Texas Court Recommends New Trial for Jewish Death Row Inmate Over Trial Judge’s Antisemitic Bias
A Texas state district judge recommended on Monday that a Jewish inmate on death row should get a new trial due to revelations that the judge in his original trial was an antisemite.
The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that Judge Lela Mays stated that State District Judge Vickers Cunningham was prejudiced against Randy Halprin, 44, who was sentenced to death in 2003 for the killing of a police officer.
“In light of all the evidence, this court finds both that Judge Cunningham harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew and that Judge Cunningham’s antisemitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias,” Mays said.
Noting Cunningham’s extensive involvement in the trial and sentence, she added, “Judge Cunningham’s bias towards Halprin not only harmed him, but it undermined the public’s confidence that criminal justice has been — and will be — dispensed impartially.”
One of Halprin’s lawyers, Tivon Schardl, called May’s recommendation “the right call.”
“Contrary to what the state said, the Constitution protects Texans from religious bigotry in the criminal justice system,” Schardl said. “We’re confident the Court of Criminal Appeals will reach the same conclusion and order a new, fair trial for Randy Halprin.”
Halprin 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.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Officer Aubrey Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over with a car on Christmas Eve of 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.
After Halprin’s trial and death sentence, the Dallas Morning News revealed that Judge Cunningham had repeatedly made racist and antisemitic statements, including “f**king Jews” and the use of the n-word.
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.
In 2019, the American Jewish Committee signed on to an amicus brief on Halprin’s behalf, with its General Counsel Marc Stern saying, “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. 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.”