Judge says death row inmate in ‘Texas 7’ has been violated, must get new trial – CBS Dallas/Fort Worth
Huntsville, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – He was among seven fugitive Texas inmates who spent a month in the Reign of Terror in 2000 that began with the Christmas Eve murder of an Irving police officer. Now judge says A A Jewish death row inmate who was part of the so-called “Texas 7” gang must face a new death row trial for murder. Because the judge who presided over his case held anti-Semitic views.
Dallas District Court Judge Lilla Mays found that her predecessor, former Judge Vickers Cunningham, violated Randy Halperin’s right to a fair trial by not disqualifying him from Halperin’s trial for bias. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals recommended overturning Halperin’s conviction and Cunningham’s death sentence.
Cunningham was not immediately available for comment on Monday.
Halperin and six other inmates escaped from prison in 2000. The group later robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, killing police officer Aubrey Hawkins as they escaped.
The men were referred to as the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners. One of the members killed himself before the group was arrested. Four were executed, while Halperin and Patrick Murphy await execution.
The allegations against Cunningham, who oversaw Halperin’s trial in 2003, came after a newspaper story in 2018 revealed that he had a living trust that rewarded his children to straight marriage. Cunningham affirmed the confidence but said he wasn’t a fanatic.
The story prompted an investigation by Halperin’s attorney, which found that Cunningham had used racial slurs and anti-Semitic language to refer to Halperin and some of the other defendants, according to an appeal they filed in state court. Cunningham also denied it.
The Texas Court of Appeals halted Halperin’s execution in 2019, and ordered that the case be returned to the Dallas County Court that had convicted him so that it could review Halperin’s claims.
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