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Texas death row inmate closer to new trial after allegations of antisemitic judge

A Texas demise row inmate whose execution was halted in 2019 after accusing the decide in his capital homicide trial of antisemitic bias is entitled to a brand new trial, a district court docket decide dominated Monday.

The advice from Dallas Legal District Courtroom Decide Lela Mays paves the way in which for the state’s highest prison court docket to determine whether or not inmate Randy Halprin, who’s Jewish, ought to get one other trial. The Texas Courtroom of Legal Appeals had beforehand granted a keep of execution lower than per week earlier than Halprin was set to die, permitting for Mays to overview whether or not the decide in his case, Vickers Cunningham, was prejudiced and should have discriminated in opposition to him due to his faith.

Mays in her findings agreed that Cunningham, who’s white, “harbored precise, subjective bias in opposition to Halprin as a result of Halprin is a Jew, and that Decide Cunningham’s anti-Semitic prejudices created an objectively insupportable threat of bias.”

She added {that a} “new truthful trial is the one treatment” for Halprin, who was convicted by a jury for his function within the Christmas Eve 2000 slaying of a police officer in a case recognized domestically because the “Texas Seven.”

The ruling places renewed concentrate on Cunningham, whom Halprin accused in court docket paperwork of describing him as “a f—— Jew” after the trial ended and utilizing a derogatory time period for a Jewish particular person.

Former marketing campaign staff and pals additionally mentioned Cunningham “took particular delight within the demise sentences [of the Texas Seven] as a result of they included Latinos and a Jew,” in keeping with Halprin’s petition for a brand new trial.

In 2018, Cunningham garnered nationwide consideration when he ran within the Republican major for a Dallas County commissioner seat and his estranged brother, who’s married to a Black man, claimed the previous decide was a lifelong racist who promised to financially reward his youngsters in the event that they married an individual of the alternative intercourse who’s white and Christian.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning Information, Cunningham denied the allegations made by his brother of being racist however admitted that he had created a residing belief for his youngsters with that particular clause.

“I strongly assist conventional household values,” Cunningham instructed the newspaper in 2018. “For those who marry an individual of the alternative intercourse that is Caucasian, that is Christian, they’ll get a distribution.”

Nevertheless, he mentioned his son was in a relationship with a lady of Vietnamese descent and his views on interracial marriage had modified.

Cunningham denied that his view ever clouded the job he held as a decide in Dallas County for 10 years, overseeing prison circumstances that concerned Black and Hispanic defendants. Judges in every state are certain to ethical and moral requirements, and complaints of racial bias can result in public reprimands and even suspension, though these are uncommon.

Those that knew Cunningham spoke with the Morning Information about his alleged use of racial epithets. A former marketing campaign employee mentioned she heard him apply a racial slur to Black individuals on a number of events, which Cunningham denied to the newspaper. The marketing campaign employee additionally mentioned the decide used a derogatory time period for undocumented individuals in the US to explain a few of Halprin’s co-defendants, in keeping with Halprin’s petition. Cunningham didn’t particularly reply to that allegation.

Regardless of the rancor involving Cunningham’s marketing campaign, he misplaced the race for his get together’s nomination by solely 25 votes.

Cunningham couldn’t be reached now for touch upon the brand new ruling.

In Halprin’s bid for a brand new trial, greater than 100 Jewish attorneys in Texas signed onto a short in assist of the request.

“When you will have a decide that has a prejudgment in opposition to you and says horrible issues about your faith or your race behind your again, you do not have a good trial,” lawyer Marc Stanley of Dallas instructed NBC Dallas-Fort Price.

Halprin, 44, was initially serving a 30-year jail sentence on a felony youngster abuse cost when he escaped from jail with six different inmates in 2000. In response to prosecutors, the boys robbed a sporting items retailer within the Dallas suburb of Irving. A police officer who responded was fatally shot because the group fled.

A manhunt led to the seize of the so-called Texas Seven, who had been featured on “America’s Most Wished.” One of many seven killed himself earlier than he may very well be arrested. Every defendant was tried individually, with Cunningham overseeing 5 of their trials, together with that of Halprin, who was sentenced to demise in 2003. 4 of the six defendants have since been executed.

After the Texas Courtroom of Legal Appeals halted Halprin’s execution two years in the past, a overview was opened this yr over the allegations in opposition to Cunningham. Throughout a listening to in July overseen by Mays, prosecutors and trial attorneys who initially represented Halprin denounced Cunningham’s remarks however denied that Halprin did not get a good trial.

Whereas Cunningham’s alleged feedback “are reprehensible and egregious, they present post-trial hostility that doesn’t display a due course of violation in opposition to this man on the time of trial,” Tarrant County prosecutor Anne Grady mentioned on the time.

The Tarrant County Legal District Lawyer’s Workplace declined to remark Tuesday as a result of litigation is ongoing.

Halprin’s federal public defender, Tivon Schardl, mentioned in an announcement that Mays “undoubtedly made the fitting name.”

“Opposite to what the State mentioned, the Structure protects Texans from spiritual bigotry within the prison justice system,” Schardl mentioned. “We’re assured the Courtroom of Legal Appeals will attain the identical conclusion and order a brand new, truthful trial for Randy Halprin.”

It was not instantly clear when the court docket plans to revisit the case.

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