Vincent J. Fuller, a leading Washington lawyer who successfully defended would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr., has died. He was 75.
Fuller, who lived in Bethesda, Md., died Wednesday of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a suburban Maryland hospice.
The lawyer defended a wide range of notable figures, including boxer Mike Tyson, boxing promoter Don King and financier Michael Milken.
But Fuller was best known for his successful representation of Hinckley, who shot President Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a policeman outside a Washington hotel March 30, 1981. Retained within hours of the shooting, Fuller built his defense on Hinckley’s mental state.
In its obituary Saturday, the Washington Post noted that the lawyer spent very little time discussing the actual assassination attempt.
“Instead, he focused on his client’s fragile mental state, describing his suicide attempts, his trailing of President Jimmy Carter on the 1980 campaign trail and his identification with Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon.”
Fuller said Hinckley was delusional and obsessed with actress Jodie Foster.
In his closing argument, he told the jury, “In his own mind, the defendant had two compelling reasons to do what he did: to terminate his own existence and to accomplish his ideal union with Jodie Foster, whether in this world or the next.
“I submit these are the acts of a totally irrational individual.”
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on all 13 charges.
Fuller had little to say immediately after the verdict. His only comment was, “Another day, another dollar.”
According to the Post, the only time he discussed the case was in an interview several years ago with Washington’s Bar Report.
“What always got me about the case,” he said, “was that no one in his family had any idea as to how sick he was. His parents knew that something might be wrong with him, so they sent him to a psychologist, who sent him to a psychiatrist. Hinckley only saw the psychiatrist a few times, but from those interviews the psychiatrist failed to get a clue as to what was going on in his mind. That’s alarming.”
Fuller was born in Ossining, N.Y. After graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts, he served two years in the Navy.
He later attended Georgetown Law School, where Edward Bennett Williams, considered the dean of Washington criminal defense lawyers, was one of his professors. After graduating, Fuller joined Williams’ Washington law firm.
In other high-profile cases, he won acquittal for King on federal tax evasion charges but lost in his defense of Milken on insider trading charges. His defense of Tyson on charges of raping an 18-year-old beauty queen in an Indianapolis hotel room failed to keep the boxing champion from being convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.
Fuller’s survivors include his wife of 48 years, Beatrice; five children; 13 grandchildren; and a sister.