Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stays execution of Randy Halprin; execution date withdrawn for Randall Mays

Two Texas executions scheduled to take place over the next two weeks have been halted. On Friday, October 4, 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) granted a motion for a stay of execution filed by attorneys for Randy Halprin, who had been scheduled for execution on October 10, 2019.

Halprin, who is Jewish, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death as a party in connection with the killing of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins during the robbery of a sporting goods store on December 24, 2000.  He and six others had escaped from a maximum-security prison south of San Antonio earlier that month.

Halprin’s 2003 trial was tainted by the anti-Semitic bias of Dallas Judge Vickers Cunningham; evidence of this bias only came to light last year.  Halprin claims this bias violated due process and his right to the free exercise of religion. The CCA remanded this claim to the convicting court for review.

Statement from Halprin’s attorney, Tivon Schardl, Chief, Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Public Defender, Western District of Texas.

“Today’s decision to stay Randy Halprin’s scheduled execution is a signal that bigotry and bias are unacceptable in the criminal justice system. The clear anti-Semitism directed towards Mr. Halprin by his judge has troubled many members of the community who have spoken out, including legal professionals, faith leaders, defenders of religious liberty, and others. A fair trial requires an impartial judge – and Mr. Halprin did not have a fair and neutral judge when his life was at stake. We are very grateful the CCA has given Mr. Halprin the opportunity to seek a new trial, free of religious discrimination.”

– Tivon Schardl, Attorney for Randy Halprin, October 4, 2019

Here’s a link to the CCA’s Order: https://tinyurl.com/y2md9tvr

Here’s coverage of the stay from the Texas Tribune: https://www.texastribune.org/2019/10/04/randy-halprin-texas-seven-execution/

The scheduled execution of Randall Mays also was halted last week, after a trial court judge granted a motion to withdraw the date so that he had “time to properly review all medical records submitted.”

According to the Texas Tribune, “Mays’ attorneys had filed a motion to find him incompetent for execution because he was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and believes he is to be executed because he has a renewable energy design that threatens oil companies.”

Mays was scheduled to be put to death on October 16, 2019. He was convicted of the fatal shootings of Sheriff Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn on his property in Henderson County in May 2007 in an incident that arose after a neighbor called the police about a disturbance.  He previously faced execution on March 18, 2015 but received a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) after the court agreed with Mays’s lawyers that mental-health assessments were needed to determine if Mays, who had been previously committed to state mental hospitals and been diagnosed pre-trial with an organic brain disorder, was competent to be executed. Under Supreme Court law, to be found “competent to be executed,” a person has to have a rational understanding of why he is to be executed, not simply know that he is to be executed because he was convicted of a crime.  

A retired judge, Judge Joe Clayton, presided over a competency proceeding for Mays. After a multi-day evidentiary hearing, Judge Clayton issued a two-page opinion finding Mays competent to be executed, thereby rejecting the opinions of two of the three court-appointed mental health professionals who had concluded otherwise. Two medical doctors who testified during the evidentiary hearing had concluded that Mays was incompetent to be executed, and a third, a psychologist, concluded that he was mentally ill but not incompetent to be executed. The CCA, in denying relief this summer, concluded that the judge had not abused his discretion in relying on only one of the three mental-health experts.

Judge Clayton granted the motion to withdraw the date on October 3, 2019.

Three of the four executions scheduled by the State of Texas in October have now been halted. At this time, Ruben Gutierrez is still scheduled to be executed on October 30, despite his longstanding requests for DNA testing.