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Jewish inmate on death row in Texas could get new trial after judge accused of being anti-Semitic


Randy Halprin in 2003. AP Photo / Brett Coomer, File

A Texas district judge ruled on Monday that Randy Halprin, a Jewish death row inmate, was entitled to a new trial, after the judge who sentenced him was charged with anti-Semitism.

It is now up to Texas’ highest criminal court to decide whether Halprin, 44, will receive a new trial.

In December 2000, Halprin was serving a 30-year sentence for the felony of child injury. He escaped with six other inmates and, while on the run, they robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas. The detainees shot and killed a policeman who responded to the theft; within weeks, six were captured and the other died by suicide. All six were tried separately and sentenced to death, with Judge Vickers Cunningham overseeing the trials of Halprin and four other inmates.

In 2019, Halprin filed for a new trial, accusing Cunningham of being anti-Semitic and calling him a “Jewish f — king.” A year earlier, when Cunningham entered the Republican primary for a Dallas County commissioner seat, campaign workers publicly said they heard Cunningham use the N word. Cunningham’s estranged brother, who is gay and married to a black man, described him as a fanatic who set up a trust fund so his children could only have money if they married white Christians of the opposite sex. Cunningham denied being a racist, but said he built trust in this way because he “strongly supported[s] traditional family values.

Less than a week before he was put to death, Halprin’s execution was suspended and Dallas Criminal District Judge Lela Mays was tasked with determining whether he should have a new trial. In her ruling on Monday, Mays wrote that she found Cunningham “harbored a real and subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew, and that Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic biases created a risk of objectively intolerable bias.” . A new fair trial, she added, is “the only recourse”.

Prosecutors who tried the Halprin case condemned Cunningham’s alleged comments, but said Halprin always had a fair trial.

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