United Press International
By JUDI HASSON
March 18, 1983
White House press secretary James Brady and two law enforcement officers, shot by John W. Hinckley Jr. during an assassination attempt on President Reagan, are suing his psychiatrist for $14 million, charging that he misdiagnosed the gunman before the shooting.
The civil suit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Denver, also accused Dr. John J. Hopper Jr. of negligently prescribing Valium and biofeedback therapy for Hinckley in the months before he pushed through a knot of people and fired a pistol at Reagan and his entourage.
”Dr. Hopper knew or should have known that Hinckley posed a danger to himself and others and was capable of attempting a political assassination,” the suit said. ”Dr. Hopper negligently failed to warn law enforcement officials of such fact.”
The Evergreen, Colo., psychiatrist was not immediately available for comment.
The American Psychiatric Association, which represents 28,000 psychiatrists in the United States, declined to comment specifically on the suit against Hopper.
But in a statement, spokesman John Blamphin said the association has said repeatedly that psychiatrists have no special knowledge or ability to predict dangerous behavior.
”Studies show that even with patients in which there is a history of violent acts, predictions of future violence will be wrong for two out of every three patients,” Blamphin said.
Blamphin said the association is opposed to any law or suit that would hold psychiatrists legally responsible for violent acts committed by current or former patients.
Hinckley was acquitted by reason of insanity last June of charges he tried to kill Reagan and wounded Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington Police office Thomas Delahanty March 30, 1981.
All three men have filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against Hinckley, who was committed indefinitely to a Washington mental hospital.
In their latest suit, Brady is seeking $8 million, McCarthy $2 million and Delahanty $4 million against Hopper.
Paul Kamenar, an attorney with a legal foundation that has been assisting McCarthy, said the suit alleges Hopper treated Hinckley in a way that increased his problems.
He said Hinckley told Hopper about his obsession with actress Jodie Foster, who played a young prostitute in the movie ”Taxi Driver,” a story about a man who stalks a political candidate to impress a young woman.
If Hopper had conducted a ”reasonable and proper examination,” the suit said, he would have discovered Hinckley closely identified with the movie’s protagonist.
The suit charged that Hopper’s advice to cut Hinckley off from his family’s support had the effect of aggravating his mental condition and put him in a ”desperate situation that was likely to lead to overt violent acts.”
During his trial, Hinckley’s mother, JoAnn, testified she followed Hopper’s advice and sent her son away from home, one week before he shot Reagan and three others.
She testified she and her husband, John, wanted their son placed in an institution, but Hopper advised them against it, saying it will make a ”cripple” out of him.
Hopper testified Hinckley gave no hint he was methodically stalking two presidents, practicing shooting at a rifle range or reading books on past assassinations.