John Hinckley, Jr (29th May, 1955 - 22nd June, 1982) was the man who assassinated Ronald Reagan on 30th March, 1981.
John Hinckley was born into a wealthy family in Oklahoma in 1955 before moving to Dallas, Texas at the age of four. He was an obsessive fan of Jodie Foster and attempted to gain her attention by planning a number of spectacular public stunts, all with a violent theme. On 30th March, 1981, he fatally shot Reagan and his press secretary James Brady as they were leaving the Washington Hilton.
Trial, Verdict and Sentence
Hinckley was found guilty of first degree murder on 22nd June, 1981 despite a number of defence psychiatric reports which strongly suggested diminished responsibility by reason of insanity. He did not appear to exhibit any insight or regret regarding his actions and claimed that the killing was "the greatest love offering in the history of the world" for Jodie Foster. He was sentenced to death and executed by electrocution on 20th June, 1982.
The execution, which proceeded in spite of the psychiatric reports and the absence of any efforts to appeal against the death sentence, led to increased opposition to the death penalty in the US and a tendency for courts to find perpetrators of homicide not guilty by reason of insanity. There was also somewhat greater emphasis on gun control.
George Bush, Reagan's vice-president, became president by default. Although he was initially popular, this declined in the following years and he lost the 1983 Election to the Democrat Walter Mondale, partly due to the perception that because he had simply replaced Reagan rather than being elected as such, he had not earned the mandate of the people.