Murder Podcast on Trial of Woody Harrelson’s Dad Spurs Defamation Suit

The Spotify podcast “Son of a Hitman,” which tells the story of Charles Harrelson’s life and crimes, is the subject of a new defamation lawsuit brought by an eyewitness to the assassination of a federal judge.

Charles Harrelson’s mugshot from May 1960. (Image from Murderpedia via Courthouse News)

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — An eyewitness who testified at the 1980s murder trial of hitman Charles Harrelson claims in a federal lawsuit that the Spotify-distributed podcast “Son of a Hitman” manipulated her interview to sensationalize the 10-episode show, while hiding the involvement of Harrelson’s two sons who, along with their actor brother Woody Harrelson, have long cast doubt on their father’s guilt.

Dr. Chrysanthe Parker, an inactive Texas attorney who holds multiple certified health care degrees and now testifies at trials as an expert witness in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder, says in her lawsuit that the podcast’s host used less than five minutes of her 90-minute interview to unfairly portray her as “a very unusual witness” who was complicit in a scheme to convict Harrelson with fabricated evidence, supposedly obtained through her hypnosis.

“The episode and the podcast as a whole purposely leads the audience to the false conclusion that Dr. Parker, as a young attorney and officer of the court, was either complicit or actively participated in manufacturing evidence to perpetuate an unfair trial on Charles Harrelson,” according to her nine-page federal complaint filed Wednesday in the Western District of Texas.  

Parker says her involvement in the notorious case began May 27, 1979, the morning U.S. District Judge John H. Wood Jr. was assassinated outside his San Antonio home moments before she had purposely been bumped into by a man she reported was Charles Harrelson. Parker went on to testify against Harrelson as an eyewitness placing him at the judge’s apartment building on the morning of the assassination.

Evidence at trial established that Harrelson, who had already been tried for one murder and been convicted of a second, had been paid $250,000 by drug lord Jamiel “Jimmy” Chagra to assassinate the judge, who was to preside over his case. Harrelson, who was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus five years for the crime, died in his cell in 2007 at Colorado’s Supermax federal prison.

Harrelson’s conviction, upheld twice by the Fifth Circuit and twice examined by the U.S. Supreme Court, was the subject of two unsuccessful appeals, including one bankrolled by his Academy Award-nominated son Woody, who enlisted famed attorney Alan Dershowitz to assist in the failed effort.

In her lawsuit, Parker says that she never would have agreed to be interviewed for the podcast had she known that two of the Harrelson siblings, Brett and Jordan, were involved in its production. She says the show’s host, journalist and producer Jason Cavanagh, concealed that he was working closely with the two siblings when he requested the interview.

She further claims a talent appearance release form she signed after the interview is unenforceable because it was obtained by fraud since it failed to disclose Brett Harrelson’s position as executive producer.

Along with Cavanagh, Parker sued Spotify USA, High Five Content, and Tradecraft Alternative for defamation and fraudulent inducement. She claims the show profited off the sensationalist presentation of her interview at the expense of her reputation, and that its false portrayal of her actions could cost her employment opportunities as an expert witness in cases involving post-traumatic stress disorder.

Parker’s lawsuit was filed in the courthouse named after the assassinated judge, the John H. Wood Jr. Courthouse in San Antonio.

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