WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Texas death row inmate who argued he should get a new trial because the judge who presided over his case was biased against Jews.
The justices said they would not hear the case of Randy Halprin, one of the so-called Texas 7, but Halprin’s claims of bias and that he should get a new trial are still under review by a Texas court.
Halprin and six others escaped from prison in 2000. The group later robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas, fatally shooting responding police officer Aubrey Hawkins as they fled.
Lawyers for Halprin, who is Jewish, said an investigation found that Judge Vickers Cunningham, who presided over his trial, was anti-Semitic and frequently used racial slurs.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the facts Halprin presented are “deeply disturbing” but she nonetheless agreed with the decision not to hear his case. Sotomayor noted that Halprin’s execution has now been stayed while state courts consider whether “bias infected his trial.”
Sotomayor wrote that the Constitution clearly requires a fair trial before an unbiased judge.
“I trust that the Texas courts considering Halprin’s case are more than capable of guarding this fundamental guarantee,” she wrote. She suggested the Supreme Court could still take the case at a later date.
Tivon Schardl, a lawyer for Halprin, said in a statement that lawyers would “continue to seek a new, fair trial.”
A Dallas Morning News story revealed in 2018, when Cunningham was running for county commissioner, that he had created a trust for his children that withheld money if they chose to marry someone who was not white or not Christian. The story also quoted a former campaign worker who said Cunningham used a racial slur to describe black defendants. In response, Cunningham denied ever using the racial slur and said in a statement that his “views on interracial marriage have evolved” since he set up the trust in 2010.
Halprin’s lawyers followed up with an investigation of their own which found that Cunningham used racial slurs not only to talk about African Americans but also to talk about Jews and Latinos. The investigation also found he allegedly threatened not to pay for his daughter’s law school tuition unless she broke up with a Jewish boyfriend.
Halprin and death row inmate Patrick Murphy are the only members of the Texas 7 that are still alive. One of the men committed suicide as authorities closed in on the group following their escape. Four others were convicted and executed. Murphy’s execution has also been stayed.