Randy Halprin was among seven Texas inmates that escaped from Texas’ maximum security prison. They then stole an Oshman’s sporting good store in Irving. Aubrey Hawkins was killed by the robbers as he entered the Irving store. However, Halprin was sentenced in 2003 to death for his role in the robbery.
Halprin was due to be executed October 10, 2019. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals allowed him a stay. He claimed Vickers Cunningham was biased against Halprin. Halprin was Jewish and claimed that Cunningham was antisemitic. Although it might seem like an desperate last-ditch effort to escape execution, this week a Texas judge recommended that the appeals court set aside Halprin’s trial based on “overwhelming evidence of Cunningham’s bigotry.” Lela Lawrence Mays, Dallas County District Court judge, concluded that Cunningham failed to withdraw despite longstanding animus towards Jews. This violated Halprin’s right to due procedure.
Mays states that “the facts before us today are extreme by every measure.” The probability that actual bias is present on the basis of these facts rises to an unacceptable level. Cunningham has an “extensive history” of bias and prejudice, so a fair trial would be the best remedy.
Mays relies heavily on testimony of Cunningham’s family members and friends. None of these were challenged by the State. This portrays Cunningham as a person who hated racial and ethnic minorities all his life. Mays concluded that multiple witnesses, which corroborated one another on important points, were more reliable than denials by the ex-judge. Mays claims that Cunningham left Dallas’ bench to run in the Dallas district attorney race. He had deep-seated hatred towards people of other races, religions, and creeds.
Long-time friend Tammy McKinney testified, that Cunningham referred to Halprin, who was a “fucking Jew”, and “goddamn Kike” when they were growing up. Concerning Halprin’s death sentence and that of the other escaped convicts she said that he stated, “From Jew to wetback, they knew they would die.”
In light of Halprin’s crimes, the state claimed that these epithets could be understood by the state. Cunningham’s anger at Halprin’s involvement in Hawkins’ death doesn’t explain an observation about Barry Scheck (defense attorney), that Amanda Tackett reported. Tackett was a close friend of Cunningham who helped her unsuccessful campaign for district attorney. According to Tackett, Cunningham complained that the “‘filthy Jew’…was going to come in and free all these ‘niggers.'”
Righteous outrage does not account for why Cunningham claimed that Jews should be closed down, as they control all money and power, again according Tackett. According to Tackett, he threatened to end his daughter’s tuition payment if she didn’t break up with her Jewish boyfriend. Cunningham wore suspenders and a green veil before telling Tackett he was her “Jew banker” at the casino party. McKinney claims that Cunningham stated that “he wanted” to run for the office to save Dallas from “niggers,” “wetbacks”, Jews and dirt Catholics.
These examples show that the prejudices attributed to Cunningham by his friends and family extended far beyond Jews. McKinney said Cunningham had been calling his brother “nigger Bill” for as long as she could remember—a detail confirmed by Bill, who said Cunningham had mocked him with that sobriquet “his entire life.” Tackett stated that Cunningham joked about his “nigger tie” while he was on his way to “a campaign at a charitable foundation ran by African Americans.” McKinney said that Cunningham told any “nigger”, or “wetback” walking into his courtroom, they would go down.
Mays, a Dallas prosecutor notes that Cunningham deliberately removed potential jurors of color during jury selection in 1992 for a murder case. [He]Although he acknowledged his actions, he claimed that prospective jurors had been triggered by their Democratic party affiliation. [his]”Actions.”
Interview with HMDA in 2018. The Dallas Morning News, Tackett said Cunningham had complained a few years before about then–Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ efforts to exonerate people who were wrongly convicted. Did you ever see Watkins, the nigger who is releasing all these niggers? She recalled Cunningham’s words. She recalled Cunningham saying, “He won’t lose an election because all of the niggers want to get their baby daddy out jail.”
Mays writes that Morning News “reported that people close to Cunningham—including his mother, brother, and a former political aide—knew him to be ‘a longtime bigot.'” It stated that the former judge used “repeatedly”[d]The N-word is used to offend black people behind their backs.” And “described cases involving blacks as T.N.D.s,” which means “typically nigger deals.”
Cunningham confessed that he created a trust that would not pay money to his children if they were married to anyone other than white and Christian. Cunningham was not able to explain why he created a living trust for his children that would deny them money if they married anyone who wasn’t white or Christian. Morning NewsIn a video interview, he was asked if he has ever used this word. NigerCunningham stopped for nine seconds and then “asked” if the question was about using the word in court. After being told the question was about using the word in any context, Cunningham said he’d never done it before. After having seen Cunningham’s demeanor and delay, as well as the undisputed statements of [three witnesses]”Mays states that Cunningham’s denials are not credible.”
The state did not refute any allegations made against Cunningham in defending Halprin’s sentence and conviction. The state argued, instead, that Halprin was not deprived of a fair trial because his anti-Semitism or racism were not grounds for denying him his rights to a fair hearing.
You can see why Cunningham hates Jews. CouldThese factors could have had an impact on the verdict of the case. The Texas “law to parties” does not require that the prosecution prove Halprin’s murder or intent to kill Hawkins. He was only eligible for death sentences if he had “actually caused death” or “intentioned to kill another person”, or “anticipated that human lives would be taken.” Halprin was able to defend himself by denying any involvement in the robbery.
Halprin wanted to introduce the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s “ranking document.” It stated that Halprin “never demonstrated leadership qualities,” “very submissive” and that he was one of the weakest escapees. Mays noted that Cunningham had repeatedly denied Halprin’s request to put the ranking paper in place. She also notes that Judge Cunningham “repeatedly rejected Halprin’s attempts to introduce the ranking document” and that he “relied on his discretion to denial Halprin’s repeated efforts to have his expert witness testify regarding the facts underlying their opinions.”
Mays feels that one or more of the rulings could have had a significant impact on the outcome.
jury’s deliberations.” She points out that Halprin’s sentence was decided by jurors for six hours. They sent a note to Halprin asking them about the difference between anticipating that an individual’s life would be taken and expecting it.
Mays also notes that judges can show bias in subtler ways, which may not reflect in the official record. The 5th Circuit observed that “the records do not reflect the tone and facial expressions of the judge or his unspoken attitude and mannerisms. All of these, along with his statements and rulings on record, could have adversely influenced and affected the verdict of the jury.”
Mays states that Halprin may have been sentenced even with another judge. But, Mays claims, the Constitution prohibits a judge from participating in a criminal case if they “are biased or harbor an actual bias.” It does not matter if a judge had a bias that affected the trial outcome. Mays writes that “even if there’s no evidence of bias at the tribunal, fair process cannot be denied by the existence or appearance of bias.”
Cunningham’s private views on Jews and other minorities weren’t sufficient to prove unconstitutional bias, the state claimed. “If this Court were to accept the State’s argument,” Mays says, “it would find that the Constitution forbids a judge from presiding over a case in which he could receive $12.00 if he convicts the defendant”—an example drawn from a 1927 Supreme Court case—”but permits a judge to preside over a capital case despite the judge thinking of the defendant as a ‘goddamn [kike]”
Halprin is far from a sympathetic character. He brutally beat a child in 1996 and he was sentenced to death for the same crime. When he was released from prison, he had already served a 30 year sentence for this horrendous crime. Even the most vile defendant can have a fair trial. This is especially true in cases where the level of his culpability could mean the difference between life or death.