100 Jewish Lawyers Stand Against Judge Accused of Using Racist Slurs Toward Inmate
“It is beyond dispute that a trial conducted before a racist judge who boasts of his bigotry is no trial at all,” the amicus brief said.
More than 100 Jewish attorneys and four religious organizations have filed an amicus brief siding with a death-row inmate who’s seeking a new trial amid allegations the judge referred to him using racist slurs about his Jewish heritage.
“The judicial system must purge itself of the resulting vestige of bias that undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our judiciary,” the brief said. “No individual should be executed without getting a fair trial untainted by considerations of race.”
The attorneys and groups filed the brief in the appeal of Randy Halprin, a member of the “Texas 7,” a group of inmates who escaped prison and went on a crime spree that ended with the murder of a Dallas police officer in 2000.
Halprin was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to the death penalty. He has filed multiple appeals in state and district courts, arguing that he must get a new trial because then- Dallas County Criminal District Judge Vickers “Vic” Cunningham’s judicial bias denied him his right to due process. Most recently, Halprin asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay his execution as a Dallas County district court considers his application for writ of habeas corpus.
Halprin’s motion claimed that in addition to the racial slurs, Cunningham “bragged about his role in convicting and sentencing to death the Jewish and Latino members of the Texas 7.”
Cunningham, who was a judge for 10 years and now operates a Dallas solo practice, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. However, he told the Dallas Morning News that he denied the allegations and believe they were fabrications that originated from his estranged brother and his friends.
Marc Stanley, principal of The Stanley Law Group in Dallas, helped organize the amicus brief and get 109 Texas attorneys to join it, as well as the American Jewish Committee, The Union for Reform Judaism, The Central Conference of American Rabbis and Men of Reform Judaism. It only took three or four days to find 109 lawyers who wanted to join, he noted.
“I just think it’s outrageous if a judge holds beliefs like that. And if in fact he made those comments about Halprin, it totally offends all our notions about the system of justice and the rule of law,” Stanley said. “If it was Latino, if it was African American, if it was Muslim—anything—everybody in this country is entitled to a judge who can call the balls and strikes of trial without prejudice.”
The amicus brief said that if the allegations about Cunningham are true, then Halprin must get a new trial before an impartial judge. It acknowledged that Halprin is charged with a horrible crime and that the signers didn’t know if he’s guilty or if he received an appropriate sentence. But that’s irrelevant, the brief said, because a fair trial must come first.
The lawyers wrote that they tell clients who are culturally diverse that judges do their best to judge impartially, regardless of race, national origin, gender or religion. They said their experience has been that most judges strive to do that.
“It is beyond dispute that a trial conducted before a racist judge who boasts of his bigotry is no trial at all,” the brief said. “This is a capital murder case, in which an individual’s life is in the balance, making it all the more urgent that credible allegations of bias are fully aired and determined.”
Seminole solo practitioner Paul Mansur, who represents Halprin, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
‘Texas 7’ Inmate Randy Halprin Faces October Execution for Irving Officer’s 2000 Death
In Dec. 3, 2003, death row inmate Randy Halprin, then 26, sits in a visitation cell at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. (Lead Picture background).
Halprin, a Jewish death row inmate who was part of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners, has filed an appeal claiming the former county Judge Vickers Cunningham, who convicted him, was anti-Semitic and frequently used racial slurs. Halprin argues that Cunningham should’ve recused himself.
An inmate who was one of the “Texas 7” escaped prisoners blamed for the 2000 slaying of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins faces execution this fall.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Randy Halprin is scheduled for execution Oct. 10. TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel, in an email Thursday to The Associated Press, said a judge in Dallas signed the order July 3.
Halprin, who’s Jewish, has a federal appeal pending that alleges a different judge who oversaw his capital murder trial was anti-Semitic and used racial slurs. Ex-Judge Vickers Cunningham has denied the allegations.
Halprin and six others in December 2000 escaped from the Connally Unit. Hawkins was shot while investigating a Christmas Eve robbery.
Do you know any civilian who could finch nearly $90,000 dollars and not face a criminal trial? We do.
They are called lawyers and it happens all the time in Texas.
Texas Bankruptcy Lawyer Finches $88k in Client Funds and Is Not in Jail nor Disbarred https://t.co/ilLEF1TN6e
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) September 3, 2020