The death of beloved American icon James Brady formerly President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary who was wounded in the attempt on Reagan’s life in March 1981 was a homicide, the District of Columbia medical examiner ruled Friday. The medical examiner said Brady died as a result of the grievous injuries he suffered 33 years ago, which means that gunman John Hinckley Jr. could be charged with Brady’s murder.
Brady was 73 when he died earlier this week. He had been partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair since the shooting, and his speech was slurred. He used his own experience to launch a campaign against gun violence that led to groundbreaking gun control legislation signed into law in 1993.
The medical examiner’s ruling has the potential to open the door to federal murder charges against Hinckley, who is now a mental patient at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in suburban Washington.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted assassination of President Reagan.
“There is no statute of limitations on murder in either the federal or state system,” Williams said.
But, he added, “We are a long way from knowing what the federal authorities are going to do with this, or whether they are going to do anything with it.”
Williams said prosecutors will have to weigh the likelihood of getting a different verdict on murder charges than they did decades ago on the 13 charges that Hinckley faced after the assassination attempt.
Any charges also could complicate effort of Hinckley’s family, who are trying to get him a permanent leave from St. Elizabeth’s. Hinckley has been granted repeated weeks-long leaves to stay with family in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Brady and Reagan were shot on March 30, 1981 as they left the Washington Hilton Hotel.