This isn’t exactly breaking news, as its been floating around for more than a few years now, but it’s popping back up here and there due to the success of HBO’s True Detective, so I figure we might as well issue a reminder: Woody’s Harrelson’s father was a hitman who was convicted of killing a federal judge and claimed to have been involved in the Kennedy assassination.
Charles Voyde Harrelson was convicted of murdering U.S. District Court Judge John H. Wood, Jr. in a San Antonio parking lot in May 1979, on the request of a drug dealer named Jamiel Chagra who had drawn Judge Wood — commonly referred to as “Maximum John” for his tendency to impose harsh sentences — in an upcoming trial. The killing, which took place less than a year after the end of Harrelson’s sentence for another murder, represented the first murder of a sitting federal judge in the 20th century. He was sentenced to two lives terms and died in prison in 2008.
Three other interesting facts, via Wikipedia:
- Chagra was represented at trial by Oscar Goodman, who was a public defender at the time and went on to become the very colorful mayor of Las Vegas.
- Chagra later recanted his testimony against Harrelson, who claimed that he was not the one who killed Wood, and that he had lied about it to collect the payment from Chagra. Woody Harrelson tried to use this to get his father a new trial, but his bid was denied.
- Harrelson tried to escape from prison in 1995 using a “makeshift rope.”
Oh, also, there’s this:
In September 1980, Harrelson surrendered to police after a six-hour standoff in which he was reportedly “high on cocaine”. During the standoff, he threatened suicide and stated that he had killed Judge Wood and President John F. Kennedy. In a television interview after his arrest, Harrelson said: “At the same time I said I had killed the judge, I said I had killed Kennedy, which might give you an idea to the state of my mind at the time.” He said that the statements made during the standoff were “an effort to elongate my life.”
Joseph Chagra later testified during Harrelson’s trial that Harrelson claimed to have shot Kennedy and drew maps to show where he was hiding during the assassination. Chagra said that he did not believe Harrelson’s claim, and the AP reported that the FBI “apparently discounted any involvement by Harrelson in the Kennedy assassination.” According to Jim Marrs in 1989’s Crossfire, Harrelson is believed to be the youngest and tallest of the “three tramps” by many assassination researchers. Marrs stated that Harrelson was involved “with criminals connected to intelligence agencies and the military” and suggested that he was connected to Jack Ruby through Russell Douglas Matthews, a third party with links to organized crime who was known to both Harrelson and Ruby.
Here’s a clip from a jailhouse interview where he discussed most of this stuff. The more you know, right?