from his privileged but overprotected childhood through his increasingly alienated young adulthood to the minute-by-minute events of the day of the assassination. He then reviews the trial and acquittal and describes the various surprising efforts to release Hinckley from the mental hospital where he now lives. Finally, Clarke examines Hinckley in light of the four assassin types established in American Assassins, and discusses several instances in which Hinckley might have been recognized by qualified professionals as the truly dangerous person he is. For readers of Clarke's earlier book, this new study is a valuable extension with far-reaching implications for law enforcement professionals, legal scholars, criminal psychologists, and general readers who wonder what kind of person would kill the president.