Young killer George Verdel Farrell spent the past seven years in prison doing what most criminals promise but never accomplish.
He used his prison job to pay down court-imposed fines and restitution payments. He’s earned a high school diploma. And, Farrell has worked to strengthen ties with his family, according to courtroom testimony.
“I realize that life has to be cherished,” Farrell said. “All I can do is my best to try to show the court and show everybody that I’m not the person who was here in 1999.”
But his rare opportunity for a resentencing Thursday essentially went nowhere.
Superior Court Judge Neal Rielly said state sentencing guidelines prohibited him from giving a break to Farrell, 23, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to stabbing a man 20 to 25 times with a short machete during a robbery. At the time, the 16-year-old Farrell was sentenced to serve 23 years in prison.
But the state Supreme Court recently ruled, partially based on written legal arguments prepared by Farrell himself, that prosecutors wrongly used his juvenile convictions against him during the previous sentencing. He appeared Thursday for resentencing on the previous second-degree murder conviction.
“I’d like this to be noted that when I first came before this court I was a young kid, I was a boy who didn’t realize what he had done,” Farrell said.
“I have lost four (family members) since I have been in prison,” Farrell said as he cried. “And I’ve come to the realization about how much it hurts to have a loss in your family.”
Farrell said he has used his prison time to make something positive out of his life.
“I can’t do anything to take back what I have done,” he said. “But I can do my best to make everything from this day forward as good as it can get.”
Rielly said he believes that Farrell has “substantially” changed his life. But the judge also looked at the circumstances surrounding the stabbing death of 49-year-old Roderick Farley, who had been an All-State football player at Deer Park High School.
Farrell and James Michael Jackson attacked Farley on Feb. 3, 1999, in his home in the 600 block of East 10th Avenue. Farley staggered over to a neighbor’s porch and died minutes later.
“It was terrible,” Rielly said of the crime. “You have changed a great deal as an individual, I personally believe that. But it doesn’t change the agreement that we entered, and it really doesn’t change the seriousness of the crime.”
Rielly then sentenced Farrell to 20 years in prison, minus the seven years he’s already served.
Farrell sat with slumped shoulders and looked defeated.
“I know this is not what you wanted me to do,” Rielly told Farrell. “The one thing your work in this matter does show is that you are a very intelligent young man.
“And I hope that this setback does not deter you from making those changes and continuing to make those changes in your life. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and fall back into some lifestyles that you will regret.”