Science

This is why a Jewish death row inmate should get a new trial

A Jewish death row inmate who was part of a gang of prisoners who fatally shot a police officer after he escaped in 2000 should have his sentence overturned and a new trial as his case presides The adjudicating judge “upheld antisemitic bias,” according to a court ruling.

advocate for Randy Halpin has claimed that former judge Vickers Cunningham in Dallas used racial slurs and anti-Semitic language to refer to the inmate and some of his codefendants.

Randy Halpin
Death row inmate Randy Halpin in a visiting cell at the Polunsky Unit on December 3, 2003 in Livingston, Texas. Halprin sits on death row for his part in the shooting death of an Irving, Texas, police officer while he and six other escaped prisoners, known as the “Texas 7”, are on their way to a game in a Dallas suburb. Looting good stores.

AP Photo/Brett Coomer


Halprin, 45, was one of a group of inmates known as the “Texas 7” who escaped from a South Texas prison in December 2000 and then committed a series of robberies in which they killed 29-year-old Irving police officer Aubrey. was shot. Hawkins kills him 11 times while robbing a sporting goods store.

One of the seven prisoners who escaped killed himself before the group’s arrest. Four have been executed, while Halpin and another, Patrick Murphy, await execution.

“Cunningham not only harbored an anti-Semitic bias at the time of trial, but … he did not mitigate the influence of that bias in his judicial decision-making,” state District Judge Laila Mayes wrote in a ruling released late Monday. or could not.” from Dallas.

Mayes wrote that Cunningham used racist, homophobic and antisemitic slurs to refer to Halprin and other escaped prisoners tried in his court.

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

Cunningham stepped down from the bench in 2005 and is now an attorney in private practice in Dallas. His office said Tuesday it would not comment on Halpin’s case.

Halpin’s case will be sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final decision on whether his conviction is overturned, and whether he receives a new trial. Halpin’s execution was stayed by an appeals court in 2019.

“The Constitution allows only one remedy in cases of judicial bias, and that is to vacate the decision of a biased court and afford a fair trial before an impartial judge. We are confident that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal will follow the law ” , accept the state’s concessions, and adopt the trial court’s recommendations,” Tivon Shardle, one of Halpin’s attorneys, said in a statement Tuesday.

In April of 2020, the US Supreme Court refused to take court case. At the time, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the facts Halprin presented were “deeply troubling”, but she nevertheless agreed with the decision not to hear her case.

In October 2021, Mayes found that Cunningham had violated Halpin’s right to a fair trial and recommended overturning his death sentence. But in May the appeals court ordered an evidence hearing before considering the case.

Mace’s decision on Monday came after a three-day trial in Dallas in August in which several witnesses, including Cunningham’s brother and two lifelong family friends, testified that the former judge often spoke clearly adversarial and hostile before and after Halpin’s trial in 2003. Racial slurs were used. In reference to him and several other escaped prisoners.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office was assigned to handle legal issues related to Halprin’s allegations after the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, was disqualified from participating.

In September, Tarrant County prosecutors filed court documents in which they said Halprin should receive a new trial because Cunningham showed “actual bias” against the inmate.

Cunningham has denied allegations of racial bigotry after telling the Dallas Morning News in 2018 that he has a living belief that rewards his children for marrying straight, white Christians. He had opposed inter-caste marriages but later told the newspaper that his views on such marriages had evolved. In his ruling, Mayes described Cunningham’s views as a “concept” of a white Christian nationalist ideology.

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