Song Tells Felix’s Suffering

By Pat Bliss

Heather Hardy is one of the individuals who wrote our petition for Felix Garcia’s pardon. She recently completed recording the song she wrote to accompany that petition. She is currently seeking an interpreter to facilitate the production of a video of the song, which we will publish here, upon its completion. Until that time, here is the mp3 - audio only – version of the song. Below, find the embedded Word document containing the lyrics.

 

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

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Update on Felix – Part 2

By Pat Bliss

After visiting with Felix on Sunday, January 5th I drove to Tallahassee. I took a route I had not traveled before, which took me through mid-Florida flat land compiled mainly of horse farms and training establishments for horse racing. I actually enjoyed it, and allowed enough time to get to Tallahassee before dark. Our clemency attorney – Reginald Garcia – called me and told me there was to be an early meeting before going to the Capitol. It was totally unexpected and I would end up, blown away.

Image from Raiford Prison, cir. 1930  Northlight Theater Blog

Image from Raiford Prison, cir. 1930
Northlight Theater Blog

The meeting was with the Innocence Project of Florida. After much discussion, they agreed to look into our case. As if that wasn’t enough, there was more. Attorney Michael Ufferman – an expert in criminal appellate law – was at the same meeting. Attorney Ufferman received case law on a US Supreme Court opinion where the Federal Courts will drop any time bars on actual innocence cases. This has been are stickler in the past for us, getting heard in Federal Court on Felix’s 6th Amendment violation – denied a fair trial due to deafness where he could not assist nor understand what was taking place and was not  provided an interpreter.

Attorney Ufferman stated he was going to file a Federal Writ Of Habeas Corpus. In a third happy surprise, Attorney Garcia – experienced in parole matters – said he will attend Felix’s parole hearing coming up in October with me.

In my heart I was bursting with thankfulness as we left the Innocence Project office to go to the Capitol for a meeting with an attorney for Governor Scott on the clemency action in progress.  We were encouraged to see other clemency aides to get a second vote to initiate a Request for Review which requires the Governor plus one. Another positive step in a long process.

I left Florida very content that my purpose in making this trip had been fulfilled.

Update on Felix:
Felix is on a new venture. He graduated from the Character/Faith program on 1/13/14. He is enrolled in a training class to become a computer instructor and is already teaching Word, Excel and drawings on the computer to fellow inmates. Besides this new work he is in and knowing what these professional attorneys are doing on his case, Felix definitely went from hopelessness to hope in a very short time. Happy New Year to all!

Pat Bliss

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

Suppose it were Mozart

By BitcoDavid

Prison is a horrible place, and an even more horrible concept. But I would propose that perhaps it is we who suffer most when our friends and loved ones find themselves chewed up in the soulless machine that is America’s Criminal Justice System.

Now, as always – I would preface this article with the disclaimer that sure, some people definitely belong behind bars. Yes, Virginia there are criminals, and yes, there is no place that can serve them better than the cold steel of the  Greyrock Hilton.

But where would the world be if Mozart were sent to waste his life behind barbed wire? What a dull, colorless place Earth would be if Picasso were denied paint and canvas, or if Bell were kept from playing with magnets and wires. And to some degree or another, are we not all Mozarts, Picassos and Bells? I put it to you in the purely theoretical. Is it not possible that a cure for Cancer, a discovery of Warp drive, another Jupiter Symphony isn’t rotting in some hell-hole somewhere?

Most recent photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.  Image credit Pat Bliss

Felix with Pat Bliss.
Image credit Pat Bliss

Pat Bliss is an expert on prisons. She does what many of us wish we could. She goes into these places – on a regular basis – and works with the men and women behind bars. Hence, she has learned a great deal about the tangled web of visitation and the virtually inaccessible prisoner trust accounts. Last night on the phone, I broached an idea I had been hatching.

"Jail" in Sign Image: LifePrint.com

“Jail” in Sign
Image: LifePrint.com

You see, as many DeafInPrison.com readers are already aware, I have set out to learn Sign language. So, while watching the absolutely awesome Al Jazeera exposé featuring Felix Garcia, I saw him signing. I thought it might be a great opportunity for ASL students in the Florida area, to visit Felix over a period of a few weeks. Felix could tutor people in a boot camp immersion environment, via daily visits. In return, people could pay Felix for the service, which would provide him a nest egg for that day when he finally gets his clemency.

So, I needed to communicate with Pat Bliss, to work out some of the logistics of this wicked pissah idea of mine. I grabbed the phone, cranked the crank and hollered into the pipe. “Sarie – get me Pat Bliss.”

Well, it turns out my idea is impossible.

You see, individuals would not be able to visit Felix. Felix is allowed only 2 hours of visitation a week, and that on weekends only, and only by authorized visitors. He is allowed only 1 hour a month for visitation from media types for interviews. He has limited access to TTY, and of course no Video Relay access. He cannot operate or maintain an Internet presence, cannot access social media and – other than the very limited computer training program in which he is already involved, has no access to digital technology. In fact, Pam Bondi has a certain well known undergarment all tangled up in a bunch over the fact that I – and others – maintain a Web presence for Felix, as 3rd parties.

Furthermore, Florida takes issue with inmates getting paid for performing services for private individuals – unless of course it’s slave labor for factory facilities like CCA and other private sector profiteers.  It’s OK if United Fruit pays him 50¢ a day, but you and I can’t pay him 50$ an hour to teach us Sign.

***

Here’s the thing that strikes me about Felix. He’s a downright nice guy. I’ve seen him in so many interviews now, discussed him in such depth with Pat, and written so much about him that I can say that without fear of contradiction. Felix is a nice guy. And moreover, an individual who could make a substantial contribution to society. So it is we who miss out. We are the losers here. Just as we would have missed the glory of the Jupiter symphony, the psychological expressionism of Cubism, and the 2nd naturedness of telephone communication – had those luminaries been cast aside – we are missing all the great contributions that could – at least theoretically – be made by the Felixes of this world.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

I Need Hope…..

By Pat Bliss

Felix's most recent shot December 2013 Tomoka. Image Courtesy Pat Bliss

Felix’s most recent shot, December 2013, Tomoka.
Image Courtesy Pat Bliss

Before my leaving for Florida to be with Felix on Christmas day, I received a phone call saying, “I need help, I can’t get it together.” A letter came a couple days later. “I can’t seem to get a grasp of reality… why can’t I get out of here? Why can’t I get my life back?” Then, a little further he states,

“I had hope [at Polk CI]. Hope of one day getting out. I don’t have that here. All I see is hopelessness, despair, forgotten, deserted, alone. I can’t stand this feeling. I feel like I am at the end of my rope. Life has been really hard on me the last two years and I am giving up slowly…I just want to go home – please.”

In this same letter, he shared when he was a scared kid, when his parents sent him to live with his grandparents and he knew his parents were leaving him. He wrote,

“I am 52 years old but I feel like a scared kid all over again. All I want is a chance… I need help, I need hope, I need a real door, a goal. Something to tell myself ‘I am really going home’, if I can’t do that then it’s over, there is nothing left… I am scared, mom, I really am. I am scared for myself. Times have changed. I don’t belong here.”

With this on my mind I drove to FL and when I saw Felix come into the visiting room at Tomoka CI, he displayed his usual infectious smile and greeted me with a big hug, I said, we are going to have a real mother-son talk and tell me all what is going on in your heart and mind. And that he did! He got it all out – anger, unfairness, hopelessness on his case, frustrations. I, in turn, spoke plainly so I could be sure he understood what was going on. We started around 10 am and talked through our lunch and ice cream. By the time I left at 2:30 pm he felt good, and relieved to get it all off his chest.

However, the hope he was seeking hadn’t come yet. It wasn’t just hope for getting out, it was hope to have purpose. This is a need in everyone’s life.  The Bible states “without hope the people parish.” Why am I here? Doesn’t God care? Felix had said “Oh, I believe God can but He doesn’t see me” which broke my heart. Yes God sees him but He has a greater purpose for Felix that we don’t see.  In the meantime, while I was gone between Christmas and Family Day at Tomoka on January 3, 2014, hope came alive. The person responsible in the Horizon Character-Based Program dorm where Felix lives had Felix in mind to take over instructing the computer classes. Felix was told he was to graduate from the Character-Dorm program early, in order to enter the training class to be an instructor. Felix is that good.

The Faith Day event for all the inmates in the program was a huge success. I got to meet the other 4 deaf in the dorm and their families. Felix’s whole attitude had changed, he feels needed and has a goal each day. We visited Saturday and on Sunday I only stayed an hour as I needed to get on the road to Tallahassee. Our relationship had also changed, after having that talk Christmas day he realized I was not going anywhere. He could talk to me and be honest with his feelings. I could tell by the long hug and being able to say “I really love you, mom.”

I will write in another post about the advancement on his clemency action. These are doors Felix was referring to in his letters and when mentioned at our Christmas visit. Life is full of surprises. They are yet to come.

Pat

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

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Felix Featured in Al Jazeera Documentary

By Pat Bliss

#JusticeForFelixThere has been a documentary in the works for a few years on the deaf in our prisons. It starts airing tonight on cables’  Al Jazeera America (AJA)  America Tonight at 9pm. It’ll be in Closed Caption. Felix will be highlighted in tonight’s segment, tomorrow will highlight other deaf. After the segment tonight Journalist James Ridgeway  will be in a Q & A session – he wrote the first article on Felix’s case for Mother Jones Magazine in 2011 online and in print 2012. After Friday’s segments Talila Lewis of HEARD will be doing the Q & A session.
If you don’t know you have AJA on your cable, check this web site, input your zip code and it’ll tell you the cable and channel number  http://america.aljazeera.com/tools/getajam.html


If you cannot get it, it will possibly be online on their website soon after : http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight.html
 
Thank you. Pat Bliss
Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

A Friend Whom Felix Never Met

By Pat Bliss

This friendship goes back a long time starting with a letter written in Felix’s behalf in 1996, asking help for a deaf innocent man in prison at that time 15 years. Dr. McCay Vernon replied to Felix on November 24, 1996. McCay immediately took some action by sending a copy of the letter to the Editor in Chief of Silent News, Mrs. Betty Broecker, and wrote to Mr. Frank Slater of the Florida Association of the Deaf to see if they would help. Unfortunately, neither one responded to Felix but this began an interest in Felix’s plight.

I have no letters or notes between Felix and McCay but that does not mean there were none as they could have gotten thrown away or lost at the prison. However, there had to be some correspondence because I got a phone message on 8/22/09 followed up with a letter on 8/24/09 from McCay stating he would like to volunteer his services at Felix’s parole hearing. He sent me his resume. That really touched me, as if a man of his stature would be required to show the Parole Board his credentials as an expert on the deaf.  As happens in DOC, no one appeared at the parole hearing due to the Parole Board setting the hearing one month earlier in 2010  and we were not aware of it. Hence, no one was there representing Felix and the result was a denial.

FaceBook
FaceBook

Mac could not get Felix out of his mind. He was really upset to know there was a deaf man, innocent, still in prison. He would send me copies of articles on the deaf in the criminal justice system.  In our emails I talked about writing a book on Felix’s case. Marie Vernon offered suggestions, since she is an experienced novelist.  Then Mac suggested I contact Journalist Jim Ridgeway in Washington DC, I did, and he published Felix’s story in a article for Mother Jones mag. While I was working with Jim on his article, I got a phone call from Author Joanne Greenberg saying she heard from McCay asking if she could  write the book on Felix’s case story. Joanne declined for something better and suggested I tell Felix’s story on her new blog site DeafInPrison.com . The rest is history. Felix and I are very thankful to Mac for his full support and help to get his story out to the public.

In the meantime, I am telling Felix all what is going on, how Mac helped us here and there and that he cared so much about his situation. Felix’s relationship with Mac was mainly through my letters and I would pass back to Mac what is going on in Felix’s life. Relaying back and forth messages regarding Felix continued until the day Mac was not able to do it anymore in July of this year.

Felix called me the weekend of September 1st and I told him the news of Mac’s passing. I cannot say how Felix took it as “feelings” are not translated over a TTY call but he responded the only way he could – I’ll send his wife a card. Felix could have cried when alone, however, until then, emotions are held at bay in prison life. An additional  sad part of this story is,  another friend will not be there to meet Felix when he is freed. Dr. McCay Vernon wanted to see that day so badly – he will indeed be sorely missed. 

Pat Bliss

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

Felix Garcia’s Story: Part 4 in the Series

By Pat Bliss

[Editor's note: This is the 4th installation in our series on the Felix Garcia case. In this segment, Ms. Bliss presents more of the testimony, and points out the contradictions. It is presented in embedded format, and can be viewed in full screen by clicking the link at the bottom. -- BitcoDavid]

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.

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