Jewish Group Calls for Stay of Execution of Texas Death Row Inmate Sentenced by Judge Alleged to Be Antisemitic
The American Jewish Committee has signed on to an amicus brief in support of a Jewish death row inmate the organization believes was the victim of an antisemitic judge and therefore was denied a fair trial.
Randy Halprin is due to be executed on October 10. He was a member of the “Texas 7,” a group of escaped prisoners who murdered a police officer in the commission of a robbery during a crime spree.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Officer Aubrey Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over with a car on Christmas Eve 2000. Halprin claims he did not fire a gun but was convicted for his role in the robbery under a Texas law that considers all persons involved in a crime to bear the same measure of guilt.
Halprin had a history of extreme violence, including the brutal beating of a 16-month-old child, leaving the victim with broken arms and legs and a fractured skull.
He received a 30-year sentence for the attack, which he was serving at the time of his escape.
He was sentenced to death for his role in Hawkins’ murder in 2003.
The Morning News later revealed, however, that former state District Judge Vickers “Vic” Cunningham, who presided over Halprin’s trial and sentencing, had repeatedly made racist and antisemitic statements, including “n****r” and “f**king Jews.”
It was also reported that Cunningham set up a trust for his children contingent on them marrying someone white, Christian and straight.
Cunningham called the claims “fabrications” and blamed them on his estranged brother, who is homosexual.
Halprin’s lawyers said, “Before, during, and after Randy Halprin’s trial, Judge Cunningham harbored deep-seated animus towards and prejudices about non-white, non-Christian people. He expressed these views frequently in private and they informed his thinking about his public service in the law.”
“Judge Cunningham had a duty not to preside over a case in which he considered the defendant a … ‘[expletive] Jew,’” they asserted.
The AJC agreed with this position, saying in the brief, “The right to an impartial judge is not only a blackletter rule of constitutional law, but also integral to the functioning of the entire Texas judicial system.”
The brief states, “Instead of recusing himself, Judge Vickers Cunningham chose to preside over the trial of Randy Halprin — a Jewish defendant the judge later spoke of as a ‘kike’ — and the trials of Latino co-defendants — who no longer have a remedy because they already have been executed — he called ‘wetbacks.’”
“Texas law is clear that hateful and prejudicial rhetoric cannot hide behind the robe,” the brief adds.
It further calls for a stay of execution and for the appellate court to convene a hearing on the accusations against Cunningham.
“Well into the twenty-first century, it is beyond dispute that a trial conducted before a racist judge who boasts of his bigotry is no trial at all,” AJC General Counsel Marc Stern said.
“If the allegations here are true — and they unfortunately ring true — the trial was no trial, and the verdict was no verdict, because the judge was no judge,” he added.