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Judge recommends new trial for 'Texas Seven' death row prisoner

Judge recommends new trial for 'Texas Seven' death row prisoner
Randy Halprin was sentenced to death for the 2000 murder of an Irving, Texas, police officer. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- A Texas court has recommended a new trial for one of the so-called Texas Seven still on death row after showing the convicted murderer's trial judge made anti-Semitic comments.

Randy Halprin, 44, was sentenced to death in 2003 for the shooting death of Irving, Texas, police officer Aubrey Hawkins in 2000.

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Halprin argued he didn't receive a fair trial because he's Jewish and the trial judge, former State District Judge Vickers Cunningham, made anti-Semitic and racist comments about the Texas Seven defendants. Halprin's lawyers said the judge prejudiced the jury against him.

Lela Mays, a judge in the 283rd judicial district in Dallas County, agreed Monday and recommended a new trial for Halprin.

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Halprin's attorney, Tivon Schardl, praised Mays for making "the right call."

"The facts were never in dispute. Contrary to what the state said, the Constitution protects Texans from religious bigotry in the criminal justice system. We're confident the Court of Criminal Appeals will reach the same conclusion and order a new, fair trial for Randy Halprin."

Halprin was one of seven prisoners who overpowered workers at the Connally Unit in Karnes County using a detailed plan to break out of the prison. They took prison workers' uniforms, several weapons and more than 100 rounds of ammunition before fleeing north in a prison truck.

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On Christmas Eve, a botched robbery at a sporting goods store in Irving ended in a shootout between the escaped convicts and Hawkins, resulting in the officer's death.

According to court records, Hawkins died shortly after arriving on the scene and being shot nearly a dozen times. The seven escapees drove to Colorado, hiding in an RV park until January. One group member, Larry Harper, killed himself.

Under Texas' law of parties -- which holds all individuals responsible for a crime, regardless of their role -- the six surviving escapees were convicted in Dallas of capital murder.

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Texas previously executed Joseph Garcia, Michael Rodriguez, George Rivas and Donald Newbury for their role in the death.

A judge delayed Patrick Murphy's planned 2019 execution after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice denied him the right to have a Buddhist chaplain enter the execution chamber with him.

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