A killer prisoner on death row could be handed a reprieve over claims the sentencing judge is anti-Semitic.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals already halted Jewish inmate Randy Halprin’s execution in 2019, and will now rule on whether he should be re-tried, a motion supported by more than 100 Jewish lawyers in the state.
Halprin was part of the Texas 7, a group of prisoners who escaped from a maximum security prison near Kenedy, Texas, on December 13, 2000.
Six of the seven were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Irving, Texas police officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins, who was shot and killed when responding to a robbery perpetrated by the group.
Halprin, then 23, was serving a 30-year sentence for injury to a child when he was 19.
But now, Halprin could be retried after an appeals judge ruled that Judge Vickers Cunningham may have discriminated against Halprin because of his religion when he sentenced him to death.
In her findings, Judge Mays wrote that Judge Cunningham, “harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew, and that Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias.”
She added that a “new fair trial is the only remedy” for Halprin, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the “Texas seven” slaying of a police office on Christmas Eve in 2000.
Halprin had accused now retired Judge Cunningham in court documents of describing him as “a f***ing Jew” after the trial.
Former campaign workers and friends also said Cunningham “took special pride in the death sentences [of the Texas Seven] because they included Latinos and a Jew,” according to Halprin’s petition for a new trial, as reported by NBC.
The judge’s own brother supports the assertion that he is bigoted. After Cunningham drew national attention when he ran in the Republican primary for a Dallas County commissioner’s seat in 2018, his estranged brother said he was a “lifelong racist.”
Cunningham’s brother, who is married to a black man, said the judge promised to financially reward his children if they married people of the opposite sex who were white and Christian.
He later admitted this, but denied he was a racist. “I strongly support traditional family values,” Cunningham told the Dallas Morning News in 2018. “If you marry a person of the opposite sex that’s Caucasian, that’s Christian, they will get a distribution.”
Cunningham denied that his views ever impacted on his performance as a judge in Dallas County for 10 years.
Attorney Marc Stanley told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth: “When you have a judge that has a prejudgment against you and says horrible things about your religion or your race behind your back, you don’t have a fair trial.”
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