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KONK REACTOR column
[Published in the KONK Life newspaper on August 30, 2012.]
The Beast, part 3: Caged Beast
In my last two columns ( “Facing the Beast“ and “Face of the Beast“) we witnessed Christopher Cornelius Farrell’s foiled attempt to decapitate his 3-year-old neighbor, and learned how he’d tormented the community for years. But what happened after the Key West police arrested him at gunpoint on October 1, 2008?
I attended the arraignment of Farrell three weeks later, in Courtroom D of the brand new Freeman Justice Center – one of the first arraignments held there. Farrell sat among six or seven other prisoners, the only one in black and white striped (“crazy person!”) scrubs. His beard had begun to fill in. He looked my way once, but I looked away. His exchange with the Judge (from my notes):
Judge: “Christopher Farrell? Do you have a lawyer?”
Christopher Cornelius Farrell: “No.”
Judge: “Can you afford to hire a lawyer?”
Farrell: “I’m too sick.”
Judge: “Can you afford to hire a lawyer?”
Farrell: “I’m too sick for court.”
Judge: “We’ll discuss that later. What I want to know is if you can afford a lawyer?”
Judge: “Do you want the Court to appoint a lawyer?”
Judge: “So you want to defend yourself?”
Farrell: “I… I think so.”
Judge: “We’ll have to come back to you later, so I can ask you some questions to find out if you will be able to represent yourself.”
But before they got back to that, the Judge and the prosecutor decided they needed to schedule a competency hearing. When that hearing came around in November, he was quickly deemed incompetent. He was shipped off to the South Florida Evaluation & Treatment Center (SFETC) in Florida City, and there he sat for almost a year…
In my discussions with justice system people (as a registered “victim” in this case) I found that what usually happens at SFETC is that the “patient” goes onto meds and they watch him until they feel he’s approximately competent. Then they ship him back for trail. Indeed by the end of the next summer (2009) Farrell showed back up in our jail on Stock Island (now sporting a strange beard).
The State Attorney’s office began preparing their case, and Farrell was assigned a public defender, who promptly took depositions from me and others involved in the incident. Somewhere in all that I found out that it’s common for a now-competent defendant to go off of their meds once moved back to the jail from from SFETC. I suppose we don’t FORCE drugs into our prisoners, it’s up to them to continue to take them. This appears to have been true for Farrell, and his competency was again in question.
But a Judge had to make the call, so another appearance was ordered. The Rodriquez family and I sat in the gallery as the prisoners were brought in. When Farrell – among the tallest of them – came through the door Sonya Rodriquez let out a cry of anguish. I’m sure his (now shaven) face evoked a stark memory of the day of his attack… He looked directly into my eyes as he walked by, and after he sat down he turned around to look at me again. Perhaps he remembered my role in his plight, but it’s hard to interpret that foggy brain.
Within minutes it was over and he was on his way back to SFETC. Since then the automated “victim advocate” system has notified me several times that it had lost contact with him (system glitches). The Monroe County “inmates” list still shows him as being down HERE. But I confirmed last week that he’s not – he’s still occupying one of the 238 beds for beasts like him in Florida City. Perhaps one day this beast will return to stand trial…
Post Script: A week after this story ran, I received a call from the Victims’ Advocate at the State Attorney’s office to let me know that once again Christopher Farrell had be deemed to be competent to stand trail and would soon be returning to our local jail. Stay tuned….
Post Script 2:On September 27, 2012 Farrell appeared before Judge Mark Jones at the Freeman Justice Center.
By this point he had slightly trimmed his beard from that pictured, grooming it a bit and squaring it off on the bottom.
The Judge, the State Attorney and the Public Defender all agreed that he was competent to stand trial. I assume he has stayed on his meds this time. He’s been placed on the docket for October 3. Stay tuned…..
Post Script 3: On October 3, 2012 Farrell appeared before Judge Mark Jones at the Freeman Justice Center for a “Pre-Trial Hearing”. It was agreed that Farrell would go to trial. His case was set on Judge Jones’ November 28th docket for scheduling. Stay tuned…
Post Script 5: On January 8, 2013 at the Freeman Justice Center, outside Judge Miller’s courtroom I again encountered the Rodriquez family. The young primary victim has now grown into a healthy grade-schooler. The family wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen, I explained to them that it was just to determine when a trail could begin. Since they did not wish to keep their daughter out of school unnecessarily, they left to take her there.
Entering the courtroom, I found that Judge Miller was a no-show, and that Judge Ruth Becker would sit in and handle plea bargains and reschedule the rest. Soon after, half of the public seating was taken over by a mass of shackled prisoners. By coincidence, Christopher Farrell ended up seated just across the aisle from my own seat — the closest I had been to him since the fateful day. As far as I can tell, he never glanced in my direction.
Farrell’s appearance was changed again. He was more gaunt than I had observed previously, and his hair was buzz-cut. His beard now stood alone with no mustache or sideburns. He has a real knack for doing the “creepy look”. About as fast as I could observe this, though, he and a number of other prisoners were taken back OUT of the courtroom.
Turns out that they AGAIN rescheduled the rescheduling. Speaking briefly with the prosecutor of the case, there was some question about whether his competency is being maintained. It will not surprise me if I end being notified that he’s being sent back to Florida City….
Post Script 6: On February 8th I was deposed for about an hour by the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s lawyers in a lawsuit between the Rodriquez family and the owners of the house where they lived. It appears that they were primarily trying to prove one way or the other whether the attack began on the property of the house. Since I did not see the beginning of the attack, I don’t think I was of any help to either side of that case.
I also have received the notice from the State Attorney’s Office that the next appearance — where a trail date will be scheduled — for Farrell and/or his public defender is to be held on April 30th, before Judge Wayne Miller.
Post Script 7: For the first time since this all began, I was not able to make it to a court appearance, as I was not on the Rock that day, so I can’t give any insight into how it went down. But there were two significant developments:
1) The trial is ON for week of May 27th.
2) Christopher Farrell will be REPRESENTING HIMSELF…!
Stay tuned for TRIAL OF THE BEAST.
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