The New York and Texas delegation visiting Cebu on behalf of Fil-Am teenager Gabriel Espinosa Cañada Hall convicted of murder. In photo are (from left) Ramon Tinana, Nimfa Tinana (FALDEF), Atty. Dorothy Arcenas (FALDEF local lawyer), Atty. Mariano Tan (FALDEF local lawyer), Rob Cowie (mitigation specialist, Texas RPDO), Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Joe Ward (head of RPDO mission in Cebu), Eralyn Hall (sister of Gabriel Hall) and JTS Mallonga, Esq. (FALDEF).  (Photo by Ryan Echevarria)

New York and Texas lawyers working together to save the life of a convicted Filipino-American teen from possible capital punishment are back in the U.S. from Cebu City with mitigating evidence that hopefully could convince the court to give the boy a life sentence rather than lethal injection.

The state of Texas is seeking the death penalty against Gabriel Espinosa Cañada Hall, a kid adopted from Cebu City and who is now 19, for stabbing and shooting to death an elderly man during a burglary, before turning to the man’s wheelchair bound wife and slitting her throat and left her to die.

The wife, who managed to call 911, survived.

Atty. J.T. Mallonga of the New York-based Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF) told the Filipino Reporter that his team — composed of FALDEF lawyer Merit Salud and board member Nimfa Du-Tinana (a Cebuana) — managed to gather information on the character and previous history of Hall, as well as the circumstances that led him to commit the offense.

Mallonga, however, requested that details of mitigating information be withheld and treated as “confidential” for the meantime until the probe is completed and presented to the court.

He said a total of nine Cebu-based lawyers, all Ateneo law graduates, have volunteered to continue digging for information for the next three months.

“At the moment, they’re collating pieces of evidence, documents and testimonies from witnesses to help shed light on the early childhood of Gabriel,” Mallonga told the Reporter.

“These data would explain the boy’s psychological profile that led him to commit the crime.”

With FALDEF in Cebu for almost three weeks was the Texas legal team headed by Joseph D. Ward, a mitigation specialist with the Regional Public Defender’s Office (RPDO) for Capital Cases in Texas and appointed by court to represent Hall.

Lawyer Anthony Odiorne, mitigation specialist Rob Cowie, and investigator Kirk Noaker are also part of the RPDO team.

One of Hall’s female siblings, who was adopted with him in Cebu by an American couple, joined the trip to help in her brother’s case.

Assisting RPDO are NaFFAA Texas leaders Gus and Ethel Mercado of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce; and Dorothy Arcenas, liaison counsel of FALDEF and RPDO who has a special power of attorney for Gabriel Hall in the Philippines.
The delegation arrived in Cebu City Sept. 18 and was immediately met by local leaders headed by Mayor Michael Rama.

“Mayor Rama promised utmost cooperation in the endeavor of the lawyers from Texas RPDO to obtain any and all pertinent documents, and to assist in every which way,” Mallonga said.

Among the people the U.S. legal team managed to interview personally were the biological parents of Hall.

What transpired during the meeting is also “confidential” as of the moment, Mallonga said.

Hall, a high school student from College Point, Texas, reportedly confessed to killing retired Texas A&M oceanography professor Edwin Shaar, 68, who used a walker to get around, in his home garage, and also attacking his wife Linda Shaar, 69, inside their home in College Station, Texas on Oct. 20, 2011, police said.

Shaar died on the spot, while Mrs. Shaar was covered in blood and was gasping for air when cops arrived, and an ambulance rushed her to the hospital, according to a police report.

Hall was indicted with capital murder by a grand jury on Dec. 21, 2011 and is being held without bail at the Brazos County Jail.

His adoptive parents were identified as Wes Hall, an attorney and justice of peace; and Karen Kruse Hall, president of Central Texas Orphan Mission, an organization that “supports orphans across the globe.”

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