September 5, 2019 — Dallas, Texas
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is calling on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the scheduled October 10 execution of Randy Halprin and order a hearing on allegations that the judge presiding at his trial was hopelessly biased against Jews.
“The right to an impartial judge is not only a blackletter rule of constitutional law, but also integral to the functioning of the entire Texas judicial system,” states AJC in an amicus brief filed in support of Halprin’s petition. The brief was signed by AJC, over 100 Texas Jewish attorneys, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Men of Reform Judaism, and Union for Reform Judaism.
Halprin was sentenced to death in 2003 by District Judge Vickers Cunningham for his role as a member of the Texas 7 gang of prison escapees in the murder of a police officer in December 2000.
However, a Dallas Morning News article last year provided previously unknown details about Cunningham’s longstanding and deep-seated prejudices against Jews and other minorities that gave Halprin the grounds to challenge the fairness of his trial.
The brief disclaimed any view on Halprin’s guilt or innocence. What mattered was that his “trial” was fundamentally and irreparably flawed.
“Well into the twenty-first century, it is beyond dispute that a trial conducted before a racist judge who boasts of his bigotry is no trial at all,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern. “If the allegations here are true -- and they unfortunately ring true – the trial was no trial, and the verdict was no verdict, because the judge was no judge.”
The AJC brief argues that “instead of recusing himself, Judge Vickers Cunningham chose to preside over the trial of Randy Halprin – a Jewish defendant the judge later spoke of as a 'kike' – and the trials of Latino co-defendants – who no longer have a remedy because they already have been executed – he called ‘wetbacks.’”
AJC argues that the very essence of justice in Texas is at stake in the Halprin case. “Texas law is clear that hateful and prejudicial rhetoric cannot hide behind the robe,” states the AJC brief. “To maintain the integrity of and restore confidence in the Texas criminal justice system,” the appellate court should stay the applicant’s scheduled execution and “remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on the allegations” against Judge Cunningham.
The AJC brief was submitted by Marc R. Stanley of Stanley Law Group and prepared in collaboration with Martin Woodward of Stanley Law Group and Stuart Blaugrund of Blaugrund PLLC.