By The Vanguard Staff
DALLAS, TX – The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office urged the district court to grant “habeas relief” because the trial judge presiding over the murder trial of Randy Halprin “harbored actual bias against him at the time of trial.”
And the district judge has now recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturn the conviction and death sentence the trial judge imposed on Halprin, who is Jewish.
The State’s Post-Hearing Proposed Memorandum, Findings of Fact, and Conclusions of Law were filed following a live hearing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The three-day hearing before Judge Lela Mays, in the District Court for the 283rd District, Dallas County, began on Aug. 29.
Halprin’s attorneys presented five witnesses who testified about Judge Vickers Cunningham’s racist and anti-Semitic views, and his specific bias against Halprin.
The defense charged, “Although Judge Cunningham kept his views from the public, people close to him knew he referred to Black people using the N-word, called Latinos “w*****ks,” and used anti-Semitic slurs like “k**e” for Jews.”
“Today’s filing by the office of Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson sends a clear message: the Constitution guarantees a fair trial before a fair court, and in the State of Texas, neither the prosecution, nor the defense, nor any reviewing court can let stand a judgment handed down by a biased judge,” said Tivon Schardl, attorney for Halprin.
“Witnesses who bravely performed their civic duty in a difficult case left no doubt that Judge Cunningham harbored anti-Semitic bias towards Randy Halprin during his capital murder trial. These facts have troubled many members of the community, including legal professionals, faith leaders, defenders of religious liberty, and others who hold our constitutional rights dear,” the defense attorney argued.
On Oct. 11, 2021, Judge Mays concluded that her predecessor, Judge Cunningham, harbored anti-Semitic views and violated Randy Halprin’s right to a fair trial by presiding over Halprin’s capital murder trial instead of recusing himself for bias.
According to the defense, in 2018, “Judge Cunningham’s racism was exposed in the Dallas Morning News by his brother and a friend who also served as an aide to his campaign to become the district attorney in Dallas” when witnesses told Judge Mays “Judge Cunningham called Mr. Halprin a ‘goddam k**e,’ and, when speaking about his work on the Texas 7 case, bragged that the ‘w*****ks and the Jew knew they were going to die’ with him on the bench.”
The defense added, Texas’s then-governor Rick Perry picked Judge Cunningham to preside over the capital murder trials of Halprin and four other men who participated in the so-called Texas 7 prison break.
“The seven men broke out of the Connally Unit in South Texas in December 2000. While fleeing from the robbery of an Oshman’s store in Dallas on Christmas Eve, members of the group other than Halprin shot and killed police Officer Aubrey Hawkins,” explained defense lawyers.
In 2019, maintained defense lawyers, the Dallas District Attorney’s Office sought an execution date for Halprin “despite the evidence of Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic bias. Judge Mays set Halprin’s execution for Oct. 10, 2019.”
But, on Oct. 4, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution and ordered Judge Mays to make findings and recommendations related to Halprin’s claim that Judge Cunningham was biased and violated his right to freedom of religion.
The Dallas DA’s Office recused itself from the case, and Judge Mays appointed Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson to represent the State of Texas.
“Today, the lawyers in Ms. Wilson’s office repaid the people of Texas and Judge Mays’s belief in their professionalism and integrity with their example of solid, constitutional advocacy,” Mr. Schardl said.
The defense added, “We will propose findings on Mr. Halprin’s behalf soon, join District Attorney Wilson in urging the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to recognize that the Constitution permits no other outcome in this case other than a new, fair trial, before an unbiased judge.”