DALLAS COUNTY, Texas — Should one of the "Texas 7" get a new trial? That's the question before a Dallas County judge this week.
Randy Halprin went to death row in 2003. The Dallas County judge who sent him there was Vickers Cunningham.
But 19 years later, witnesses are now testifying in a hearing that the judge was known to make racial and anti-Semitic comments. Halprin is Jewish.
The judge’s brother, Bill Cunningham, was among the witnesses.
"He should never have been a judge regrettably, should never have been a judge calling balls and strikes in a system that is supposed to be equal and fair for everyone,” said Bill Cunningham.
His brother and several other witnesses testified that during Halprin’s trial, former Judge Vickers Cunningham would refer to him as “an *expletive* Jew.”
"It’s clearly derogatory the way he phrased it. He’s not referring to Jewish people in a broad term, he says “the Jew.” And it’s clearly derogatory,” said Dr. Brian Edward Stone, defense witness.
In December 2000, Halprin and six others escaped a prison in Kennedy, Texas. They were known at the "Texas 7".
On Christmas Eve, they shot and killed Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Six were caught, and eventually sentenced to death. The seventh escapee committed suicide.
Before his escape, Halprin was already serving a 30-year prison sentence for beating a child. He confessed to being there when Officer Hawkins was murdered, though denies he fired a gun.
Prosecutors say Halprin is a bad man; but his attorneys say he deserves a new trial.
One-hundred Jewish lawyers agree with Halprin's attorneys. They submitted a brief saying, if the judge made anti-Semitic and racists comments, then Halprin should be tried again.
"If you are part of the justice system, you have to seek the truth and make sure everybody’s rights are protected, even the worst criminals... If we start dolling partial justice, then who else could be victimized,” said Bill Cunningham.
Witnesses also testified former Judge Cunningham made derogatory comments against Blacks, Latinos and Catholics. They believe all his cases should be reviewed.
Former Judge Cunningham is now practicing law. WFAA called his law office for comments and were told he had “no comment.”
Dallas County Judge Lela Mays has already said she believes Halprin deserves a new trial, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the judge had to hold a hearing on the issue.
Mays will submit her decision by mid-October 2022 to the appellate court so they can make the final decision.