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Arizona Chief U.S. District Judge John M. Roll Killed in Tucson Attack

3 years ago
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John McCarthy Roll, Arizona's chief federal trial judge, was slain Saturday morning in the gun attack in Tucson which gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. At least five others were killed in the attack, and as many as 12 more were wounded.

Judge Roll evidently was at Rep. Giffords' public event -- some reports suggested he lived close-by and decided to drop in and say hello to Giffords -- when he was shot and killed by the suspected gunman whom police later identified as Jared Loughner, of Tucson. Federal officials in Washington confirmed Roll's death approximately three hours after the attack. Loughner is now in custody.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who ultimately may decide which charges to bring against the alleged gunman, said Saturday afternoon: "I want to assure the people of Arizona and every American that we will hold accountable anyone responsible for these heinous acts." Judge Roll's status as a federal employee generates the possibility of federal charges -- and perhaps a federal death sentence -- in addition to any state charges that would apply.

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, issued a statement on behalf of the Supreme Court, saying Judge Roll "was a wise jurist who selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction, as attorney and judge, for more than 35 years," Roberts said. His death "is a somber reminder of the importance of the rule of law and the sacrifices for those who work to secure it."

Judge John McCarthy RollThe chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Alex Kozinski said in a statement "Judge Roll was a widely-respected jurist, a strong and able leader of his court, and a kind, courteous and sincere gentleman."

Roll is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons and five grandchildren.

He was a 1991 judicial appointee of George H. W. Bush after a distinguished career as an Arizona state attorney, an assistant U.S.attorney in the state, and then as a state court judge. In 2009, he drew sharp political criticism -- and death threats -- when he ruled on a pre-trial motion in favor of illegal immigrants in a civil case involving an Arizona rancher. At the time, the threats, online and otherwise, were significant and persistent enough enough to warrant full protective status from the U.S. Marshal's Service for Roll and his family. No charges were brought against the four men who were subsequently identified as having made the threats.

Fatal attacks upon federal judges are rare. The last federal judge believed to have been assassinated while in office was U.S. District Judge Robert Smith Vance, who was killed on December 16, 1989 by a mail bomb at his home in Alabama. In March 2005, the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow were killed in the judge's home in Chicago. Last year, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter and his family were threatened for his ruling dismissing a "birther" challenger against President Barack Obama. Also last year, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, one of Roll's colleagues on the federal bench in Arizona, was threatened both before and after she issued a ruling on Arizona's controversial new immigration measure. At the time, U.S. Marshals once again increased protection at federal courthouses in the state.

In December 2009, all federal judges and courts were provided with a new video entitled "Project 365 -- Security Starts With You" and were actively working with the U.S. Marshals throughout 2010 on ways to improve judicial security to respond to growing Internet threats and invasions of privacy upon federal judges and their families.

The Federal Judges Association "is going to be aggressive about protecting itself," one source told me this summer. But budget constraints may have held back these efforts until now. Just two months ago, Roll asked 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski for permission to delay the processing of felony criminal trials in Tucson because of a lack of judicial manpower and space at the Southern Arizona courthouse.

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Louis Watts

My heart go out to all the judge's family and love one's. May he rest in peace.

January 10 2011 at 9:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Eric

I forget to add my prayers and condolences to the Judge's family in my earlier posts. May God rest his soul.

January 09 2011 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

A few weeks ago, on the anniversary of the JFK assasination, I was watching some clips of the TV news coverage of the shooting. David Brinkley was speaking of recent death threats made against federal officials, mostly over court rulings. Many of these threats were fanned along by pundits and plotical wannabees. Strange, the more things change the more they remain the same.

January 09 2011 at 4:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Krzykra

This just points up how our life can be over at any time. Then eternity.

And eternity is a long time to be wrong.........

--------- Jesus

January 09 2011 at 4:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
christierandall

What a shame...he just decided to stop by because he lived close to where she was having her public meeting. My prayers and thoughts are with his wife and children. I am sure he was a good man.

January 09 2011 at 10:17 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
CHABSENTIA

The shooter made rambling comments on My Space and Face book.He also read radical books such as the Communist Manifesto.The kid who killed a School Vice Principal and crtically wounded the Principal also made rambling comments on Facebook and left hints of his rampage. Yet nobody on Facebook reported these nut jobs, There is no doubt that comments used in Class warfare and alledged Racism which are never proven in most cases influence marginal people such as he shooter in a bad direction and hence they share soem blame.This shooter calimed he was an Afghan vet,however, he was rejected by the Army when he tried to enlist.He indiscriminately shot people including a nine year old child.Colleges and the Police were aware of Psychological problems yet this coward was not put in a Psychiatric lockup for 72 hour observence as provided by Law.

January 09 2011 at 7:59 AM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
Janice

This is truly a sad day. My thoughts and prayers are with Judge Rolls family and pray Ms. Giffords recovers swiftly. My prayers are also with the families of the others who lost a love one or were injured.

January 09 2011 at 7:40 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
occhurchpastor

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. God bless you all and thank you for the Judges service to our country.

January 09 2011 at 7:38 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Bill

I think that when a person, no matter who it is, issues a death threat against a person or persons, no matter who they are. he should immediately be incarcerated. People are locked up all the time for much, much less serious offences. If a person broadcasts and incites others to kill, they need to be locked up for the rest of their lives.

January 09 2011 at 7:09 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
manhattanshuffle

Raddison4X....to answer your question, the reason no mention of the other victims was because notification to family members were not complete as of yesterday. I wondered the same thing until one of the reporters explained it. I felt a sense that their lives were not important or as important since little was mentioned. Now I understand and completely agree.

January 09 2011 at 6:20 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

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