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TX Judge Cites Anti-Semitism, Seeks To Void Jewish Man's Death Penalty

A Jewish Texas death row inmate, Randy Halprin, convinced a state judge his punishment is unconstitutional because the trial judge insulted him with anti-Semitic remarks, reports Courthouse News Service. Dallas County District Judge Lela Mays ruled in Halprin’s habeas case that he did not receive a fair trial in 2003 before Judge Vickers Cunningham and recommended the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacate Halprin’s conviction and sentence. Mays urged the appeals court to conclude that Halprin was denied free exercise of religion, due process and equal protection rights. Halprin was serving a 30-year sentence for injuring a child in December 2000 when he and six other inmates escaped from a prison. Known as the “Texas Seven,” the men shot Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve 2000 after stealing 44 guns from a sporting goods store. Halprin testified that he did not help plan the escape, nor did he shoot Hawkins. However, the jury found him guilty of capital murder under Texas statute called the law of parties, which permits convictions for all accomplices in a murder, even if they did not participate.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed Halprin's execution in 2019 and asked the trial court to explore his claims Cunningham had called him anti-Semitic slurs. Cunningham discussed the Texas Seven defendants' trials during a holiday dinner. “The credible testimony of Judge Cunningham’s family members establishes that Judge Cunningham was determined ‘to get … the death penalty for applicant [Halprin] in part because he viewed applicant as merely a Jew and in part because getting a death sentence for applicant and his co-defendants would be politically advantageous for Judge Cunningham,” Mays wrote. Tammy McKinney, a childhood friend of Cunningham who served as his court coordinator during the Texas Seven trials, testified that Cunningham is a “lifelong bigot” and that he had called Halprin a “kike” after his trial. The case heads back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is expected to follow Mays’ recommendation to vacate Halprin’s conviction and sentence. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot would decide whether to request a capital murder retrial of Halprin, to seek lesser charges against him or to drop the prosecution entirely.

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