Feds Won't Charge John Hinckley, Jr. in Murder of James Brady

Federal prosecutors have decided not to charge John Hinckley Jr. in the murder of Ronald Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, NBC News' Pete Williams reported.

Brady died Aug. 4, 2014, 33 years after he was shot and grievously wounded in Hinckley's attempt on the president's life. After the shooting, Brady became an influential advocate for gun control.

In August, the Office of the Medical Examiner for the Northern District of Virginia ruled that Brady, 73, had been murdered, because he died of complications from the assassination attempt. Brady had been shot in the head; he was left partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

The autopsy report finalized Dec. 4 said Brady's brain injury led to chronic diseases including aspiration pneumonia, from which he was suffering when he died.

The medical examiner's ruling cleared the way for murder charges, but criminal justice experts had said bringing charges against Hinckley would be difficult.

Hinckley had been found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted assassination of President Reagan and of related charges. He is still a mental patient at St. Elizabeth's hospital in Washington.

Williams said prosecutors would have to weigh the likelihood of getting a different verdict on murder charges than they did decades ago on the three federal charges and 10 D.C. charges that Hinckley faced after the assassination attempt.

In 1982, the jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity of the two charges related to the shooting of Brady, which would prevent the government from arguing now that Hinckley was sane at the time of the shooting.

Also, before 1987, D.C. courts followed the "year and a day rule," which only allowed homicide prosecution if the victim died within a year and a day of the injury that caused death.

While double jeopardy does not apply in this case, noted defense attorney Ted Williams explained to News4's Jackie Bensen why he believes prosecutors would have an uphill battle.

"So all of the evidence that the government would be able to bring forth would be the evidence that they had in 1981," he said.

Charges also could have complicated the effort of Hinckley's family members, who are trying to get him a permanent leave from St. Elizabeth's, Williams said. In December 2013, Hinckley was granted visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia, for up to 17 days at a time. Previously they had been capped at 10 days.

Brady, Reagan, police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy were shot March 30, 1981, as they left the Washington Hilton Hotel.

At a hearing in January 2012, a Secret Service agent testified Hinckley went into a bookstore on multiple occasions and paused intently before bookshelves bearing titles on presidential assassinations and Reagan's presidency.

“When an attempted assassin looks at a book with the cover of a person he tried to kill, it's of great concern,” the agent said.

Brady had turned the shooting into a cause, campaigning for the rest of his life for stronger gun laws. The Brady Campaign that he led with his wife, Sarah, helped usher in groundbreaking gun control legislation signed into law in 1993.

Contact Us