By Peter Hermann August 8 at 5:21 PM
The death on Monday of President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary James S. Brady, has been ruled a homicide as a result of the gunshot wound he suffered in an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981, according to District police department’s chief spokeswoman.
There was no immediate word on whether the shooter, John W. Hinckley, who has been treated at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital, could face new criminal charges. Hinckley, 59, was found not guilty by reason of insanity after he shot Reagan and three others on March 30, 1981.
The ruling was made by the medical examiner’s office in Virginia, where Brady died in an Alexandria retirement community. The shooting of Brady three decades ago, and the revelation of Hinckley’s mental illness, had largely faded from the headlines until his death this week at age 73.
Barry Wm. Levine, Hinckley’s attorney, said Friday evening that he had not seen the medical examiner’s report, but he felt confident the U.S. Attorneys office would face “insurmountable legal barriers to any prosecution.”
“The idea there is a causal relationship that they can prove that this death came from that assault is fairly far fetched,” he said. “Is there any conceivable theory of facts that would differ from the facts that applied to the prosecution in 1982? Is there something new or different other than the fact that Brady died? [Hinckley] was found not guilty of the assault. How could he be found guilty of the more serious charge?”
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said prosecutors are reviewing the ruling and that his office “has no further comment at this time.”
Gail Hoffman, a Brady family spokesman said she could not immediately comment, adding, “Jim had been suffering health issues since the shooting.”
Brady’s death will now be added to the District’s 2014 homicide list. He becomes the District's 71st homicide of 2014.
Last December a federal judge gave Hinckley more freedom from St. Elizabeth’s, allowing him to spend 17 days a month in Williamsburg, Va., where his elderly mother lives.
“John has lived his whole life since that event, riddled by guilt and he has the greatest respect for the Bradys and the greatest amount of remorse for what happened,” Levine said. “A sensitive public would know that at the time he committed that act, he was ravaged by mental disease.”