Comedian Jeff Ross’ 2015 visit to the Brazos County jail to roast inmates on TV for Comedy Central is making headlines once again after civil litigator and capital defense attorney McKenzie Edwards filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review her client’s Gabriel Hall’s death sentence. Edwards claimed that the state used footage of the visit during the trial to sentencing her client.
Ross, who is popularly known as the ‘one man verbal assault unit,’ was allowed to mingle with inmates for the special. During his visit, one of the first prisoners he approached was Gabriel Hall, who was awaiting trial for a brutal attack that left an elderly man dead and his wife severely wounded four years prior.
The footage of Hall was used in his trial and was viewed by the 12 jurors, who found Hall guilty of capital murder. He was ultimately sentenced to death. Ross’ defense lawyers then asked the state’s highest criminal court to overturn that death sentence and order a new punishment phase trial. They put forward the argument that jurors never should have been allowed to watch the video of Ross interviewing Hall.
The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas found no violation of Hall’s sixth amendment rights. So now, his lawyer Edwards is appealing to the SCOTUS to consider the appeal. She posted the documents of appeal on Twitter which shocked many.
What did Jeff Ross say about Asian prisoners?
At the time, defense attorney Rob Owen told the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals pointed out that one of the most troubling aspects of the video was the way Ross repeatedly referred to the Asian ethnicity of Hall, who was born in the Philippines. He was later adopted in the US.
In the transcript video, Ross conferred the nickname “Slim Sushi” on Hall. He asked Hall if he was in jail for computer hacking, comparing him to Harold or Kumar and other film characters portrayed by Korean-born actors John Cho and Kal Penn.
Thr attorney added that any juror who harbored “even a slight discomfort with Asian people” would be invited to weigh that in their internal deliberations, which was not fair to his client.
“Once you license the jury to consider the fact of somebody’s ethnic background, you don’t know where that’s going to go,” said Owen.