Texas death row appeal based on Jeff Ross roast goes to high court

Texas death row appeal based on Jeff Ross roast goes to high court

Prison footage from a Comedy Central special was unconstitutionally used to win the death penalty against a man convicted of fatally shooting a married couple in College Station, his lawyers claim in a filing with the US Supreme Court .

Gabriel Hall was convicted in 2015 of murdering Edwin Schaar and stabbing Linda Schaar to death in their home several years earlier. While awaiting trial, Hall was interviewed in the Brazos County Jail by insult comic Jeff Ross for a special he was producing with Comedy Central, without the permission of Hall’s attorneys and without first being informed of his rights.

DEEP: How many innocent people have been executed in Texas? The case of Melissa Lucio highlights a disturbing list

Brazos County prosecutors played footage from the interview — in which Hall jokes about the killing — for the jury during the penalty phase of Hall’s trial after he was convicted of murder.

During this stage, they are asked to consider whether the convicted person is a “constant threat to society” or whether there are “sufficient mitigating circumstances” to warrant life imprisonment instead of death. The decision must be unanimous for a person to receive the death penalty.

The jury sentenced Hall to death after deliberating for more than seven hours.

Hall’s attorneys are arguing that the content of the video prejudiced the jury against Hall and that the interview violated Hall’s constitutional right to have an attorney present during questioning. The state of Texas has responded that the interview was not a violation because Ross was not working as a “state agent” when he conducted the interview.

Hall’s lawyers appealed the conviction to the state’s highest criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which upheld it earlier this year.

Next week, the justices will hold a closed-door meeting to discuss the basic facts of the case, and if four justices want to hear the case, it will receive a full court hearing. About 99 percent of such petitions in the Supreme Court are rejected each term.

In TV special, Ross performed for a crowd at the prison, and he was also filmed speaking one-on-one with several people incarcerated there. Ross is famous for hosting celebrity roasts and for his in-your-face, no-holds-barred style of comedy. A representative for Ross did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hall’s attorneys had issued a “no contact” letter to the Brazos County sheriff’s office requesting that Hall not be contacted by outside sources without the attorneys’ permission, the filing said. But despite that letter, Ross was able to approach Hall in the prison’s high-security wing, sit down with him and talk to him on camera for more than 17 minutes.

In the interview, Ross told Hall about his appearance and ethnicity and asked him questions about the crimes he had committed in prison. The document says Ross offered Hall “implicit encouragement to perform for the camera.”

“What are you here for?” Ross asked at one point. When Hall didn’t answer, Ross suggested, “Hack into someone’s computer?” and Hall said, “something like that, yes.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *