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December 14, 2022 12:01 pm
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Judge Sends Jewish Death Row Inmate For New Trial After ‘Antisemitic Bias’ Exposed in Original Sentencing

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Texas death row inmate Randy Halprin is seen outside a courtroom hearing on Jan. 26, 2001. Photo: Reuters archive

A Jewish death row inmate in Texas had his conviction overturned on Monday after a judge ruled that “antisemitic bias” had been a key factor in his original sentencing.

Randy Halprin, 45, will face a new trial over the shooting of a police officer in 2000 after Dallas District Judge Lela Mays ruled that Vickers Cunningham — the judge in Halprin’s original trial — had  “harbored antisemitic bias at the time of trial” and “did not or could not curb the influence of that bias in his judicial decision-making.”

Mays further noted that as a judge “with the power to influence the trials, Judge Cunningham’s use of these terms to refer to the co-defendants was racist because it combined the attribution of group characteristics with the exercise of power over them.”

Halprin was convicted and sentenced to death in 2001 for the brutal 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 inmates — Halprin and Patrick Murphy — have yet to be executed. Both prisoners received a stay of execution in 2019.

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Subsequently, witnesses emerged who testified that Cunningham had uttered antisemitic and racist comments about Halprin and his co-defendants. At a three day hearing in August this year, 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 goddamned K___” 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__, they were going down.”

Cunningham stepped down from the bench in 2005 and is now an attorney in private practice in Dallas. His office told CBS News on Tuesday that he would not be commenting on Halprin’s case.

Cunningham has denied allegations of racial bigotry after telling the Dallas Morning News in 2018  that he has a living trust that rewards his children for marrying straight, white Christians. He had opposed interracial marriages but later told the newspaper that his views on such marriages had evolved.

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