A Texas judge this week strongly recommended that a convicted murderer on death row be granted a new trial because of the blatant racism and anti-Semitism she says the trial judge displayed.
The recommendation, issued Monday by Justice Lela Mays of the Dallas County Criminal District Court, paves the way for an appeals court to decide whether to order a new trial for inmate Randy Halprin, a member of the So- saying Texas Seven who was sentenced and sentenced to death in 2003 for her role in the murder of a police officer.
Mr Halprin, 44, who is Jewish, received a stay of execution in 2019 after his lawyers discovered that Vickers Cunningham, the judge who oversaw Mr Halprin’s murder trial, had consistently used racist language and anti-Semitic slurs by referring to Mr. Halprin.
Justice Mays said in her recommendation that at the time of Mr. Halprin’s trial, Mr. Cunningham had “possessed a real bias against Halprin, because of Halprin’s religious faith”.
“A fair new trial is the only recourse,” she said in a 58-page document, over 10 pages of which detailed Mr. Cunningham’s “long history of prejudice and prejudice”.
“Although Judge Cunningham was not in fact biased against Halprin because of the latter’s Jewish identity,” she wrote, “the judge’s statements on saving Dallas from the Jews, his statements concurring to anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes, his use of anti-Semitic slurs in referring to Halprin “show that” religious and ethnic bigotry has provided more than enough temptation for it not to maintain the balance well, clear and true between the State and Halprin ”.
Mr Cunningham, who retired as a Dallas County Criminal District Court judge in 2005, did not respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday night. He has previously denied using racist language and said his personal opinions did not affect his decisions in court.
Tivon Schardl, Federal Public Defender for Mr. Halprin, said Judge Mays’ recommendation would now be considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal. Mr Schardl said that although a new trial for Mr Halprin was not guaranteed, Judge Mays’ recommendation was an important step which “was based on undisputed evidence”.
The Dallas County District Attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
It is not known when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal plans to make a decision. The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday evening.
Judge Mays’ recommendation was the latest development in court cases involving a group of men who killed a police officer in a series of robberies after escaping from prison in December 2000.
Mr Halprin has always maintained that he did not shoot a gun, telling a jury at his trial that he did not want to carry a gun and that he “panicked” when the other men started shooting. His attorneys said Mr. Halprin was at the bottom of the Texas Seven hierarchy.
In her opinion on Monday, Judge Mays cited several instances in which Mr Cunningham had used profanity when referring to the Jewish people. In addition, Judge Mays wrote of a friend of Mr. Cunningham’s, Amanda Tackett, who recalled hearing Mr. Cunningham refer to Mr. Halprin as “Jewish”. Ms Tackett also recalled that Mr Cunningham “asked his daughter to break up with ‘that Jewish boy’ by referring to her boyfriend at the time.”
Mr Cunningham came under scrutiny in 2018 when he told the Dallas Morning News in an interview that he had set up a living trust for his children with a clause that would reward them if they married a white person.
“I strongly support traditional family values,” Mr. Cunningham told the newspaper in 2018. “If you marry someone of the opposite sex who is Caucasian, that’s Christian, they’ll get a cast.”
Judge Mays’ recommendation also included a quote from Ms Tackett, who worked on Mr Cunningham’s 2006 campaign for the Dallas County District Attorney, in which she recalled that he said “he wanted to run to the elections so they can save Dallas from “race and religious minorities.” In the quote, racial and ethnic slurs are used to refer to Blacks, Latinos, Jews, and Catholics.