TARRANT COUNTY, Texas – A man convicted of murdering an Irving police officer may receive a new trial due to the alleged partiality of the judge who presided over his case.
Sharen Wilson, the district attorney for Tarrant County, seeks a new trial for death row convict Randy Halprin.
Halprin was a member of the ‘Texas 7’, a group of inmates convicted of murdering Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins who escaped from jail.
The ruling includes additional evidence to support the contention that now-retired Judge Vickers Cunningham, who presided over Halprin’s 2003 trial, had a severe anti-Jewish bias.
The paper indicates that “it is considerably more plausible that Judge Cunningham harbored deep-seated hostility and prejudice against Jewish people, that he developed this animosity prior to Halprin’s trial, and that he used anti-Semitic slurs when referring to Halprin”
“Cunningham’s brother… testified that Cunningham referred to the Applicant (Halprin) and his co-defendants in the Texas 7 as ‘the Mexican, the homosexual, and the Jew’,” it continues.
Andrew Wirmani, a former federal prosecutor and defense attorney, thinks that the evidence and timing of the judge’s claimed insulting statements are crucial.
“Undoubtedly, all humans have certain biases. You presume that judges set these aside when they take the oath and preside over a trial “explained Wirmani. “The brother testified that insulting remarks were made specifically about these defendants during the trial. This appears to be the focus of their brief, which is causing what is known as a’structural error’, which essentially means that there is no need to demonstrate that the error affected the jury’s verdict. Simply put, it is difficult to determine how exactly this bias affected the judge when it exists.”
Halprin is one of the two Texas 7 members currently alive and awaiting execution.
Wednesday morning, District Attorney Sharen Wilson presented her opinion. Dallas County recused itself from the appointment since one of Cunningham’s relatives is an employee.
The summary of the document states, “Cunningham’s opinions constitute an objectively intolerable danger of bias in breach of the Applicant’s entitlement to due process.”
Wirmani feels a second trial would be difficult if granted by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
“There are obvious difficulties in trying such an ancient case. Witnesses may not be available, and their memories may not be as clear as they were at the time, making it difficult on numerous fronts.”