Did Antisemitism Influence Death Row Sentence for Man Accused of Killing a Police Officer?

death penalty

Randy Halprin has been on Texas’ Death Row for a decade for a high-profile prison escape that resulted in the killing of a police officer a decade ago.

However, just weeks away from his scheduled execution attorneys say the trial judge’s alleged antisemitism may have tainted the case against Halprin who is Jewish.

Lawyers representing the “Texas Seven” gang member Halprin requested a stay of his execution set for Oct. 10. They claim that the judge who handled his 2003 case made racist and antisemitic comments when he was on the bench.

Halprin’s lawyers claim Judge Vickers Cunningham used anti-Semitic comments about Haprin after the trial ended. The Dallas Morning News reported during the former judge’s 2018 Republican primary race for Dallas County commissioner he told his children they would only receive an inheritance if they married straight, white Christians. Cunningham reportedly admitted putting such stipulations in his will. He went on to lose the election by 25 votes.

Halprin was arrested over an infamous crime. The “Texas Seven” gang members robbed a North Texas sporting goods store. Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins responded to the crime and was shot and killed. The gang comprising escaped inmates were arrested in January 2001 in Colorado where they fled.

The Texas Tribune reported four of the gang members have already been executed after they were convicted of capital murder. Another member killed himself before police could arrest him. The seventh member of the gang is also scheduled to be executed this fall.

In a 69-page brief, lawyers for Halprin argue the judge’s alleged antisemitism may have influenced the case. More than 100 Jewish attorneys have requested a new trial for Halprin with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. They claim the judge’s influence ranged from evidence submission to jury selection for the case. They said Cunningham withheld evidence that officials saw Halprin as the “weakest” of defendants, according to court documents. Halprin’s defense team said this evidence could have led the jury to consider an alternative to the death penalty.

Cunningham denied the allegations of bias, racism, and antisemitism in the case.

However, lifelong friend Tammy McKinney said in an affidavit sent to the court, Cunningham believed “Jews needed to be shut down because they controlled all the money,” the Morning News reported. He said the judge dislikes anyone, not of his race, creed, or religion.

Religion also played a part in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to give a stay of execution to Patrick Murphy, another member of the Texas Seven, earlier this year.

Murphy submitted an appeal against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) stating that his religious rights had been violated “by not allowing a Buddhist chaplain into the execution chamber with him.” The department only allows employees into the death chamber. It has no Buddhist clerics on its staff.

Texas habitually executes more people than any other state. However, a combination of more successful appeals, the lack of availability, and rising costs of execution drugs and public opposition mean the death penalty is being used more sparingly across America.

Texas executed 563 people since 1982; states The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Of these, 279 took place under former Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001-2014). Executions reached their height in Texas in 2000, when 40 people were executed.

In 2018, Texas put 13 people to death. This accounted for over half of the 25 U.S. executions last year.

State crimes are a serious matter in Texas where you are more likely to be sentenced to death for murder than anywhere else in the country. If you or a family member has been charged with this offense, contact our Dallas criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (214) 720-9552.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.