The Making of the Film “Love is Never Silent”

By Joanne Greenberg

I wrote the book In This Sign, parts of which were made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

 MAY 20 1963; Joanne Greenberg scrubs up Son Alan, age four; She finds room for literary career on Lookout Mountain.; (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images) Credit: The Denver Post / contributor


MAY 20 1963; Joanne Greenberg scrubs up Son Alan, age four; She finds room for literary career on Lookout Mountain.; (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Credit: The Denver Post / contributor

The book had been out for some years and had won an award for its portrayal of Deaf people and their hearing children. Because my husband and I had become part of the Denver Deaf community – he had been a rehab counselor with a deaf clientele – I had come to know some professional Deaf people and actors in the Theater of the Deaf. This wonderful group had brought classical and original drama on tour to Denver every year or so. That year it was Parade, an original drama about the deaf experience and culture. It was funny, moving, and profound. I went backstage after the show to congratulate the actors. I learned that they had one day to tour before they continued on to their next city. I joined the tour the next day. In a mountain town where we went, a grandmother, whose deaf daughter had been part of the theater’s summer program, was delighted to see the troupe and opened the town to the cast, calling ahead to make the off-season closed places open and welcoming.

Coming back on the bus, someone mentioned that I had written In This Sign and I asked my seatmate if she had read it and if she liked it. She had read it. “Did you like it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It had Deaf people who were poor and ignorant, and I don’t like that presentation.”

I disagreed. “My characters are heroic. I define a hero as someone who takes the yard of cloth he or she is given and makes a suit and two pairs of pants out of it.” We talked about other things and I left the bus. The woman I had spoken with was  an actress in the theater and her name is Julianna Fjeld-Corrado.

She called me a week later by relay, and said that she had read the book again and had seen what I meant about heroes. She asked if I would option the book to her for the making of a film.

“Have you ever made a film?”

“No, but I want to make this one.”

I liked the idea and spoke to my agent, who laughed at the whole thing. Julianna asked me if she might meet with my agent, bringing an interpreter. I said yes. Later, my agent called and said she had been strongly impressed. We optioned the book for one dollar, for the first year, to increase by fifty cents each year there after. [This is not a typo. In order to facilitate this important project, Ms. Greenberg took no payment for her book rights. — Ed.] We signed a contract.

For ten years, Julianna went from production-company to script-writer to film-maker to advertising-department of various corporations. She was rebuffed at all of them until Warner Brothers said thy would make the film, and then changed its mind. Hallmark got interested and said they would make the film, but the TV channel nixed the idea because – among other things – Julianna and I had specified that the film have Deaf actors to play the roles of the Deaf characters – a first. The interpretation of the Sign wouldn’t be captioned, but would be made integral within the script, unobtrusively echoed by hearing characters.

Year after year it went. I was so unhappy at all her thwarted work that I listened to her stories of refusal with growing sorrow and irritation. All that for no reward: “Are you so deaf that you don’t know what no means?” She only grinned and said, “I guess not.”

 

A second try at Hallmark and this time, they said yes. Two top actors from Theater of the Deaf – Ed Waterstreet and Phyllis Frelich – were signed on as leads and other bit parts were also played by Deaf actors. The hearing bunch included Sid Caesar, Cloris Leachman and Mare Winningham. Julianna played a bit part, as well as being co-producer. All of that was a first on theater or TV.

The film covered the second part of the book. I had been challenged by the problem of how to render translation to give a flavor of Sign without making a literal translation, which comes off sounding unlettered. The decisions made in the film honored that. It was a good film. Darlene Craviotto Directed. We got an Emmy.

[Editor’s note: I would love to screen this film, on DeafInPrison.com. We couldn’t post it permanently, but we may be able to get Hallmark to allow us to show it – in its entirety – for a brief interval. In order to make that happen, I would need to show them an interest. Please comment here with the hashtag, #LoveisNeverSilentScreenCampaign. Share on FaceBook and Twitter. If we can generate enough interest in this beautiful and historic film – the first film to have Deaf actors in Deaf roles, one year before Children of a Lesser God – we can convince Hallmark to allow us to screen it. — BitcoDavid]

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Outcasts and Angels: Stories featuring the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, for about the past 3 weeks, I’ve been working to translate and caption the video “What is ASL?” by Deaf activist and Signing whiz, Lilcoco Love. But she’s a native Signer, and I’m… well… I’m me. It’s an awesome video, and she’s got a lot to say. About ASL, Deaf culture, and the belief by some English speakers and even some Deaf, that ASL hampers English and reading development. We’re friends on FaceBook now, and I’m hoping that not only can I get her help with the video, but perhaps I can get her to write a piece for us, or even to record a new video. I’ll keep you posted, either way.

In the meantime, there’s this:

I originally posted this on ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – our FaceBook group – and received some interesting comments. my comment was about how the girl in the video, sits down with an ASL book, spends one night in the diner, studying it – and is a Signing genius the following night. In my post, I said that I’ve been struggling with immersion level learning, for at least 2 years now, and I’m not as good as this girl, after a night of cramming. I go on to say, that I thought I’d have this knocked out in about 6 months, and my tutor, Randy Tweedie, tells me that I’m still looking at about 4 more years to become conversational.

ASL in family

ASL in family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, let me stress that ASL is a language, and just as you wouldn’t attempt to learn German, or Japanese – from a book, overnight – nor can you learn ASL that way. Furthermore, since ASL is not a spoken or written language, it’s actually even harder for 2nd language users to learn.

But, I’m a cynic.

On the other hand, I also received a comment that really hit home. This commenter simply asked, “Why doesn’t the Deaf kid ever save the Hearing kid?”

Really. Why are there so few strong Deaf leads in literature and film? Well, there are. You just need to know where to look for them. Enter “Outcasts and Angels – The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. This book, edited by Edna Edith Sayers, features short stories written around Deaf characters. And best of all, our publisher, Joanne Greenberg has 2 entries. She’s joined by such names as Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, Flannery O’Connor, Juozas Grušas and Julian Barnes.

It is available through Amazon, or from Gallaudet Press.

But wait. There’s more. For those of you who follow us on FaceBook, you might get a kick out of Jack’s new page. That’s right. Everybody’s favorite Internet Rock star and Dog-about-Town – Jack – now has his very own FaceBook page. There’ll be no living with him now.

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.

SI5S Provides the Ability to Write in ASL

By BitcoDavid

Can you read this

 

It’s written in an ASL finger spelling font, that is available for free download, from Gallaudet via LifePrint. This is useable as a novelty font, allowing the user to write English in the ASL finger spelling alphabet. But what if Sign actually had its own alphabet – or Digibet, if you will?

For 12 years now, Robert Augustus has been working to create a universal and reliable writing system for ASL. He calls his system si5s. The digibet consists of 80 characters as well as diacritical marks and grammatical symbols.

Some argue that ASL is not indeed a unique language, because it has no written form. There have been several attempts at creating written Sign language, but these tend to be hieroglyphic, and have not been widely adopted.

I’m not a neurobiologist. All I really know about brains, is that they taste great, sauteed in olive oil. But in order to understand this concept, you need to know that spoken language takes place in a part of your brain, aptly named the language center. The more spoken languages one learns, the more brain area is occupied. This forces the creation of new pathways, and makes learning non-language sciences easier. In short, the more spoken languages you learn, the higher your I.Q. becomes.

But ASL is not a spoken language. It’s a visual one. So it takes place in a different area within the brain. In native signers, this visual center creates innate links to the language center, but those of us who learn ASL as a 2nd language have much more difficulty forging those cerebral links. This is why learning Sign is so much harder than learning say, French or German. It’s easy to memorize vocabulary, but we still need to translate internally, that vocabulary back into an auditory form. We need to sub-vocalize, much as we do when we read.

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

But this system, si5s, can change everything. Writing is the basis of teaching, and learning. Writing is how Mankind records his thoughts and ideas. Writing is how we convey information without having to relay it directly to our audience. Writing is the foundation of the Internet, and without it, computers as we know them could not exist. Even the computer itself, speaks and internal numeric language, and that language is internally recorded in a text format. If a written form of ASL could be adopted, and taught in Deaf schools alongside of traditional Sign, it would have untold benefits.

It would facilitate faster learning for both Deaf and Hearing ASL users. In fact, if Deaf children were taught ASL and si5s in conjunction with English reading and writing, we’d raise a generation of non-aural geniuses, who would probably go on to develop things like Warp Drive and personal teleportation. Maybe even time travel. Who knows?

si5s Logo

The logo includes the symbol that represents the handshape used to sign “3D”, alluding to the three-dimensional nature of this language and the need for the written system to express that nature.

Here’s a link to Augustus’ page:

http://www.si5s.org/

You can order the complete textbook here:

http://www.si5s.org/store/

You can download his font package in .zip format, but it unzips to a series of .gif images, and you won’t be able to use it as an embedded Truetype font. That doesn’t matter however, because using this system is not writing in English. In the above example, I wrote an English sentence (Can you read this?) in finger spelling font. Using si5s would be beneficial in learning – and writing in – ASL, but not for writing English.

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.

Short Survey Helps HEARD and Deaf Inmates

By BitcoDavid

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image - Wikipedia

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image – Wikipedia

The Internet has been a huge boon to the Deaf Community, and it can be leveraged into a great asset for Deaf inmates as well. One major problem facing the Deaf in prison, is access to telecommunications. There are numerous factors that go into this problem. Numbering among them are, time required to place calls, cost of calling out, and availability of useable technology.

About 75 years ago, a system was invented by which the Deaf could use the telephone. That system was known as TTY. TTY stands for Teletypewriter. This is a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and a LED or LCD readout. The system translates voice into text, for the Deaf user to read. The receiver must also have a TTY terminal. TTYs have a separate number, and the Deaf user can only call other TTY machines. The ADA states that TTY phones must be made available to Deaf inmates, and most facilities do have them.

The problem is that most modern Deaf, can’t use them. People raised with ASL as a first language, may not be able to read – or read well enough to utilize the machine. Even well educated Deaf – those with a Baccalaureate reading level, or above – are not likely to be familiar with – or to use – these machines. You may be an excellent driver, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drive a Model “T” Ford.

The analogy is apt. We’ve had generations to become accustomed to automatic transmissions, electric starters, fuel injection and even turn signals. The Model “T” had none of these.  So, a law stating that you are entitled to your own Model “T” will be of little benefit to you.

The modern equivalent of the TTY system, is Video Relay. This system works by utilizing an interpreter to read the Deaf caller’s Sign, and translate it into English for the Hearing receiver. It is slightly slower than normal full duplex communication, due to the time required by the interpreter, but by comparison to TTY, our analogous Model “T” becomes a McLaren Corvette.

If the caller and the receiver both Sign, then Skype and other Internet alternatives would be even better.

OLPC: XO internet access

OLPC: XO internet access. Image – Wikipedia

The problem is that most jails and prison facilities in this country, don’t have VR, and don’t allow Internet access. To the Deaf, this is tantamount to Solitary Confinement. Even if a Deaf inmate can learn to master the clunky, unreliable and inaccurate TTY system, he is charged at the same exploitative rate, as his hearing counterparts. But a TTY call can take up to 10X longer. The cost of such a call, can be staggering.

HEARD has been working for several years now, on getting Corrections Departments to begin using VR, and so has DeafInPrison.com. Beyond that, I would like to see Deaf and Hearing inmates alike, allowed limited Internet access. They’ve been doing just that, in Sweden for a decade now, and it has worked out very well. Classes, support groups and even social networks could be established that would greatly benefit inmates, and in so doing, benefit society as a whole. And for the Deaf, it would allow them the same freedom in communication with family and friends, that is afforded the Hearing. It could also be used to take control away from exploitative Telecom companies, and reduce the cost of making or receiving calls, behind bars.

Most people are aware of the high currency value afforded cigarettes, in prison society. But what many do not know, is that phone time holds a similar value. The price gouging Telecoms set this situation in motion. Inmates are commonly victimized – beaten, robbed or even killed – for their phone cards. Free Internet access could change that.

I have included a link below, to a short survey by HEARD. I took it. It only takes about 15 seconds to complete, and the aggregate data will help HEARD in their work with the FCC and other organizations responsible for prison Telecommunications.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5ef6628ab98fb3b95eaa08a7a&id=4a471a595e&e=7c38cfb9e6

or

http://goo.gl/hnWnvk

I urge you to take this survey, share it on FaceBook, Twitter and other social networks, comment and write to some or all of the organizations listed on the site. We need to address these problems if we’re ever to attain inmate equality.

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.

Skype and the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Skype

Skype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video Relay is a godsend for the Deaf community. It allows those who cannot speak or hear, to engage in phone conversations with those who can. And it does so with far greater ease and speed, than its predecessor, TTY. But Video Relay has its drawbacks as well. It’s slower than full duplex communication, because an interpreter must relay the data back and forth. It requires subscription to a service. That subscription may or may not be free to the Deaf user, but a service is required nonetheless. Lastly, Video Relay requires specialized equipment – a Videophone.

The Internet has offered a number of alternatives to Video Relay, but so far, few of them have been widely accepted. Most of these services and sites are designed around Hearing users, but can be modified or adapted for use by the Deaf. This doesn’t hold true however, with Skype. While not actually designed for ASL, the system is amazingly ASL-friendly.

skype phone

skype phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s where this service shines in Deaf or ASL user communication. It allows the user to establish a video call on a PC, laptop, tablet or cellphone. In short, you can see one another, which means you can sign to one another. For PCs you would of course, need a separate outboard webcam.

The Deaf community embraced this technology years ago. Every Deaf person I know, uses Skype – and they’re more married to their smartphones, than Hearing teens. I often see Deaf people signing – one handed – to their phones.

Video-call

Video-call (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But for us – the Hearing signer – Skype also offers benefits. We can use it as another tool in our arsenal of learning aids. If you can find a Deaf person, interpreter, ASL tutor, or practicing student who’s willing to Skype with you, you’ll have a convenient and free study method. Furthermore, since Skype is Cloud based, and works in conjunction with FaceBook and Twitter, you can find people to sign with, whom you don’t personally know.

As a part of my system upgrade, I will be installing it on all 3 of my workstations. I see potential uses on this site, our FaceBook group – ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – and in my personal ASL-er’s life as well.

In the meantime, I’d like to take a moment to thank Randy Tweedie, for offering to tutor me in Sign, and Chris Majeskey, for setting it up for me. Both are from Beverly School for the Deaf. With their help, maybe someday,  I’ll sign as well as I fight.

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.

 

Something Different for New Years

By BitcoDavid

This isn’t about the Deaf. It isn’t about rampant police overreach or even about the failed war on drugs. For our last post of 2014, I decided on something a little different.

If God rested on Sunday, he woke up Monday morning, clear headed and with fresh eyes. His last – his bestest – creation? Dogs. They were so good a thing, he made himself their namesake. Of course he had to spell it backwards, to avoid confusion.

Me? I love me some fuzzbutts.

The Psychology of Dogs
Source: The Psychology of Dogs

We at DeafInPrison.com, have been working tirelessly this month, upgrading our entire system – rebuilding the giant complex beneath Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain. We need about 2 more weeks, but the increase in technological capability will result in better posts, more embedded files and higher res videos. I’m looking forward to 2015 as being a great year.

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.

Pat Bliss Talks About Felix’s Parole Hearing

By Pat Bliss

Preparation for Felix’s Parole Hearing

Attorney Reggie Garcia and I received notice about Felix’s November 19th parole hearing on November 3rd. We were surprised, as we expected it to be a month or two away. After much preparation and arrangements, I set out for Florida on the 15th, and arrived in Tallahassee, late in the afternoon of the 16th. On the following day, Attorney Reggie Garcia had set up a 2-hour video shoot at Sachs Media Group. Reggie, Gary Lieffers of Florida Association of the Deaf and I, all had on-camera interviews. Sachs Media edited the program and sent it out as a news release on the morning of the 18th. It went out to news outlets all over the state of Florida.

2013 photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.  Image credit Pat Bliss

2013 photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.
Image credit Pat Bliss

While the press releases were going out, Reggie and I met with two of the parole commissioners on the Florida Commission on Offender Review board. The meetings gave us the opportunity to learn what subjects they intended on questioning us about. It gave us a heads up as to what to be prepared for at the hearing. Afterward, we headed back to Reggie’s office to go over our transcripts and summaries. The press releases resulted in our receiving numerous calls for interviews. We scheduled an interview for Tuesday afternoon at 5:00PM, with Britanny Kleinpeter – reporter and anchorwoman – of WTXL/ABC 27. We followed that, with another interview at 8:30PM, with Jon Manson-Hing, representing two Tampa TV stations: Fox and CBS affiliates. After getting back to my motel room, I worked on my talking points. It was a long and tiring day, but I wanted our readers to get some idea of the amount of preparation that went into my part of the following day’s parole hearing.

Drama at Parole Hearing: Felix vs. Frank Garcia
Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Wednesday, November 19th, at 9AM, we arrived at the building where the parole commission is located. Reggie dropped me off at the front door as he parked the car. When I walked into the lobby, it was ablaze with activity. A personal escort led me into the parole hearing room, where a reserved seat was waiting. Reggie sat next to me. Chairperson Tena Pate announced that no paroles would be under consideration at that time, so we found ourselves having to forgo that option. We were however, still anxious to advocate for Felix, when our turn came.

There was another high profile case before ours. Mark DeFriest, a mentally ill inmate who had served over 3 decades, thus far. A British company documented his life story. His case received a continuance, for later in December. Then it was time for Felix’s case. Reggie and I walked up front and sat at the table. We only had a 10-minute time limit. Reggie went first, he told about the 7-hour alibi, and whom we believe framed Felix. Reggie held up an enlarged 1984 picture of Frank, Tina and her boyfriend – Ray Stanley – to show the board and the media, the participants. He stated their motives in blaming the actual shooting on Felix.

Prosecuting attorney Mark Ober speaks to the Florida Commission on Offender Review concerning inmate Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Prosecuting attorney Mark Ober speaks to the Florida Commission on Offender Review concerning inmate Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

As planned, I would have the most amount of the time. I started with why I felt Felix is innocent, and why I stayed with his case for so long. When I first received Felix’s file I saw Tina and Frank’s un-filed affidavits, recanting their trial testimony, and how his inability to hear, played a huge part in the trial. I told them about the report of – court appointed – ENT specialist, Dr. Agliano. I noted its conclusion that Felix’s hearing inability was moderate to severe at time of trial. I stated that Felix had his Sixth Amendment rights violated. His trial attorney – in three different motions – issued a notice of Felix’s lack of understanding of the trial process, and his inability to defend himself.

Attorneys Reginald Garcia, left, and Pat Bliss speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) Courtesy Mail Online.com

Attorneys Reginald Garcia, left, and Pat Bliss speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) Courtesy Mail Online.com

I went into Felix’s 37 Certificates in skills learned. I told them he has a home to come to and supporters all around the country – Deaf and hearing alike – to help him transition back into society. I also stated that he is employable with his computer skills for one, and has a church family already waiting for him. I ended with, even if he receives 5,10 or even 20 years more, his character as a sweet, kind and generous person will not change. He is always looking out for others. I told how he gives to those with nothing, like sharing his soup with other Deaf inmates who have no one to visit them at Christmas. He has no criminal intent. In his thinking he harbors forgiveness, because he knows that failing to forgive only destroys one’s self. He has no malice against the Tramontana family, as he never met the victim, Joseph Tramontana Jr. Lastly, I showed the commissioners a hand made birthday card from the guys in Felix’s dorm at Tomoka. There are 63 signatures of thanks for helping them, thanks for being a role model and thanks for being a mentor. I ended with a plea to consider parole and if not, then the Lifer’s Program, which Felix will gladly accept.

 

Then, Mark Ober – State Attorney of Hillsborough County – along with Tramontana’s four sisters, tried hard to keep Felix from getting the relief of freedom. They were not present when we spoke. Mr. Ober spoke after the sisters, and showed documents to the commissioners to prove Felix was competent, and could understand and write legal documents. He showed two state expert witnesses – non-ENT specialists – reports stating Felix had no problem understanding, he could hear and he was competent to stand trial. He did not dispute the defense’s alibi witnesses or the time-line showing where Felix was at the time of the murder. In a surprise move, the commission let us come back to speak further. This was crucial to us. Generally, the victims have the last word. The court views any inaccuracies or exaggerations as true, when not disputed. I was able to dispute Mr. Ober’s allegations about Felix’s ability to understand legal proceedings, hear, and write legal documents.

First, I told them that I had written all Felix’s legal documents from 1996 on, and I stressed his inability – even today – to understand legal proceedings. I refuted Mr. Ober’s allegation that Felix’s hearing was just fine at time of the trial, according to Dr. Agliano’s report. I gave a visual description of the scale used to determine the degree of deafness, and where Felix stood versus someone who can hear. Dr. Algiano said that hearing is acceptable up to 25%. Ober said Felix was at 70%, at the time of trial. In truth, Felix was at a 40% loss, if not more. [See correction below. — ed.]

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

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

The commission ruled that Felix would receive a reduction of 12 months from his proposed parole release date to 8/10/2025. He will have another review in 3 years. Furthermore, he will go to the special 18-month transitional programming – generally known as the Lifer’s Program. Reggie and I were both happy with that because the alternative could have been no PPRD reduction, no change in housing, and the next hearing in 7 years. That is exactly what happened in Frank’s case.

Felix Garcia celebrating his GED in 1984 Courtesy Pat Bliss. From Mother Jones Magazine.

Felix Garcia celebrating his GED in 1984 Courtesy Pat Bliss.
From Mother Jones Magazine.

In another surprise move by the Commission, Frank Garcia’s case was up next. Already, the camera operators and reporters were there, and they were not about to move out of that room! Reggie and I stood on the sidelines – close to the front – to listen again to Mark Ober and the sisters. The sisters said essentially, the same things but Mr. Ober was even more adamant to keeping Frank incarcerated. He had prosecuted Frank at his own trial in 1982. Then came Frank’s speakers to support him being granting parole. They were sister Tina and a younger brother – Michael – who was 15 years old when the crime occurred. It shocked many people to see Tina and Mike there for Frank, but not Felix. It was so obvious that their loyalty lay with one and not to the other. Mike was brainwashed by Frank into believing Felix did it, and Frank had a smaller part. Tina – who had recanted in a 1996 affidavit stating Felix had nothing to do with the planning or commission of the crime – now feels her freedom is more important, and will not admit again to any wrongdoing nor to exonerate Felix. She is the only one who can bring this case back into court, outside of the Hillsborough County State Attorney, making that move to overturn Felix’s conviction.

Image courtesy Pat Bliss

Image courtesy Pat Bliss

I was so upset that I could not think to ask Tina, specifically why she refuses to help Felix. All I could think to say to her was, why did you not testify for Felix as well. Her answer was because Felix didn’t ask her. Oh really? To do kindness to a brother you must be asked first? I can only conclude that everyone in that family believes Felix thinks – and acts – like them. His family had abandoned him, and Felix would not ask for their support at his parole hearing. The Garcia family has no concept of Felix’s limitations being deaf – his reading and verbal comprehension to start with. He has had no formal education as a deaf man. However, in the end, Reggie and I were able to educate the public a little about being deaf and caught up in the criminal justice system – via Felix’s case.

After the parole meetings were over – out in the lobby – reporters surrounded us. They wanted clarification on what went on, and our reaction to the decision.

They left, and it was finally a chance to calm down and regroup my thoughts, as to how to explain all that had occurred, to Felix, that coming weekend at Marion C.I. in Ocala, Florida.

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.

[Correction: Ober did not have anything to do with the hearing test. The report by Dr. Agliano said Felix had a 70% loss at time of the trial. His opinion was that Felix had at least a 40-45% loss at time of the crime two years earlier – which was still a much more significant loss, than the 25% that is considered the limit of hearing with clear discernment. Dr. Agliano was the defense expert witness who testified at the trial, after having given Felix a thorough hearing test. The State expert witnesses were non-ENTs, who interviewed Felix and said he had no problem hearing them. –Ed.]

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