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Jewish Groups Back Death Row Inmate Who Says His Judge Was Anti-Semitic

(JTA) — A number of Jewish groups and lawyers are urging the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the scheduled execution of a Jewish inmate who said his judge was anti-Semitic.

In July, Dallas County Judge Lela Mays approved an Oct. 10 execution date for Randy Halprin, who was part of the “Texas 7” group of prisoners who escaped from a prison in the state in 2000. They were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer who responded to a robbery they committed. Four of them already have been executed.

But Halprin, 41, said in an appeal in May that the judge who sentenced him in 2003, Vickers Cunningham, referred to him using anti-Semitic language. He wants a new trial.

“Mr. Halprin’s trial judge, who presided over the death-penalty trial, made critical decisions about what evidence the jury would hear, and sentenced Mr. Halprin to die, was biased against Mr. Halprin, referring to him as a “f——n’ Jew” and a “G——n k—e,” Halprin’s attorney, Tivon Schardl, said in a statement.

Last year, The Dallas Morning News reported that Cunningham set up a trust in 2010 to give his children money if they marry a white Christian of the opposite sex.

On Thursday, the American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Men of Reform Judaism and Union for Reform Judaism filed an amicus brief in support of his appeal. More than 100 Jewish Texas lawyers signed on to the brief.

The brief said the issue at stake was not whether Halprin was guilty or not.

“[T]hose issues are irrelevant, because questions of guilt and punishment follow a fair trial; they do not precede it,” it reads. “And if Judge Cunningham is the bigot described in the application, a fair trial has not yet happened.”

The groups call for the court to “stay the applicant’s scheduled execution, and remand this case to the trial court for findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

In June, the Anti-Defamation League filed an amicus brief in support of Halprin’s petition.

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