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A man was given the death penalty after footage of him being roasted in jail by Comedy Central’s Jeff Ross was used in his sentencing

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Jeff Ross onstage in a tuxedo, standing with arms spread during a 2019 Comedy Central roast of Alec BaldwinJeff Ross speaks onstage at the Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin at Saban Theatre on September 07, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.

Kevork Djansezian/VMN19/Getty Images for Comedy Central

  • A Comedy Central roast is at the heart of a death row appeal heading to the US Supreme Court.
  • 2015 footage of Jeff Ross roasting Texas jail inmates was used at a murder convict’s sentencing.
  • The inmate’s lawyers say the footage shouldn’t have been used and impacted the sentence.

A Texas man facing the death penalty is arguing that a Comedy Central “roast” conducted in his jail unfairly influenced his sentencing.

Footage from comedian Jeff Ross is now at the center of an appeal brought by convicted murderer Gabriel Hall, scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court in January. 

Hall was convicted in 2015 of the murder, in 2011, of elderly Navy veteran Ed Shaar and the stabbing of his wife, Linda. He was 18 at the time of the crime. 

According to court papers seen by Insider, Hall was awaiting trial at Brazos County Detention Center in 2015 when Ross and his film crew were allowed in to film a roast of the inmates, including Hall.

The show was later released as “Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail.”

While Hall’s footage never made it into the final cut, according to Rolling Stone, the state subpoenaed Comedy Central for his scenes and included them as part of its evidence in Hall’s sentencing, court papers say. He was given the death penalty. 

Today Hall’s lawyers, led by Robert C. Owen, argue that the footage was unfairly obtained because they had earlier issued a “no contact” letter to the jail, barring anyone from approaching Hall without their permission. 

That footage, they say, was central to procuring Hall’s death sentence. 

According to his lawyers, Hall “jokily tried to play along” with a conversation where he appeared to make light of his offense, punning on the word “hacking” to describe his crime.

They wrote that it shows “a professional comic consciously working to provoke a response from an unwary subject — aggressively pushing [Hall] to make ‘outrageous’ statements to which Ross offered ‘wild’ or scandalous rejoinders — to maximize the video’s commercial value as entertainment.”

In it, per their appeal, Ross repeatedly tells Hall to be more jovial and says he seems like a “fuckin’ scary dude.”

Ross also made several racially-tinged comments, nicknaming Hall — whose heritage is Asian — “Slim Sushi,” the lawyers say.

Ultimately, Hall’s lawyers wrote, Hall “comes off as a self-centered oddball” thanks to the footage.

Ross also made what Hall’s lawyers called “hostile and dehumanizing statements” about jail, with the comedian saying it was like “summer camp.”

Comedian Jeff Ross talks to Conan O'Brien in 2015 about his Comedy Central roast of jail inmates.Comedian Jeff Ross talks to Conan O’Brien in 2015 about his Comedy Central roast of jail inmates.


The state argues in its rebuttal that Hall voluntarily agreed to talk to Ross, and said he later signed a release form.

But Hall’s lawyers say this still contravened his “no contact” order and was done without prior legal advice, ultimately arguing it violates Hall’s Sixth Amendment rights. 

The state also argues that it was only a small, non-central part of a volume of evidence presented to the sentencing jurywhich also heard what it described as the “most shocking” parts of Hall’s original confession.

Per the state, Hall told police he ignored his victim Linda Shaar — who uses a wheelchair — who pleaded for mercy when he stabbed her in the neck. She ultimately survived the attack. 

Both Linda and Ed Shaar were strangers to Hall, who nonetheless planned their murder for more than a year, the state’s counsel said.

Hall’s defense lawyers said he had experienced extensive childhood trauma, impoverishment, and, later, PTSD, which the state challenged.

Neither Ross nor Comedy Central responded to Insider’s request for comment on the case. 

Speaking to Conan O’Brien about the episode in general in 2015, however, Ross said he intended to “put a human face on the inmate in America” through the project.

According to Rolling Stone, the finished show also included statistics about mass incarceration in the US and had him talking about his belief in second chances.

“Ninety percent of the people in jail right now are coming out someday,” he said. “So you have to give them some hope, give them some laughs. We have to humanize criminals, we treat them like dust.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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