Celebrating McCay Vernon and Visiting Felix

By Pat Bliss

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

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

It was a quick weekend for me but I felt a need to attend the celebration of the life of Dr. McCay Vernon on September 22nd and I was glad I did. It was well attended with many, many of his former students who are themselves, college professors. For the first time, I felt like the minority in that I do not sign and most everyone else did. There were those who were deaf who signed and those who were hearing who signed. Mac was a sensational human being, according to the people who knew him best and for a very long time. He was always encouraging them to greater achievements. He was always there to help if needed. He was called a rock star in his field of expertise.  An old school friend of his told me Mac loved sports, especially basketball. In his retirement years – it became a common thread in speeches given – that one of Mac’s most favorite pastimes was breakfast, and lots of them. Everyone who spoke mentioned going out for breakfast, on a regular basis. I was beginning to think each one thought they were the only ones. What a surprise!

Mac’s wife Marie asked me to be a speaker on Felix’s case as it was close to Mac’s heart. I could not compare to those who spoke so lovingly and wisely about Dr. Vernon but I was able to share how Mac got involved with Felix’s case and how passionate he was in helping us. In the process, he led me to Washington Correspondent James Ridgeway to do an article for Mother Jones on Felix’s case. This started the publicity that Felix’s case needed. Mac put me in touch with author Joanne Greenberg about writing a book, which led to my writing Felix’s case story on DeafInPrison.com. He sent me literature he wrote on the deaf in the criminal justice system whenever I had a problem I needed some direction on. He was always there. I’ll miss that.

I spent Saturday with Felix. We had a great visit and he wants everyone to know how much he appreciates the cards, letters and prayers. Again, I learned something new about Felix. This time he showed me how he learns. He drew me a triangle. One side said, “see.” The second side said, “endure” and the third side said “do it”.  And he explained it this way: he sees the subject, he studies it to the point of absorbing what it says (endures) and then does what it says. This may seem elementary but remember Felix said in a earlier post “we are picture people?” He learns by drawing and writing it out so he can see it.  Just before leaving, referencing Mac’s passing, Felix said, “If it wasn’t for Dr. Vernon, we would not have what we have today.” It is evident, we all could agree with that statement.

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.

Deaf Awareness Week – Day 6, Felix Interview Section 7

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

I’m glad to be able to finally bring you the 7th installment in our series with Felix Garcia, in prison, and being interviewed by Jim Ridgeway and Pat Bliss. As always, this intellectual property is under the explicit copyright of Jim Ridgeway and cannot be shared, downloaded or reblogged, but you are by all means, encouraged to share the link.

Producing these videos represents a tremendous amount of work, by all concerned, and it is for that reason that they take so long for us to make available to you.

In keeping with Deaf Awareness Week, and the fact that Yesterday, September 28th was Felix’s 51st birthday – his 30th behind bars, I would be deeply grateful if you would take just a moment to sign our petition, after viewing this moving and informative video.


Links to the petition also can be found in both sidebars, and here’s a link to the actual petition site page.


So, without further ado, here’s Felix #7:

Deaf Awareness Week – Day 5 **Happy Birthday, Felix!**

The following is a letter that will be sent to the Attorney General, two influential cabinet members and the Governor of Florida regarding a full pardon for Felix Garcia. Those of you who have been following this site, know that Felix is an innocent Deaf man who has served over 30 years for a crime he never committed.

Here’s the link to where you can go to sign this letter and the associated petition.



Image Courtesy of Pat Bliss

Office of Cabinet Affairs

The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear [Attorney General Pam Bondi] [CFO Jeff Atwater] [Commissioner Adam Putnam]:

I am writing to ask you to recommend to Governor Rick Scott that Felix Garcia be granted a full pardon. New evidence has made it clear that Mr. Garcia, a deaf man framed for murder, has been unjustly held in prison for more than three decades. Felix’s story of unjust imprisonment by Florida authorities has been put into the national spotlight by James Ridgeway, one of America’s premier investigative journalists, in an article for Mother Jones. It is time for you to act on this new evidence.

In 2006, Frank Garcia, Felix’s brother, finally confessed in court that Felix had nothing to do with the murder and armed robbery of Joseph Tramontana in Hillsborough County on August 3rd, 1981. Frank’s 2006 testimony stated outright that the crimes had been committed by himself and Ray Stanley alone, and that Felix “had nothing to do with it.” During the 1981 trial, Frank, his sister Tina, and Tina’s boyfriend (Ray Stanley) conspired to lie under oath that Felix killed Tramontana. The three of them planned the crime together and then took advantage of Felix’s deafness to pin the crime on him.

There is overwhelming reason to believe that Felix Garcia, who entered jail in 1981 at the age of 19, is innocent. Frank’s fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, while eyewitness testimony puts Felix five miles away, watching a movie and eating pizza at his girlfriend’s house. Physical evidence proves this: Felix signed a receipt for a pizza that was delivered to his girlfriend’s house at the time of the crime. Furthermore, Felix’s girlfriend and her mother testified in court that Felix was with them that night.

Nonetheless, during the 2006 review of Felix’s case, a judge denied freedom for Felix, stating that he “couldn’t discern the truth.” His confusion rested on the one piece of physical evidence linking Felix to the crime, a pawn ticket (for Tramontana’s pinky ring) which Frank asked Felix to sign because Frank told his brother that he “forgot his ID.” Frank’s 2006 testimony, however, makes it clear that the pawn ticket is irrelevant.

In your consideration of whether to recommend pardon for Felix after 31 years of unjust imprisonment, please consider that at the 1981 trial, Felix was not given the proper accommodations due a deaf person. As a result, Felix understood very little of what was said. Worse, in the 30 years since then, Felix has suffered the physical and mental abuse common among deaf inmates: rape, isolation, and neglect.

Please recommend that Felix Garcia be fully pardoned. Please do not thwart justice by keeping an innocent man in prison any longer. Let Felix have his life back.


CC:  Governor Rick Scott

Felix turns 51 today, and they haven’t been good years. What better way to celebrate both his birthday, and Deaf Awareness Week, than to show him our support in his Sisyphean struggle to receive justice.


Deaf Awareness Week – Day 4

This is a fun post for me, because I get to feature lot’s of pictures of gear.

A member of HEARD, or perhaps a visitor to their site, wrote an interesting piece on the fact that emergency horns – to alert residents to everything from hurricanes to invasions – cannot be heard by the Deaf, and that there’s nothing in place to provide for their safety.

It reminded me of something I’ve been learning and re-learning since I started the DeafInPrison.com project.

We in the hearing world take for granted just how much difficulty the Deaf and HoH have in simple, day to day life. So much of our world is based on the ability to hear. Even in some cases, your basic safety. Hearing can be the difference between life and death.

Tell ya what. If you can’t hear this – you’ll still feel it in your bones.

We cross streets while texting away on our iPhones, all the while blissfully aware that we’ll hear any threat. We know the subway’s coming, because we hear it a half mile away. We can tell if a dog is friendly because we can hear his growl, and we know our cats are happy because we can hear them purr.

Imagine what a scary place our planet would be if all that were suddenly taken away.

These are the horns I have – for my 1 – 3K section. Altec 8-11B. They’re classics.

Deaf Awareness Week is a good time to stress some of these issues. And DeafInPrison.com is a good place, because just doing this project has opened my ears to a whole world of understanding. It’s more than just speech, and even music – although one of the things I have also learned is that many Deaf can and do enjoy music.

Once, for an experiment, I tried to go a whole day blindfolded. Just to see what it was like, and if I could get along without my sight. Well, I’m here to tell you, it ain’t easy. But none of us ever question a world without our ears. Many Deaf tell me that if given the choice, they’d opt for blindness.

Someone wrote – somewhere – Deafness is worse than blindness, because the blind are cut off from things, but the Deaf are cut off from life. I’m paraphrasing, of course – and probably not too well – but I think the sentiment is valid.

As an athlete, I often wonder what life would be like as a paraplegic. I can’t help but admire those brave individuals who overcome that kind of disability and go on to perform incredible feats. The guys who run marathons in wheelchairs – that sort of thing. But, I’ve learned – only recently – that when I see a beautiful piece of artwork, read a stirring blog entry, or hear a stunning score created by someone who’s deaf, I’m witnessing an even more impressive feat.

Here’s your closing shot.

Neve console. For 30 years, I called this “home.”

Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions

False confessions are more common than expected. The most common explanations are that the suspect experiences fear, intimidation, frustration and “just wants to go home.”

Deaf individuals as well as other vulnerable groups are at risk for making false confessions because of their communication differences and disabilities, youth, and personality characteristics.  In one case I worked on the detectives did not use a sign language interpreter with a deaf woman suspect but instead used written communication and lipreading.  The detectives were not aware that the deaf woman had a second grade reading level, could barely write an English grammatical sentence, and was guessing and reading body language to try to determine what the detectives were asking her.

Furthermore, police officers are often trained in using coercive techniques, asking complex questions, repeating questions, making false promises, or threats, or using confusing and ambiguous language to force the false confession. In this article, Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions, published in the Champion, July 2012, p. 34-42, Dr. Vernon and I provide recommendations that can be adopted such as mandatory video recording so that vulnerable populations such as deaf individuals are provided their Constitutional Rights and to ensure there is documentation that the confession is reliable and voluntary.

[Sadly, the link to this article is unavailable, as the Champion has chosen to place it in their protected area. I have included links to their membership page, should you want to join and access it that way. Guest memberships cannot access the protected area. –BitcoDavid]

[***Update – Dr. Andrews was kind enough to e-mail me a PDF of the full article. Here’s the link. – BitcoDavid]

False Confessions


Deaf Awareness Week – Day 3 PetFinder.com

This is Marlee. She’d give some lucky Human an awful lot of love.

PetFinder.com has set up a whole Web site devoted to finding homes for deaf dogs and cats, in celebration of Deaf Awareness Week. Page after page of wonderful, loving, rescue animals that need a little extra attention, because they’re deaf. Research has shown that teaching deaf dogs to follow basic Sign language commands isn’t difficult at all.

PetFinder. com is a huge organization, and I applaud them for using Deaf Awareness Week as an opportunity to help not only these wonderful and needy animals, but to help us as well. Deaf or hearing, there’s nothing in this world that can love you like a dog. These animals have 50 millennia of breeding specifically for that purpose – to love Humans.

I’m glad to help support them in this worthy cause – and at this most propitious of times.

The good news is that as I click through these links, I find a surprising number of animals that have already been adopted. So, although that means the pool is diminishing, it also means that these forgotten members of our society have been saved. And in the world of animal rescue, where there are far too few no-kill shelters, those dogs and cats that aren’t adopted quickly – are far too often, destroyed.

I have always been a supporter of PetFinder. com, but I really love the idea of having a drive to rescue deaf animals during Deaf Awareness Week. It speaks volumes as to the amount of heart this organization’s executives have.

Congratulations, PetFinder.com – DeafInPrison.com gives you two thumbs up.

Deaf Awareness Week – Day 2: Deaf Art Exibit – From Jean F. Andrews

Susan Dupor Revival of the Deer. Image courtesy of Jean F. Andrews.

This is a PowerPoint document, containing art works by Deaf artists in Texas. The exhibit was funded by the National Endowment of the Arts, VSA Arts, Southeast Texas Arts Council and the Texas School for the Deaf, in Spring 2008 at Lamar University and Texas School for the Deaf.

Randy Garber Blue Jay Blues. Image courtesy of Jean F. Andrews.

In putting together this post, I saw some of these works – and believe me, they’re worth the effort.

The playground

YOᙀ ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᙎᗩTᙅᕼ OᙀT YOᙀ ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᑎOT ᙅᖇY ᙖᙓTTᙓᖇ ᑎOT ᑭOᙀT I'ᙏ TᙓᒪᒪIᑎᘜ YOᙀ ᙎᕼY ᔕᗩᑎTᗩ ᙅᒪᗩᙀᔕ Iᔕ ᙅOᙏIᑎᘜ TO TOᙎᑎ

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