Jewish Death Row Inmate in Texas Could Receive New Trial After Sentencing Judge’s Antisemitism is Exposed
A Jewish man who has been on death row in a Texas jail since 2003 could receive a new trial after antisemitic comments made by the sentencing judge came to light.
Texas resident Randy Halprin was convicted and sentenced to death nearly 20 years ago for the murder of police officer Aubrey Hawkins in the city of Irving, near Dallas. Halprin had been part of a group of inmates, dubbed the “Texas 7,” who escaped from a South Texas prison in 2000 and went on to commit several violent robberies, including the one in which Hawkins was killed, sparking a nationwide manhunt. Only two of the original seven members — Halprin and Patrick Murphy — have yet to be executed. Both prisoners received a stay of execution in 2019.
Subsequently, witnesses emerged who testified that the sentencing judge in Halprin’s case, Vickers Cunningham, had uttered antisemitic and racist comments about Halprin and his co-defendants. At a three day hearing in August, five of Cunningham’s friends and family members testified that the judge repeatedly used antisemitic slurs to refer to Halprin. They testified that Cunningham described Halprin and his co-defendants as “the Mexican, the queer, and the Jew” and said “I’m going to get them all the death penalty.” He derisively called Halprin “the g*dd**n k*ke” and “the Jew.” Of the Texas 7, he said “Every one of them knew when they stepped foot in my courtroom, from the Jew to the wetb**k, they were going down.”
Tivon Schardl, Halprin’s lawyer, praised the witnesses “who bravely performed their civic duty in a difficult case left no doubt that Judge Cunningham harbored antisemitic bias towards Randy Halprin during his capital murder trial.”
Schardl added that findings on Halprin’s behalf would be proposed soon for the convening of a new trial before an unbiased judge.
Some of the most damning testimony at August’s hearing came from Cunningham’s brother, Bill.
“He should never have been a judge regrettably, should never have been a judge calling balls and strikes in a system that is supposed to be equal and fair for everyone,” Bill Cunningham said of his brother.
On Tuesday, the district attorney in Tarrant County, Sharen Wilson, filed a request on a Dallas court to overturn Halprin’s capital murder conviction on the grounds of Cunningham’s virulent antisemitism. Her memorandum recommended that Halprin be granted a new trial, arguing that Cunningham “harbored actual bias against him at the time of trial.”