deadly encounters

Harrowing tale of Austin judge's attempted murder spotlighted on 48 Hours

Austin judge tells harrowing tale of attempted murder on 48 Hours

Julie Kocurek
In a CBS interview, Austin judge Julie Kocurek recounts the night a gunman almost took her life. Photo courtesy of CBS News

In an interview with 48 Hours airing April 13 on CBS, Travis County State District Judge Julie Kocurek shares the story of the 2015 murder plot that was supposed to kill her.

It was an ordinary Friday night when Kocurek and her teenage son, Will, were heading home from a football game. After arriving at the security gate outside their house, the two noted a strangely placed leaf bag. When Will stepped out of the car to remove it, a man dressed in all black advanced upon them and fired his gun numerous times into the driver's side window.

“I scooted down as far as I could in the seat. And I protected my head with my arm and my hand," Kocurek recounts in her 48 Hours interview, according to a release. “I can remember thinking, ‘I am going to die in front of my own son.’” In the hospital, Kocurek learned she had sustained wounds from shattered glass, shrapnel from the impact of the bullets, and lost a finger. 

The three weeks before the shooting, the Travis County District Attorney's Office had learned of a threat made against a judge, but the office didn't consider it credible. The assailant was later identified as Chimine Onyeri, a Houston man who had appeared in Kocurek's courtroom and plotted the attack to prevent her from sentencing him to prison for a probation violation. He was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison.

After months of recovery, Kocurek returned to the bench in 2016 and began advocating for safer courtrooms and for all threats made against judges to be thoroughly investigated.

In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017. The new law established a court security division within the state's Office of Court Administration, required court security personnel to have certain training, and asked local judges to create court security committees. The law also expanded privacies for judges and their spouses while allowing police officers to serve as personal security to judges.

Learn Kocurek's full story when 48 Hours' newest episode, "Live to Tell: The Vendetta," airs at 9 pm CT. Watch the preview here.