List of United States federal judges killed in office

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Following is a list of United States federal Judges killed in office.

John H. Wood Jr.[edit]

John H. Wood Jr. was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. He was assassinated on May 29, 1979, by Charles Harrelson in the parking lot outside Wood's home in San Antonio, Texas.[1] Harrelson was convicted of killing Wood, having been hired to do so by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra of El Paso. Wood — nicknamed "Maximum John" because of his reputation for handing down long sentences for drug offenses — was originally scheduled to have Chagra appear before him on the day of his murder, but the trial had been delayed.[2]

Richard J. Daronco[edit]

Richard J. Daronco was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. In April 1988, Judge Daronco presided over a bench trial in a sex discrimination and sexual harassment case, in which the plaintiff represented herself. On May 19, 1988, Daronco issued a written decision holding in the defendant employer's favor and dismissing the case. On May 21, 1988, Charles L. Koster, a retired New York City police officer and the father of the unsuccessful plaintiff, shot and killed Judge Daronco while the judge was doing yardwork at his home in Pelham, New York. Koster then committed suicide.

Robert Smith Vance[edit]

Robert Smith Vance was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Vance was killed at his home in Mountain Brook, Alabama on December 16, 1989, when he opened a package containing a mail bomb. Vance was killed instantly and his wife, Helen, was seriously injured. After an intensive investigation, the federal government charged Walter Leroy Moody Jr. with the murders of Judge Vance and of Robert E. Robinson, a black civil rights attorney in Savannah, Georgia, who had been killed in a separate explosion. Moody was eventually convicted of the murder in both federal court and in Alabama state court, and was subsequently sentenced to death. Prosecutors speculated that Moody's motive for killing Judge Vance was anger that the appeals court on which Vance sat had refused to expunge a prior conviction of Moody's, though Vance had not been directly involved in that decision. Moody remains on death row in Alabama.

John Roll[edit]

John Roll was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. Roll was fatally shot in the 2011 Tucson shooting, which occurred on January 8, 2011 outside a Safeway supermarket in Casas Adobes, Arizona,[3] when a gunman opened fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event held by Democratic U.S. House Representative Gabrielle Giffords; Roll later succumbed to his injuries, as did five other people. Fourteen others were wounded including Giffords. Roll attended Mass earlier that morning and had decided to attend the event about an hour before the shooting.[4] Roll lived in the area, and a Giffords staff member suggested that Roll "had simply gone to the Safeway where the shooting occurred to shop."[5] Jared Lee Loughner was taken into custody, charged by federal prosecutors with Roll's murder, and pleaded guilty in order to avoid being sentenced to death.[6] Evidence gathered by federal investigators indicates that Rep. Giffords was the main target, and that Loughner may not have known he was shooting a federal judge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Charles Harrelson Trial: 1982-83". Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Texas Sniper". Time Magazine. October 25, 1982. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ Michael Kiefer; Karina Bland (2011-01-09). "Judge John Roll respected among peers". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  4. ^ "Reports: Judge Roll Received Death Threats Federal Judge Killed in Ariz. Was Target 2 Years Ago After Controversial Ruling". CBS News. 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  5. ^ "Judge slain in Ariz. shooting wins wide acclaim". Associated Press. 2011-01-09. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  6. ^ "Loughner sentenced to life for Arizona shootings". CNN. 2012-11-08. Retrieved 2012-12-07.