This Day In History: December 14

Changing the day will navigate the page to that given day in history. You can navigate days by using left and right arrows

On December 14, 1982, Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson, is convicted of murdering Judge John Wood outside his San Antonio, Texas, home as he bent down to look at a flat tire on his car. Wood was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century, and the FBI's three-year investigation into his May 1979 murder was one of the most extensive since John F. Kennedy was killed.

The conviction came after evidence revealed that drug kingpin Jimmy Chagra, whose case was about to come up before Judge Wood, had paid Harrelson $250,000 to kill the judge, known as “Maximum John” for the harsh sentences he doled out to drug dealers. Chagra, worried about how Judge Wood would sentence him, apparently conspired with his wife and brother to hire Harrelson to carry out the murder.

Shattered bullet fragments found at the scene were traced to a .240 Weatherby Mark V rifle—the type recently purchased by Harrelson’s wife, Jo Ann. Harrelson, who had a prior conviction for murder in 1968, was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences in prison. Jo Ann, convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury, was later paroled. Woody Harrelson funded his father’s appeals, enlisting the aid of controversial attorney Alan Dershowitz. In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected Harrelson's final bid for an appeal.

Charles Harrelson died on March 15, 2007, at age 69 of a heart attack in his cell at Colorado’s Supermax federal prison.