Judge, targeted in assassination attempt, returns to bench

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Judge Kocurek returns to courtroom (Photo Credit: FOX 7's Noelle Newton)

Travis County District Court Judge Julie Kocurek returned to the bench Monday. She spent the past four months recovering from injuries she suffered during an assassination attempt outside of her home.

A courtroom of full of attorneys, judges and others in the criminal justice system stood and clapped as Travis County District Court Judge Julie Kocurek took her seat on the bench for the first time in four months.

Kocurek was shot outside her home in November of last year. Some facial injuries were visible as she spoke to those who came to greet her.

"For the, I guess, it was about 30 seconds of extreme horror and violence that me and my son and my family members felt, all of the goodness and love that has poured out, the thousands of minutes far outweigh the evil of this world and that's what brings me back here,” said Kocurek.

After thanking the audience, everyone in attendance lined up to give Kocurek a hug. Attorney Steve Brittain was among them.

"Her appearance today is I think a perfect example of evidence to the fact that that kind of violence and terrorism don't work. She's stronger. As a courthouse family we are stronger,” he said.

Stronger, he says, and safer.

"People are just more aware. They're more careful. We watch. When we see something that doesn't quite fit, we report it and I think that's a good thing,” said Brittain.

Kocurek appeared with a brace on her left arm. She says she used the arm to shield her face as bullets were fired at her. She lost her index finger and nearly lost her middle finger.

"I feel like there was true divine intervention saved my life on November 6th and I am very thankful to be here and to be able to get my life back,” said Kocurek.

No arrest has been made. 28-year-old Chimene Onyeri was named a suspect. He is currently in jail in Harris County for another case.

Prior to the shooting, Onyeri was on Kocurek's docket. She was expected to revoke his probation for an identity theft conviction.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says investigators are close to closing out the case.

"We are well on our way. We are confident we will bring justice for this cowardly act,” said Acevedo.

Kocurek will officially start hearing cases Tuesday afternoon. She will start slow working half-days at first while she undergoes physical therapy. Coming back to work, she says, is emotional therapy.

"Normal has never felt so good. It felt good driving into work today. It feels good being in my office. It felt great being on the bench. It's been almost 17 years that I've sat on this bench and it feels like home,” said Kocurek.

Judge Julie Kocurek returned to the 390th District Courtroom Monday morning.  There was a standing ovation for Judge Kocurek as she returned to the courtroom for the first time since being shot last fall.

Kocurek says, "It feels so, so good. It feels so, so right and it's where I need to be."

Judge Kocurek describes the shooting as, "30 seconds of extreme horror and violence." Kocurek was ambushed in her driveway as she was returning home from a high school football game.

She told the courtroom that she will do half days first as she recovers and that physical therapy will be required for her arm injuries.  Judge Kocurek was wearing a type of brace on her left arm.

Attorneys and Judges lined up to hug Kocurek upon her return.  There was a line of people out of the the door of the courtroom waiting to wish her well.

FOX 7's Noelle Newton was there to capture the emotional moment.