The Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) will rule on whether comedian Jeff Ross’ roast of a convicted murderer can be used to sentence him to death.
Gabriel Paul Hall was convicted in 2015 for the murder of a retired Texas A&M University professor and his disabled wife, Edwin and Linda Shaar, in 2011.
Hall, who was an 18-year-old student at A&M Consolidated High School at the time, confessed to the crime before being sentenced to death by a Texas state court.
According to his attorneys, he experienced an impoverished childhood in “a squalid Philippine slum” and later lived in an abusive adoptive home in the U.S.
During the penalty phase of Hall’s case, the presiding judge admitted unaired footage from a 2015 Comedy Central film special featuring comedian Jeff Ross, also known as the “Roastmaster General.” The special, “Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail,” was filmed where Hall was being held. The jail reportedly allowed Ross to record interviews with any inmate who signed a release.
According to McKenzie Edwards, an attorney representing Hall, the footage contained “numerous vulgar provocations by Ross and damaging responses from Petitioner (Hall).” While Hall’s interview was not included in the final cut of the show, the footage was released to the jury as evidence against Hall.
Edwards petitioned for the Supreme Court to review Hall’s sentence, arguing that the footage helped prosecutors influence the jury against Hall, which led to his death sentence.
She also said that the film crew interviewed Hall without informing his attorneys, who allegedly requested deputies seek their consent before allowing anyone to have contact with Hall.
A Texas jail volunteered to let Comedy Central comedian Jeff Ross roast its inmates. It encouraged inmates to participate. Texas then used the footage to sentence my client, Gabriel Hall, to death. We’re asking #SCOTUS to review the constitutionality of Mr. Hall’s sentence.
A Texas jail volunteered to let Comedy Central comedian Jeff Ross roast its inmates. It encouraged inmates to participate. Texas then used the footage to sentence my client, Gabriel Hall, to death.
We’re asking #SCOTUS to review the constitutionality of Mr. Hall’s sentence. pic.twitter.com/JFNFskKHDw
— McKenzie Edwards (@mckeds) December 28, 2022
Hall now requests that his death sentence be overturned on the grounds that he was denied his Constitutional right to counsel.
Edwards urged the Supreme Court to see whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals erred in ruling that the State did not violate her client’s Sixth Amendment rights to an impartial jury.
“The State gave a third-party civilian otherwise unobtainable physical access to Petitioner and then used the statements that civilian elicited from Petitioner as evidence against petitioner at the penalty phase of his capital murder trial,” the petition states.
The SCOTUS has scheduled a conference on Jan. 6, 2023,, to consider the petition for a writ of certiorari and decide whether the comedian’s roast can be used as evidence against Hall.
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