Prosecutor refuses to indict John Hinckley in death of James Brady

Prosecutors will not file murder charges against the man who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan and severely wounded James Brady at the time, despite a coroners ruling last summer following Brady's death that he died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The Hill:

“The decision was made following a review of applicable law, the history of the case, and the circumstances of Mr. Brady’s death, including recently finalized autopsy findings,” the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia said in a statement on Friday.

Brady's family said in a statement that they respected the decision.

Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan in March 1981. Reagan was shot, along with Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty.

A jury ultimately ruled that Hinckley was not guilty related to Brady’s shooting by reason of insanity. Hinckley has been committed to a mental hospital for over three decades. In recent years, he has been allowed to leave to visit his mother.

The attack left Brady, who was shot in the head, paralyzed for life. He became a prominent gun control activist, and in 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which instituted background checks and waiting periods.

Brady died last summer, and a Virginia medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide caused by the gunshot wound.

In explaining their decision Friday, federal prosecutors argued that because Hinckley was deemed insane by a jury in 1982, they would be unable to argue today that he had been sane when he shot Brady.

They also said that a rule in place in D.C. at the time of the shooting stipulated that murder charges be filed if the victim died a year and a day after the injury that caused his or her death.

Hinckley has been granted weekend leaves from the mental hospital in recent years, and his family thinks he should be released. That's probably not going to happen. Putting aside his mental state at the time of the shootings, there is the worry that his release would set a bad precedent for potential presidential assassins and that he is still a danger to others.

On June 17, 2009, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be given the ability to visit his mother for a dozen visits of 10 days at a time, rather than six, spend more time outside of the hospital, and have a driver's license. The court also ordered that Hinckley be required to carry a GPS-enabled cell phone to track him whenever he was outside of his parents’ home, and he was forbidden to speak to the news media.[23] This was done over the objections of the prosecutors, who said that he was still a danger to others and had unhealthful and inappropriate thoughts about women. Hinckley recorded a song, "Ballad of an Outlaw", which the prosecutors claim is "reflecting suicide and lawlessness".[24]

In March 2011, it was reported that a forensic psychologist at the hospital testified that "Hinckley has recovered to the point that he poses no imminent risk of danger to himself or others."[23] On March 29, 2011, the day before the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt, Hinckley's attorney filed a court petition requesting more freedom for his client, including additional unsupervised visits to the Kingsmill home of Hinckley's mother, Joanne.[25] On November 30, 2011, a hearing began in Washington that could result in his living full-time outside the hospital. The Justice Department opposed this, in the belief that Hinckley still poses a danger to the public, arguing that he had been known to deceive his doctors in the past.[26][27]

Hinckley was granted even more freedom in 2013.

Prosecutors will not file murder charges against the man who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan and severely wounded James Brady at the time, despite a coroners ruling last summer following Brady's death that he died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The Hill:

“The decision was made following a review of applicable law, the history of the case, and the circumstances of Mr. Brady’s death, including recently finalized autopsy findings,” the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia said in a statement on Friday.

Brady's family said in a statement that they respected the decision.

Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan in March 1981. Reagan was shot, along with Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty.

A jury ultimately ruled that Hinckley was not guilty related to Brady’s shooting by reason of insanity. Hinckley has been committed to a mental hospital for over three decades. In recent years, he has been allowed to leave to visit his mother.

The attack left Brady, who was shot in the head, paralyzed for life. He became a prominent gun control activist, and in 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which instituted background checks and waiting periods.

Brady died last summer, and a Virginia medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide caused by the gunshot wound.

In explaining their decision Friday, federal prosecutors argued that because Hinckley was deemed insane by a jury in 1982, they would be unable to argue today that he had been sane when he shot Brady.

They also said that a rule in place in D.C. at the time of the shooting stipulated that murder charges be filed if the victim died a year and a day after the injury that caused his or her death.

Hinckley has been granted weekend leaves from the mental hospital in recent years, and his family thinks he should be released. That's probably not going to happen. Putting aside his mental state at the time of the shootings, there is the worry that his release would set a bad precedent for potential presidential assassins and that he is still a danger to others.

On June 17, 2009, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be given the ability to visit his mother for a dozen visits of 10 days at a time, rather than six, spend more time outside of the hospital, and have a driver's license. The court also ordered that Hinckley be required to carry a GPS-enabled cell phone to track him whenever he was outside of his parents’ home, and he was forbidden to speak to the news media.[23] This was done over the objections of the prosecutors, who said that he was still a danger to others and had unhealthful and inappropriate thoughts about women. Hinckley recorded a song, "Ballad of an Outlaw", which the prosecutors claim is "reflecting suicide and lawlessness".[24]

In March 2011, it was reported that a forensic psychologist at the hospital testified that "Hinckley has recovered to the point that he poses no imminent risk of danger to himself or others."[23] On March 29, 2011, the day before the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt, Hinckley's attorney filed a court petition requesting more freedom for his client, including additional unsupervised visits to the Kingsmill home of Hinckley's mother, Joanne.[25] On November 30, 2011, a hearing began in Washington that could result in his living full-time outside the hospital. The Justice Department opposed this, in the belief that Hinckley still poses a danger to the public, arguing that he had been known to deceive his doctors in the past.[26][27]

Hinckley was granted even more freedom in 2013.