Two men who had been serving 50-year prison sentences for their roles in the 1995 murder of Darrell Wattley Jr. in New London were resentenced Tuesday to 28 years in prison.
Anthony Booth and Danny Brown, who have been incarcerated since the mid-1990s, appeared in New London Superior Court after having their original sentences vacated. They faced the family of the man they murdered.
“Take a good look at me, I want you to remember my face,” said Wattley’s sister Iris Goode.
“You took my brother from me,” she said, looking directly at Booth, who was brought in from the Department of Corrections wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. Wattley was 18 when he was shot four times, stabbed four times and had his throat slit in the gang-related murder.
Goode said that in the 26 years since her brother was killed, she has not forgiven the men who killed him. And she was not happy that Booth and Brown were being resentenced.
“I don’t agree with none of this, I don’t want you out,” she said Tuesday. “I want you to die in jail.”
Her sister, Andrean Goode, also spoke before the court. She asked Booth to face her, and asked his attorney to step out of the way so she could see him. She told him she has never stopped feeling the pain of her loss.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen M. Carney said Tuesday that Booth and Brown were due a resentencing after the state Supreme Court last year overturned the conviction of another man who also had been sentenced to 50 years for Wattley’s murder.
In July 2020, the state Supreme Court issued an opinion that reversed the conviction of James R. Gomez. Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille wrote in her decision that Gomez’s rights to due process were violated because now-retired prosecutor Paul Murray failed to notify the jury that two key witnesses had provided false or misleading testimony.
The opinion addressed the question of whether prosecutors are required to correct erroneous statements made by witnesses during trials and had implications for Booth and Brown’s cases, since they were both convicted by the same jury.
Carney said that after reviewing Gomez’s case, the state found that Booth and Brown also were entitled to have their convictions vacated. He recommended both men be sentenced to 28 years, meaning they will both be released in just a few years.
Booth pleaded no contest in court Tuesday and Brown pleaded guilty. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein agreed with Carney’s recommendation and sentenced them both to 28 years served in prison.
Carney said he’d spent a lot of time speaking to the family and they were “distraught” about the resentencing.
“I can’t look any of the family members in the eye and say that this is fair to them,” he said. But under the circumstances, he said, it was the best deal the state could offer.
Carney said Wattley’s death was “still an open wound” and that by agreeing to a lesser sentence, the state and court were “not doing anything to heal it, we may be making it worse.”
He said the state’s hands were tied — based on the law and the amount of time that had passed since the original trial and the crime itself, this was the fairest sentencing the state could recommend.
“This is where we find ourselves,” he said of the shorter sentence.
Andrean Goode said there wasn’t “enough time in the world” to take away her pain. Both sisters gave emotional testimony before the court, expressing their grief and anger.
Andrean Goode said she had never seen “any indication of remorse” from Booth, while her sister criticized his demeanor in court as being arrogant. When Booth was given a chance to speak to the court, he said there was nothing he wanted to say.
Judge Strackbein said “there’s nothing that really can be said to a family that loses a child” and referred to the killing as a “pointless” act of violence.
“I can’t even imagine how pointless this was,” she said to Booth.
Brown’s attorney, James Mortimer, delivered a statement on behalf of his client in which he said Brown was remorseful and had done what he could “to take responsibility for his actions,” including testifying in Gomez’s case.
“I just don’t want anyone leaving here today under the impression that Mr. Brown isn’t remorseful for what transpired that day,” he said.
“Because of this (resentencing) agreement, you’re going to have another chance to make better choices in life,” Strackbein told Brown. “I just hope you’ll do the right thing.”
Both men are serving their sentences at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield.