Would-be Assassin Fully Free

Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989
Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989 (source)

John Hinckley, who attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan in 1981, has been granted full freedom. Since his release from a psychiatric hospital in 2016, Hinckley had been living with his mother under some restrictions. In that time, he showed no behavior that was harmful to himself or others, so the government supported his full release.

In the late 1970s, Hinckley became obsessed with actress Jodie Foster after seeing her in the film Taxi Driver. When she entered Yale University, he moved nearby to stalk her. He sent love letters and called her many times. Eventually, he decided to assassinate a president to become an important person in history, so that Jodie Foster might see him as an equal.

Hinckley injured several people in his failed assassination attempt, including the President, who was hit by a bullet that ricocheted off his car. Reagan was hit in the chest and almost died. Later, in a trial, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict disappointed many people who wanted Hinckley to be punished strongly.

Hinckley, who plays guitar and sings, has a YouTube channel, and is interested in a career in music.

Sources: reuters.com, wikipedia.org, politico.com

For source links, see the article on ESLNewsStories.com

Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Would-be (adj) - hoping to be
  • Assassin (n) - someone who kills a famous or important person
  • Grant (v) - to give something in an official way, especially permission to do something
  • Psychiatric (adj) - relating to mental illness
  • Obsessed (adj) - unable to stop thinking about someone or something
  • Stalk (v) - to follow or watch somebody in a way that is annoying, frightening, and sometimes illegal
  • Ricochet (v) - to hit and bounce off a surface
  • Trial (n) - an event to decide if a person is guilty or innocent of a crime
  • Insanity (n) - serious mental illness
  • Verdict (n) - an official judgment, the result of a trial


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What do you know about Jodie Foster? Have you seen any of her movies? Talk about one that you remember.
  2. What do stalkers do? Why do some people become stalkers?
  3. What should a person do if they are being stalked? How can they feel safe?
  4. Have any famous people been attacked or assassinated in your country? Talk about an example if you can.
  5. What do you think about ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’? Is it a way of avoiding punishment?
  6. Can you understand why people were disappointed by the result of the trial?
  7. How important is mental health? How can we look after our own mental health and the mental health of others?
  8. In your country, what happens to people with serious psychiatric problems?
  9. Do you think John Hinckley is still dangerous?
  10. Would you like to hear Hinckley’s music? Do you think a person with a past like his can succeed in the music industry?