April 2, 2023

OBJECTION: Antisemitic judge’s vile comments may free a Jewish man from death row

OBJECTION: Antisemitic judge's vile comments may free a Jewish man from death row

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A Texas judge has recommended vacating the death sentence of a Jewish inmate due to antisemitic bias.

Randy Halprin, one of the infamous “Texas 7” who escaped from prison in 2000 was sentenced to death in 2003 after the escape resulted in the death of a police officer.

According to Dallas County District Judge Lela Mays, the previous presiding judge’s history of racist and antisemitic rhetoric and beliefs was so pervasive that it was a violation of Halprin’s “constitutional right to a trial in a fair tribunal equal protection, and free exercise of religion,” Law & Crime reported.

“Judge Cunningham’s avowal of a White Christian Nationalist ideology adds to the weight of evidence that he was unable and unwilling to suppress his anti-Semitic bias while presiding over Applicant’s capital murder trial,” Mays wrote.

Testimony from family members and friends of Judge Cunningham confirmed the defense’s accusations.

Bill Cunningham, the judge’s younger brother, said that his brother’s bigoted views began in childhood, testifying that Judge Cunningham “took pleasure in disparaging Jews and abusing people of color throughout his life,” and frequently called the younger sibling “N***er Bill.”

Childhood friend Tammy McKinney backed up Cunningham’s claims, saying the racist judge would use the anti-Jewish slur “k*ke,” when talking about Halprin.

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Halprin was a member of a group of inmates named the “Texas 7,” who escaped from state prison in December of 2000.

Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins was shot by one of the escaped convicts while the group was on the run.

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Although Halprin didn’t pull the trigger himself, a jury found him culpable thanks to a Texas law that deems a co-conspirator can be liable if believed to be capable of using deadly force in the commission of a crime.

Present at a Superbowl party at the home of Judge Cunningham’s brother Greg, McKinney testified to hearing the unapologetic racist refer to Halprin and his co-defendants as “a lot of wetbacks…and a Jew.”

Prior to the escaped convict’s scheduled execution in 2019, an amicus brief was filed by the American Jewish Committee, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and over 100 Jewish Texas attorneys in support of defense attorney’s motion for a new trial for their defendant.

The groups maintained that due to Judge Cunningham’s biases, he was incapable of being impartial, and therefore deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

“Judge Cunningham was required to “perform [his] judicial duties without bias or prejudice,” the brief stated. “His anti-Semitic statements and his use of slurs to identify Mr. Halprin and his co-defendants show that the Judge could not perform his duties as required.”

Halprin’s attorney’s filed for a stay of execution in August 2019, citing Judge Cunningham had commented that “Jews” controlled all the money and power and needed to be “shut down.”

News of the case spread throughout Texas, with human rights and faith groups calling for a stop to Halprin’s execution in the interest of justice, and fairness.

A letter signed by dozens of multi-faith organizations was sent to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot requesting that the defendant get a new trial based on religious discrimination and bias. In that letter, it said:

Texas must not carry out the scheduled execution of Mr. Halprin without first guaranteeing that  his trial was not tainted by an anti-Semitic judge who held a religious bias against him. We  humbly request that you take all necessary actions to halt the scheduled execution and ensure  allow that Mr. Halprin receives new legal proceedings free of religious bias.  

“Due process and equality before the law found their champion in Judge Mays today,” praised Halprin’s attorney, Tivon Schardl, “As the State conceded, the testimony presented to Judge Mays proved that Judge Vickers Cunningham was biased against Randy Halprin because of Mr. Halprin’s Jewish identity.”

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Whether or not Judge Mays’ recommendations are taken will be up to the Criminal Court of Appeals.

Judge Cunningham is no longer on the bench.

The shameless bigot retired in disgrace after it was revealed that the Christian nationalist added a clause in a trust he set up for his children, rewarding them for marrying a Christian of the opposite sex, and of the same race.

Original reporting by Elura Nanos at Law & Crime.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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