The end of the Hinckley / Reagan / Brady saga?

Jay Leiderman
By: Jay Leiderman
January 04 2015

No Charges Against Hinckley for Death of James Brady (“Federal prosecutors in Washington announced Friday they will not charge John Hinckley Jr. in connection to the shooting death of James Brady.”)

Multiple sources are reporting that it is the end of a saga that began in 1981. Let’s see if I can get this drama right. John Hinckley is mentally ill and wants to impress actress Jodie Foster. Thinking he would impress her via a “heroic act” like Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) did in Taxi Driver, he tried to kill then-President Reagan. He shot at Reagan several times. One shot crippled White House press secretary James Brady. Reagan was rushed into the hospital and had life-saving surgery.

Ultimately, Brady became more famous for the firearm regulatory legislation named after him than for the shooting itself. Much of the control we have in this country over firearms finds its genesis in this tragedy and from James Brady’s tireless efforts to have those laws passed. The key provisions involved background checks and waiting periods.

Brady died this past August, and, per the Washington Post: “Medical examiner rules James Brady‚Äôs death a homicide.

So does Hinckley get charged with the homicide 33 years later? No, say the feds at main justice in DC. This hopefully brings to an end a tangled and strange chapter of American history. Hinckley remains incarcerated in a facility for the mentally ill and, sparing poor Jodie Foster, who did nothing to deserve this, all the other main players have passed on.

Per the Washington Post in August:

There was no immediate word on whether the shooter, John W. Hinckley Jr., who has been treated at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital since his trial, 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.

And now, per CNN and multiple sources:

Washington (CNN) John Hinckley won’t face charges in the death of former President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady — whose death last summer was ruled a homicide, even though it happened more than three decades after Brady was shot by Hinckley.

U.S. Attorney Ron Machen’s office announced the decision Friday, citing two legal barriers it couldn’t overcome in attempting to press new charges stemming from Hinckley’s 1981 attempt to assassinate Reagan, during which Brady was shot in the head, outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Hinckley faced charges related to Brady’s shooting during his 1982 trial, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. “Because the jury conclusively made this finding, the government would be precluded now from arguing that Hinckley was sane at the time he shot Mr. Brady,” Machen’s office said.

The District of Columbia also had a “year-and-a-day” rule in effect at the time, which prohibited homicide charges if the victim died outside of that time span.


Ventura County, California criminal defense lawyer and State Bar Certified Criminal Law Specialist Jay Leiderman handles all types of firearm cases, cases dealing with the mentally ill and homicide cases of all varieties including manslaughter and murder.