The man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and instead seriously wounded his press secretary James S. Brady, will not be charged in connection with Brady’s death, prosecutors said today.
The decision comes four months after the medical examiner decided that Brady’s death at age 73 was a direct result of a bullet fired 34 years ago outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
In a prepared statement, Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said that his office’s decision was based on “a review of applicable law, the history of the case, and the circumstances of Mr. Brady’s death.”
Machen’s statement reads, in part:
“On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan, his Press Secretary, Mr. Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, and Metropolitan Police Department officer Thomas Delahanty were shot during an assassination attempt in the driveway of the Washington Hilton Hotel. All four victims immediately survived the shooting. Mr. Brady, however, was gravely wounded by a bullet to the brain, and remained incapacitated by that injury for the rest of his life.
“Hinckley was apprehended on the scene. He later was charged with three federal and 10 District of Columbia offenses. In June 1982, following a trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity on all charges. Hinckley, 59, has now been committed for over 32 years to St. Elizabeths Hospital.
“Mr. Brady died on Aug. 4, 2014. He was 73. On Aug. 8, 2014, the commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled that Mr. Brady’s death was a homicide and that it was caused by the 1981 gunshot wound. In the wake of that ruling, the U.S. Attorney’s office initiated a review to determine whether to prosecute Hinckley for the homicide.
“According to an autopsy report prepared by the chief medical examiner’s office, and finalized on Dec. 4, 2014, the traumatic brain injury sustained by Mr. Brady created difficulty managing oral secretions and food and led to aspiration pneumonia and other chronic diseases. At the time of his death, Mr. Brady was suffering from aspiration pneumonia. The chief medical examiner thus concluded that Mr. Brady’s death was determined to be “gunshot wound of head and consequences thereof.”
Hinckley, now 59, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan, Brady and two others. Because of the jury’s ruling in 1982, Machen’s statement continues, the government would now be precluded from arguing that Hinckley was sane when Brady was shot.
Additionally, the statement continues, before 1987, Washington courts abided by the “year and a day rule” which means a homicide prosecution could only be brought if the victim died within a year and a day of the injury causing death. At the time of the assassination attempt, that rule was in effect.
At a memorial service last fall, vice president Joe Biden said Brady turned his misfortune into a cause as an aggressive gun-control advocate. According to Bloomberg News, Biden told more than 300 people attending the service at the Newseum in Washington that “Jim Brady was never, ever defeated.”