'Texas 7' convict deserves new trial due to 'antisemitic bias' - judge

Randy Halprin, a Jewish member of the "Texas 7," argues that the judge who convicted and sentenced him had an antisemitic bias that infringed on his right to an impartial trial.

 Randy Halprin, one of the "Texas Seven" prison escapees, is led out of the Teller County Courthouse after a extradition hearing in Cripple Creek, Colorado, January 26, 2001.  (photo credit: RTW/RCS/REUTERS)
Randy Halprin, one of the "Texas Seven" prison escapees, is led out of the Teller County Courthouse after a extradition hearing in Cripple Creek, Colorado, January 26, 2001.
(photo credit: RTW/RCS/REUTERS)

The judge who presided over Jewish "Texas 7" escapee Randy Halprin's trial allowed his antisemitic bias to influence the outcome, Dallas County District Judge Lela Mays affirmed earlier this week.

According to Mays, Vickers "Vic" Cunningham, the former Dallas judge who presided over the trial, may have had a biased approach to the convict due to his Jewish background.

The "Texas 7" was an infamous group of prison inmates who escaped from prison in 2000 before staging a slew of robberies that concluded with the Christmas Eve murder of Aubrey Hawkins, an Irving police officer. At the time of the escape, Halprin had been serving a 30-year sentence for having beaten a child in the Fort Worth area.

Credible proof of bigotry

In the ruling this past Monday, Mays supported the credibility of several witnesses who attested to Vic Cunningham's bigotry.

In the ruling, Mays wrote that there was "credible testimony about Judge Cunningham’s... animus towards [Halprin] at the time of trial because he is a Jew, and Judge Cunningham’s lifelong bigotry towards members of racial, ethnic, or religious groups different than his own."

Mugshots of Texas 7 escapees, December 13, 2000 (credit: MMR/TRA/REUTERS)Mugshots of Texas 7 escapees, December 13, 2000 (credit: MMR/TRA/REUTERS)

Additionally, the district judge wrote that there was "credible testimony that Vickers Cunningham is a lifelong bigot who, after the trial, referred to [Halprin] as a “k*ke.”

Mays also said that credible witnesses testified that Cunningham is an antisemite who "routinely referred to his younger brother, Bill Cunningham, as 'N****r Bill,' and used the phrase 'TND,' or typical n****r deal to refer to cases involving Black defendants."

In recent years, it appears that not much has changed for Cunningham. In 2018, he told the Dallas News that he had a trust fund set up for his children that stipulated financial rewards should they marry a person who is Caucasian, Christian and of the opposite gender.

What will the ruling mean for Halprin?

Following Mays' ruling, Halprin's attorney Tivon Schardl wrote that "the testimony presented to Judge Mays proved that Judge Vickers Cunningham was biased against Randy Halprin because of Mr. Halprin’s Jewish identity... [T]he Constitution allows only one remedy in cases of judicial bias, and that is to vacate the biased court’s judgment and start over with the chance at a fair trial before an unbiased judge."

A new judge and trial do not guarantee a different result for Halprin. Texas remains one of 27 states where capital punishment is legal. Furthermore, being associated with the murder of a police officer is a serious crime that, if he receives a sentence consistent with the sentences received by other members of the "Texas 7," may see him return to death row.

Aside from Halprin, only one of the seven escapees remains: Patrick Murphy, who received a stay of execution in 2019 when the state would not provide him with a Buddhist chaplain. 

Another of the seven, Larry Harper, committed suicide during the escape before he could be arraigned by the authorities; four others have since been executed by the state.