Vince Fuller, Navy veteran and father of my fellow Marine Tony Fuller ’89, has passed away.

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.

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.”

Fuller’s survivors include his wife of 48 years, Beatrice; five children; 13 grandchildren; and a sister.

A life well-lived. The New York Times claims

Mr. Fuller, noted for his representation of high-profile defendants, including the former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and the boxing promoter Don King, was a senior partner in the powerful Washington law firm Williams & Connolly. His college teacher and mentor, Edward Bennett Williams, was a founder of the firm in 1967.

I do not think that Edward Bennett Williams ever taught at Williams College. Three of Fuller’s other children are also Ephs: Kenwyn ’82, Beatrice ’83 and Allison ’85. If you only have time to read one obituary, go with the Washington Post’s.

Mr. Fuller’s most memorable trial came in his defense of Hinckley, who shot President Ronald Reagan, press secretary James Brady and two law officers at the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981. Within two hours of the shooting, Mr. Fuller had been asked to take the case. Over the next year, he shaped an insanity defense that has entered legal annals as one of the finest courtroom performances of modern time.

Lon Babby, a Williams & Connolly lawyer who assisted Mr. Fuller on the case, said, “His closing argument was extraordinarily powerful, so powerful that Hinckley became emotional in the courtroom.”

The argument is one of 15 featured in “Classics of the Courtroom,” a set of transcripts of famous legal cases.

But is this the lesson that the rest of us should draw from Fuller’s life, that we should all strive to success and even fame in our chosen fields? Perhaps. Yet I’ll choose some different lessons.

He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, then served two years as a Navy officer — “Undoubtedly, those were the two most important years of my life,” he later said.

If you’re a current Williams student and these words strike home for you, then go join the Marine Corps. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Mr. Fuller, who could be warm and jovial outside the courtroom, always encouraged younger lawyers to spend time with their families. He coached his children’s soccer teams and was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac. He was a student of history in his spare time.

I’ll be coaching both Michaela and Casandra’s soccer teams this coming fall, as a I did last year. No doubt my professional work would go better if I spent more time on it, but that is a shallow concern. Life is too short not to spend every available moment with your children and your parents. If I can be half the father than Vince Fuller was to his family, then I will be a successful Eph indeed.

Condolences to all.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email