Texas Halts Execution of Man Whose Trial Was Handled By Alleged Anti-Semite Judge

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday stayed the scheduled October 10th execution of a man convicted and sentenced to death on charges related to the killing of a police officer during a prison escape. The reason is because the judge who presided over the defendant’s trial is alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments against the defendant, who is Jewish.

Tivon Schardl, an attorney for the defendant, Randy Halprin, said the stay of execution “is a signal that bigotry and bias are unacceptable in the criminal justice system.”

According to court documents filed as part of Halprin’s appeal, Halprin’s trial judge, Vickers Cunningham, referred to him as “that f–kin’ Jew” and as a “goddamn k–e.” The same judge is alleged to have said that Jews “needed to be shut down because they controlled all the money and all the power.” The same judge made disparaging remarks against Latinos, the documents say.

“The clear anti-Semitism directed towards Mr. Halprin by his judge has troubled many members of the community who have spoken out, including legal professionals, faith leaders, defenders of religious liberty, and others. A fair trial requires an impartial judge – and Mr. Halprin did not have a fair and neutral judge when his life was at stake,” Schardl, the attorney, also added.

The trial judge, Cunningham, was also accused of not making a record of how he answered certain questions from the jury in Halprin’s case.

Halprin, a member of the so-called “Texas Seven,” did not kill the officer, Aubrey Wright Hawkins. He was convicted as a co-conspirator who could have “anticipated” that someone else in the conspiracy would use deadly force in a crime. In Texas, the so-called “law of parties” allows for a death sentence in such a case.

[Image of Halprin via the Texas Department of Corrections.]

Aaron Keller is an attorney licensed in two states. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. During law school, he completed legal residencies in the Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General and in a local prosecutor’s office. He was employed as a summer associate in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which manages the state police, and further served as a summer law clerk for a New York trial judge. Before law school, Keller worked for television stations in New York and in the Midwest, mostly as an evening news anchor and investigative reporter. His original reporting on the Wisconsin murder of Teresa Halbach was years later featured in the Netflix film "Making A Murderer."

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