Texas State Judge Julie Kocurek, known for her fair treatment and concern for victims’ rights, was shot in front of her home in West Austin on Friday night. The judge was with her family; she had just returned home after attending a high school football game.. Kocurek exited the vehicle to remove a trashbag that was left at the gate when she was shot. None of the judge’s family were hurt. Judge Kocurek remains in stable condition at University Medical Center-Brackenridge in Austin, but the shooter remains free as a manhunt was still ongoing as of mid-day Saturday. Judge Kocurek’s injuries were not considered life-threatening. At the present, police do not have any leads as to who shot the judge other than someone might have had a grudge against Kocurek, or the shooting might have been a random act of violence.
The Republican-turned-Democrat judge was appointed to the state of Texas’ 390th District Court in Travis County in 1999 by George Bush and was the only Republican at that time. She is better known for her statements about Rick Perry after his indictment in Austin last year. Perry was indicted on felony coercion and abuse-of-power charges by an Austin grand jury in August of 2014. According to the Statesville Record & Landmark, Perry vowed at a news conference that his indictment was a farce and that “those responsible will be held to account.” Judge Kocurek responded to Perry’s statement by saying it could be interpreted as a threat to members of the grand jury and that they would be protected from Perry or anyone else because, “no one is above the law.”
During Kocurek’s career, the judge has presided over some of the toughest criminal cases in Travis County. One of the most infamous cases was Celeste Beard Johnson, who was convicted in 2003 for being involved in the shotgun death of her husband, retired TV executive Steven Beard Jr. The Texas judge currently is involved in the case of Mark Norwood, who is on trial for the murder of an Austin woman, Debra Masters Baker, that took place in 1988. Norwood was convicted in 2013 for the 1986 slaying of Christine Morton, whose husband was wrongly convicted and spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder. Another high-profile case the Texas judge is involved in is the trial of an Austin police officer, VonTrey Clark, who is charged with killing Samantha Dean, an expectant mother with whom Clark had a relationship with. According to the Austin American Statesman, Texas law enforcement said the state judge was likely targeted for a case she was involved in.
— Vhalen (@VaughnVhalen) November 7, 2015
The Statesman also reported that the judge’s neighbors and the Texas legal community are in shock over the incident. “The Kocurek family is an old Austin family, and most of us have some connection to them,” said Katherine Botts, a neighbor. “It’s disheartening and scary. We wish the best for the Kocurek family.” Another neighbor, McCalla, who lives across the street from the judge, said Kocurek “is a great neighbor who makes friendly conversation about their pets and brings over treats on holidays.”
“You just want wonderful people like that to be friends and neighbors, and they are…Really fine people.”
In the legal community, people were shocked the Texas state judge was targeted. They said Kocurek was one of the kindest judges on the bench and that she had earned a reputation of being a fair judge and for her concern for victims’ rights.
Prosecutor Gary Cobb, who is running for district attorney in Travis County for next year, said, “She is a very strong judge.”
“She is very knowledgeable about the law, and more importantly is very fair in her treatment of everyone who comes in front of her.”
“If this was going to happen to anybody, it wouldn’t happen to her,” said retired Judge Bob Perkins.
“This is totally illogical.”
The Texas judge has served as the administrative presiding judge of all criminal courts in the county from 2011 to 2014. During that time, the judge helped bring about an overhaul of the Texas defense system used to appoint lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.
“Judge Kocurek is one of our strongest advocates for Travis County’s recent indigent defense reform,” said defense lawyer Kellie Bailey, who was speaking on behalf of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association board of directors.
“As presiding judge, she dedicated countless hours to improve the quality of representation to the poor.”
When Kocurek was sent to the hospital on Friday night, many of the close-knit legal community went to the hospital in support and also showed their support in social media and in news releases.
Terrible news: last night Judge Julie Kocurek of Travis County was shot & wounded. Pls pray for her and her family. https://t.co/Qe38zY14x2
— Justice Jeff Brown (@judgejeffbrown) November 7, 2015
— Office of the Lt Gov (@LtGovTX) November 7, 2015
Sending healing thoughts to my colleague and friend District Judge Julie Kocurek for a quick and full recovery. #endgunviolence
— Judge Eckhardt (@JudgeEckhardt) November 7, 2015
“It’s the most shocking news I have ever received,” said District Judge David Wahlberg after hearing about the judge’s shooting.
“Judge Kocurek is a wonderful woman. It’s unfathomable to think that anyone would be angry with her. We are all praying for her.”
What do you think about Texas State Judge Kocurek being shot? Do you think it was in retaliation for one of her high-profile cases or just a random act of violence? Please post your thoughts below.