A Jeff Ross Roast May Have Put A Man on Death Row

Footage from Ross’ 2015 special may have influenced the outcome of a Texas murder trial
A Jeff Ross Roast May Have Put A Man on Death Row

The headline “Jeff Ross Kills at a Roast” would have been much more lighthearted before yesterday.

The Roastmaster General has confoundingly found himself at the center of a Supreme Court death penalty appeal after footage from his 2015 special Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail was submitted as evidence in the murder trial against one of the incarcerated audience participants that resulted in a death sentence against the defendant. The attorney for Gabriel Paul Hall has claimed that footage of his client’s interactions with Ross was used to “prejudice the jury” against Hall, and that the country’s highest court needs to review the constitutionality of using roast jokes as evidence in murder trials.

Hall was convicted of murder for his brutal attack on Professor Edwin Shaar and his disabled wife, a charge for which Hall was awaiting trial when he participated in the Ross roast. In her petition, Hall’s defense attorney, McKenzie Edwards, has claimed that “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.” 

In cut footage from the special, an interchange between Ross and Hall allegedly included “numerous vulgar provocations by Ross and damaging responses from Petitioner (Hall).” The State of Texas showed this footage to the jury in Hall’s murder trial, a move that Edwards believes improperly influenced the verdict and sentencing.

Edwards explained that the jail allowed Ross and his film crew access to her client without an attorney present despite her request that the sheriff’s deputies obtain her consent before allowing unrelated parties to contact Hall. The petition reads, “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."

No statement has yet been made by Ross, who previously explained that he decided to film the jail roast in order to humanize incarcerated persons, many of whom he believed to be victims of a broken system of institutionalized recidivism and overzealous convictions. Ross has not been indicated in any lawsuit related to the case, nor has there been any suggestion that he was even aware that footage from his special would be deemed useful as evidence in trials against his audience. 

If the Supreme Court rules that Jeff Ross roasts are admissible in court, then Pamela Anderson should finally open her case against Andy Dick for grabbing her breasts during the taping of hers.

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