Execution of 'Texas 7' member halted amid claims trial judge was anti-Semitic

A Texas appeals court halted the execution of a Jewish death row inmate Friday after he claimed the judge at his trial was anti-Semitic.

Randy Halprin, who was part of the "Texas 7" group who escaped from a South Texas prison in December 2000 and then committed numerous robberies -- including one in which they shot and killed an Irving police officer -- was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection this coming Thursday. His attorneys argued that former Dallas County Judge Vickers Cunningham had used racial slurs to describe him after the trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent the case back to the Dallas County court that convicted Halprin for review of the claims, The Texas Tribune reported.

"A fair trial requires an impartial judge – and Mr. Halprin did not have a fair and neutral judge when his life was at stake," one of Halprin's attorneys, Tivon Schardl, said in a statement after the ruling.

In this Dec. 3, 2003, photo, death row inmate Randy Halprin, then 26, sits in a visitation cell at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. (AP Photo/Brett Coomer, File)

In this Dec. 3, 2003, photo, death row inmate Randy Halprin, then 26, sits in a visitation cell at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. (AP Photo/Brett Coomer, File)

Halprin's lawyers claimed Cunningham made various racist comments, including that people of color would "go down" in his courtroom and that Jews "needed to be shut down." They attributed the comments to first-hand accounts, according to a court filing reported by The Tribune.

The Dallas Morning News reported in 2018 that Cunningham admitted to adding stipulations in his will that his children could only receive an inheritance by marrying a straight, white Christian. Cunningham denied racial bigotry at the time of the Morning News interview. And he told the newspaper in June that the allegations made by Halprin's lawyers were "fabrications" from his estranged brother.

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Halprin, 42, was sentenced to death in 2003 for the murder of Officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve, 2000. The seven prisoners had escaped from prison more than a week earlier and committed numerous robberies while on the run.

They were allegedly robbing a sporting goods store when Hawkins arrived on the scene. The officer was shot 11 times. The escaped inmates were arrested a month later in Colorado, ending a six-week manhunt. One of them killed himself as officers closed in and the other six, including Halprin, were convicted of killing Hawkins and sentenced to death.

Halprin, who has maintained he never fired a weapon at the officer, was convicted under Texas' law of parties, which holds a person criminally responsible for the actions of another if they are engaged in a conspiracy.

Four of the "Texas 7" have been executed. Aside from Halprin, Patrick Murphy is the only other member alive. His execution was postponed in March because the state wouldn't allow a Buddhist spiritual adviser in the execution chamber with him.

Murphy is now scheduled to be executed Nov. 13.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.