Editor's note: This story contains explicit language and has been updated throughout.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Randy Halprin on Friday, less than a week before he was to be put to death.
Halprin, one of the infamous "Texas Seven" — who were convicted in the 2000 murder of a police officer during a more than month-long prison escape — had recently argued that his trial was biased because his judge was "a racist and anti-Semitic bigot."
Halprin, who is Jewish, said in his latest appeal that former Judge Vickers Cunningham had described Halprin as “a fuckin’ Jew” and “goddamn kike” shortly after the trial. Cunningham also admitted to putting stipulations in his will that his children could only receive inheritance by marrying a straight, white Christian, as was first reported by The Dallas Morning News in 2018.
The Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest criminal court, stopped Halprin’s execution, set for next Thursday, and sent the case back to the Dallas County trial court for further review of the claims.
"A fair trial requires an impartial judge – and Mr. Halprin did not have a fair and neutral judge when his life was at stake," one of Halprin's attorneys, Tivon Schardl, said in a statement after the ruling. "We are very grateful the CCA has given Mr. Halprin the opportunity to seek a new trial, free of religious discrimination."
Cunningham did not immediately return requests for comment Friday afternoon. Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot, who did not file a response to Halprin's latest appeal, said Friday evening it was too early to determine what his office's next steps would be in the case.
Halprin, 42, was sentenced to death in 2003 in the high-profile murder of Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve 2000. Seven prisoners at a South Texas prison escaped more than a week earlier, and were robbing a sporting goods store when Hawkins arrived on scene. The 31-year-old officer was shot repeatedly and run over as the escapees fled. Halprin was found about a month later in an RV in Colorado with Larry Harper, who killed himself when police surrounded them. The other five were captured within a couple of days.
Halprin’s lawyers said in their filing they had recently learned about Cunningham’s anti-Semitic slurs, as well as calling some of his co-defendants “wetbacks.” They also claimed Cunningham said people of color would “go down” in his courtroom and that Jews “needed to be shut down.” The filings attributed the allegations to first-hand accounts. Cunningham has denied the bigoted comments in previous interviews with the Morning News.
Four of the other Texas Seven have already been executed — including at least one tried under Cunningham. Aside from Halprin, only one member, Patrick Murphy, remains alive, and he is set for execution in November. Murphy's scheduled execution in March was halted because the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would not allow a Buddhist spiritual adviser into the execution chamber with him.
Halprin’s was the second Texas execution stopped by different courts in two days. On Thursday, a Henderson County court withdrew the execution date of Randall Mays, set for Oct. 16, to review his mental competence.