The beloved American actor Woody Harrelson has been nominated for three Oscars and won an Emmy for his portrayal of slow-witted bartender Woody in the classic comedy Cheers. It would be easy to imagine that Harrelson had an easy upbringing which allowed him to slide into these wonderful acting roles. However, that’s far from the truth.
The YouTube channel Weird History has produced a short documentary on the criminal past of Harrelson’s late father, who died in the notorious supermax prison ADX Florence in 2007. He was sentenced to two life sentences in 1979 for the murder of the federal judge John H. Wood Jr.
This was the first assassination of a federal judge in the twentieth century. It was reported that Harrelson had been hired by the drug dealer Jamiel Chagra to kill Judge Wood, who Chagra had been due to appear in front of on the day of the killing. Wood had a reputation for handing down severe punishments for drug offences.
Charles Harrelson had already had a chequered past before his conviction in 1979. He had been convicted of a previous murder-for-hire in 1968 and sentenced to prison but was released early for good behaviour, he had been acquitted of another murder charge in 1970.
Woody had little contact with his father during childhood after he walked out on the family in 1968 (when Woody was seven) and he remained out of touch with him until 1981 when the family became aware of his conviction for murdering Judge Wood. Harrelson said in an interview in the 1990s that he regularly visited his father in prison but maintained a note of caution that he saw him more as ‘a friend’ rather than a father.
As well as this YouTube video, there has also been a podcast series released about Harrelson’s life. This includes the various reports about whether Harrelson was innocent of the crimes he was convicted of. In 2003, Chagra retracted his statements that Harrelson had murdered Wood and claimed someone else had committed the tragic act. Woody then tried to overturn his father’s conviction, though without success.
There have also been rumours about the potential involvement of Harrelson with the assassination of JFK, with Harrelson having himself said he was involved with it in 1980. However, he later denied this and said the statement was incorrect and a result of his drug dependency alongside his poor mental health at the time.
Watch the video here:
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Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia, originally from Houston PD