Update on Judge Julie Kocurek Shooting: Three Men Indicted, Increased Security Measures for Texas Judges Takes Effect

Increased Security Measures for Texas Judges Takes Effect.

aitoff / Pixabay

On November 6, 2015, Judge Julie Kocurek of the 390th Texas District Court faced an assassination attempt.[1] She was sitting in her vehicle with her family, having just gotten home at around 10:30 p.m.[2] Suddenly, there was rapid gunfire and the car windshield shattered; Kocurek quickly took cover.[3] She was hit by shrapnel and glass from the shattered windshield.[4] Out of the corner of her eye, Kocurek could see her son, who was not hit.[5] He managed to call 911, and police officers arrived in about five minutes.[6] Kocurek safely made it to the hospital and has since returned to the bench, having lost a finger on her left hand and having to undergo rehab for her left arm.[7]

Approximately two weeks before the shooting, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office received an anonymous call from a woman saying that Chimene Onyeri, who was accused of violating probation in a matter before Kocurek’s court, and another man were planning to kill a Travis County district judge.[8] However, no name was given and investigators were unable to verify the tip.[9] That same day, the same person left several voicemails claiming that Onyeri was saying he had already killed a Travis County district judge.[10] Kocurek was never informed of these calls.[11]

Judge Kocurek was critical of Travis County’s response to the situation, calling it “poorly investigated.”[12] She stated that she should have been told about the threat and that she had the right to decide whether it was credible.[13] Travis County apparently agreed that its response was subpar; the Travis County commissioners awarded Judge Kocurek $500,000 in a settlement.[14]

Three men, including Onyeri, were federally indicted for conspiring to kill Kocurek, and trial is scheduled to begin October 10, 2017.[15] Onyeri’s previous lawyer stated that Onyeri was framed by an ex-girlfriend.[16]

As an additional preventive measure, the Texas Legislature passed the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017, which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on May 27, 2017.[17] The law, which took effect September 1, 2017, is aimed at increasing security for judges.[18] It requires the creation of Court Security Committees for every judge, requires additional training for court security, increase reporting requirements, allows any commissioned peace officer to provide personal security to a state judge anywhere, and removes judges’ and their spouses’ personal information (such as home address) from various public records.[19] The bill also imposes a $5 filing fee to go toward the Judicial and Court Personnel Training Fund, requires the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to grant funds to statewide entities that provide training for court security, and requires the Legislature to take funds from the Judicial and Court Personnel Training Fund and provide it to the Court of Criminal Appeals for court security training programs.[20]


[1] See Calily Bien, Judge Julie Kocurek Will Receive $500K from Travis County, KXAN, Jan. 31, 2017.

[2] Sally Hernandez, Judge Julie Kocurek Discusses Attack, ‘Poorly Investigated’ Threat on Her LifeKXAN, Mar. 14, 2016.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Greg Botelho & Carma Hassan, Police: Texas Judge Shot Outside Her Home, CNN, Nov. 9, 2015.

[7] Standing Ovation Welcomes Judge Kocurek Back into the Courtroom, KXAN, Feb. 28, 2016.

[8] See Ryan Autullo, 3 Men Accused in Shooting of Judge Kocurek to Go on Trial in October 2017¸ Austin American-Statesman, Dec. 15, 2016; Andy Jechow, Authorities Knew of Threat Two Weeks Before Judge Kocurek’s Shooting, KXAN, Dec. 14, 2015.

[9] Jechow, Authorities Knew of Threat Two Weeks Before Judge Kocurek’s Shooting.

[10] Id.

[11] See Hernandez, Judge Julie Kocurek Discusses Attack, ‘Poorly Investigated’ Threat on Her Life.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] See Bien, Judge Julie Kocurek Will Receive $500k from Travis County.

[15] Autullo, 3 Men Accused in Shooting of Judge Kocurek to Go on Trial in October 2017.

[16] Id.

[17] See S.B. 42, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept. 1, 2017; CourTex, Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act Signed into Law, May 2017.

[18] See CourTex, Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act Signed into Law.

[19] See S.B. 42; Gavel to Gavel, Texas: Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017 Enacted, June 2, 2017; Gavel to Gavel, Texas: Bill Would Strengthen Court Security in State; Sheriffs Would Be Required to Report Court Security Incidents to State OCA, Jan. 11, 2017.

[20] See S.B. 42; Gavel to Gavel, Texas: Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017 Enacted; see also Tex. Gov’t Code ch. 56 (Judicial and Court Personnel Training Fund).

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