John Hinckley allowed to display artwork

John Hinckley paints and plays guitar as part of his therapy.
John Hinckley paints and plays guitar as part of his therapy.

The man who tried to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan can now publicly display his writings, artwork and music, a court has ruled.

John Hinckley has long considered himself a musician and artist. He paints and plays guitar and has been involved in both pursuits as part of his therapy.

Hinckley has anonymously displayed his art but can now do so under his own name, according to an order from District Judge Paul L. Friedman.

Hinckley, who shot and wounded Reagan in 1981, must inform his treatment team of his plans to display his works. And his doctors will help him process any feedback he receives while documenting those discussions.

"If clinically indicated, they may terminate Mr Hinckley's ability to publicly display his creative works," Friedman wrote.

Hinckley was 25 when he shot Reagan in March 1981.

The shooting also paralysed press secretary James Brady and injured two others. Hinckley was suffering from acute psychosis and obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster.

When jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity, they said he needed treatment, not a lifetime in confinement.

He spent decades living at a psychiatric hospital before gradually spending more and more time with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. He moved in with her permanently in 2016.

Wednesday's order was agreed upon by Hinckley's lawyer and federal prosecutors after a new risk assessment of Hinckley's mental health was recently completed.

Barry Levine, who represents Hinckley, said at a September court hearing Hinckley should eventually be granted unconditional release.

Levine said doctors had found Hinckley had "sufficiently recovered his sanity and will not, in the reasonable future, be a danger to himself or others".

But Wednesday's order left many restrictions in place.

Hinckley is still barred from owning a gun and he's not allowed to contact Foster or members of the Reagan and Brady families.

There was also a question at last month's court hearing about whether he can make money from his art.

Prosecutors had cited a 1995 civil settlement that involved Hinckley and any financial benefits from his name or story but details of the settlement were not disclosed.

Hinckley has told doctors over the years he regrets not being able to show or sell his paintings, most of which are landscapes, according to previously filed court documents.

Around the time that then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, Hinckley told one of his doctors: "Wow. Is that how people see me?"

Then he vented frustration about being unable to change the public's perception.

"I don't have a microphone in my hand. I don't have the video camera. So no one can hear my music. No one can see my art. I have these other aspects of my life that no one knows about. I'm an artist. I'm a musician. Nobody knows that. They just see me as the guy who tried to kill Reagan," he said.

Australian Associated Press