Criminal Justice

James Brady's death ruled a homicide from 1981 attack, but whether case will be pursued is unclear

Severely wounded in a 1981 attack on then-President Ronald Reagan, press secretary James Brady survived with disabling injuries.

His death last week has now been ruled a homicide caused by the Washington, D.C., shooting, according to the Associated Press and the New York Times (reg. req.). However, it is unclear whether the case will be prosecuted.

Barry Levine, a longtime lawyer for John Hinckley Jr., who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Brady, Reagan and two other men, calls the possibility of a successful prosecution “far-fetched,” the AP reports.

Other experts also predicted that the case may not be pursued by prosecutors, but disagreed about the reason why, the Times reports.

Hugh Keefe, a criminal defense attorney in Connecticut who has taught trial advocacy at Yale Law School, saw the potential prosecution of Hinckley over Brady’s death as a double-jeopardy issue, although Hinckley was not charged with murder in the earlier case

“He was tried; he was found not guilty based on insanity,” Keefe said of HInckley.

But former federal prosecutor George J. Terwilliger III, who worked on the HInckley case, told the newspaper he doesn’t expect double jeopardy to preclude prosecution.

“Generally, a new homicide charge would be adjudicated on its merits without reference to a prior case,” he told the newspaper. However, “The real challenge here would be to prove causation for the death.”

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