I am a Happy Person

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

This is what Felix Garcia said to me on a visit recently… “I wake up every morning, and say I am a happy person, because so much evil around. By telling yourself you are happy, the evil around has no effect. You will see God’s blessings that way.” What a wonderful lesson for us all.

I drove down to Florida for 12 days to attend two video shoots, of Felix at the prison, and of course visit him on the weekend. When Felix is telling his story in a video shoot it never wavers. From our first video shot in 2011 – for Mother Jones Magazine – by Investigative Journalist James Ridgeway, to the present, the story remains exactly the same.

And like it was with James Ridgeway, Felix’s story is so compelling – his innocence shows through loud and clear, his pain of being in prison – a deaf man – shows through, loud and clear. The abuses he has suffered, have left permanent scars.

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)

Felix has entered the special programming classes called Annex Reefs at Wakulla Correctional. He was so eager to get started. They first, put him in a couple of classes called Quest and Business Concepts. Quest is not too hard as it involves improving oneself, but business concepts – for a deaf man with no formal education, no experiences in life to compare to, and no understanding of the terminology – has really frustrated him. And yes, he is without an interpreter. He filed a grievance, and was denied.  Eventually, he was given a finger speller to assist. Felix felt left to learn on his own. He was so upset. I contacted authorities about the need for an interpreter, who can sign properly. Felix needs an interpreter badly, so he can learn and absorb the education he so thoroughly hungers for. The person I contacted, took note and hopefully, there will be an interpreter there soon. Felix was referred to this special program by the parole commission, at his hearing last November. It helps in achieving parole.

Our readers, and Felix’s supporters know, how much he loves computers. His job currently, is at the law library typing documents. He is excellent at it. Right after he was assigned there, Felix became aware of a need, and filled it. He wrote a program for the law library, in Visual Basic using Microsoft Access.

  1. It schedules the court deadlines for the inmates that come to the law library, who have filed cases.
  2. Does a report as to how many copies are made, at any given time.
  3. Reports on where the copies are sent, when, and to whom.
  4. Provides an indigent supply report
  5. Tracks Law Library usage by individual inmates.
  6. Lists all the books in the library, and where they can be found.
Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my opinion, this program should be in every prison library. Felix says, creating these programs comes easy to him. It’s a place where interpreters are not needed to succeed in any project.

There are exciting things coming up, which will be announced as they unfold. But in the meantime, there have been – and will be – weeks and weeks of nothing happening, on his case. But personally, I get phone calls regularly from Felix, as there is always some issue to get resolved. That is standard in any prison, but especially so, in one where there are few to no deaf in the dorms.

Time.com

DeafInPrison.com

Felix is adjusting, and for the most part, likes it at Wakulla. He says the way Wakulla is laid out makes it a safe camp. Safely means a lot to the deaf (blind and handicapped) in prison, as they are generally targeted for robbery and assaults.

He wanted me to let you all know your support means a lot to him. He is humbled by the number of people who have signed the petition, and the letters he gets. I too am humbled by the continual support on this egregious case, and I thank you.

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 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.

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.

We Got ’em on the Run

By BitcoDavid

Talila Lewis of HEARD sent out an e-mail describing the Florida DOC’s new regulation prohibiting inmates from posting to Internet sites, or – more importantly – having non-inmates post to sites, for them.  A forward within that e-mail, from the Florida Justice Institute, describes the new regs in detail. The ruling would forbid inmates from establishing accounts or maintaining an Internet presence on any Web site. Further, Inmates who have existing accounts would be required to close those accounts, in writing, via the U.S. mails. Florida already prevents inmates from using computers, going online or using e-mail.

Here’s a block quote of the actual ruling as issued by the Florida DOC.

33-602.208 Inmate Internet Presence.
(1) Establishment of accounts or presence on internet websites by inmates.
(a) Inmates are prohibited from establishing or maintaining an account, or any other presence, on any internet website.
(b) Internet website means an internet-based website that has any of the following capabilities:
1. Allows users to create web pages or profiles about themselves, including dedicated websites, blogs, or other online communities, that are available to the general public or to any other users.
2. Offers a mechanism for communication among users, including but not limited to directory, forum, chat room, electronic mail, or instant messaging.
(c) Account or presence means the inmate has an actual account in their name which is created and maintained either by the inmate or by a proxy whereby information is posted about the inmate.
(d) Inmates who create an internet account or have a presence created with the assistance of another person shall be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Rules 33-601.301-.314, F.A.C. If an inmate alleges that an account or presence was created without his assistance or permission or that the account or presence was created before this restriction became effective, it is the responsibility of the inmate to request that the account or presence be removed by submitting a written request, within 10 days, to the owner, operator, or administrator of the site if it is reasonably possible for the Department to identify the physical address of such entity. No inmate shall be subject to discipline if the account or presence is not removed subsequent to submission of the written request. If it is not reasonably possible for the Department to identify the physical address of the owner, operator, or administrator of the site in which the account or presence is located, the inmate must submit Form DC6-236, Inmate Request, to the warden indicating that the account or presence was created without the inmate’s knowledge or consent or that it was placed prior to this restriction. The inmate shall be subject to disciplinary action only if it is discovered that the inmate solicited the creation of the account or presence and that it was created subsequent to this restriction. Form DC6-236, Inmate Request, is incorporated by reference in Rule 33-103.005, F.A.C.
(e) Inmates who post information to the internet or have information posted with the assistance of another person shall be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Rules 33-601.301-.314, F.A.C. If an inmate alleges that information was posted without his assistance or permission or that the information was posted before this restriction became effective, it is the responsibility of the inmate to request that the information be removed by submitting a written request, within 10 days, to the owner, operator, or administrator of the site in which the information is located if it is reasonably possible for the Department to identify the physical address of such entity. No inmate shall be subject to discipline if the information is not removed subsequent to submission of the written request. If it is not reasonably possible for the Department to identify the physical address of the owner, operator, or administrator of the site in which the information is located, the inmate must submit Form DC6-236, Inmate Request, to the warden indicating that the information was posted without the inmate’s knowledge or consent or that it was posted prior to this restriction. The inmate shall be subject to disciplinary action only if it is discovered that the inmate solicited the posting of the information and that it was posted subsequent to this restriction.

Attorney General Pam Bondi

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. I wonder if she reads DeafInPrison.com. As much as I put up her picture, you’d think she’d be a fan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s the thing. Felix Garcia – as you all well know – has one hell of an Internet presence. I must confess that I’m responsible for a big chunk of that, albeit not all of it. Felix’s first foray into the world of Internet media came from an article in Mother Jones Magazine by James Ridgeway. DeafInPrison.com however, has not only chronicled – and is still chronicling – his story, but we created the petition site, post on his behalf to FaceBook, Twitter and all the other big social networks, and we maintain a page, specifically for Felix on FaceBook.

So, I guess all that means, Pam Bondi‘s got me in her sights. I’ll be breakin’ rocks in the hot sun. But you know what? I’m not going to quit. Even after Felix is free, DeafInPrison.com will remain committed to seeking justice for the Deaf and HoH incarcerated in America, for the wrongfully convicted, and for all inmates who suffer injustice, maltreatment or abuse in America’s prisons.

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.

Felix’s Petition for All to See

By BitcoDavid

It occurs to me, that you might want to see the actual petition letter that we will be sending to the Florida officials asking for a pardon for Felix. I added links, for this post, and they will not be included in the official document. The original document was drafted by Heather Hardy and Jason Anthony, and provided to DeafInPrison.com by 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.

Sincerely,

[All of you – Felix’s friends and supporters in this worthy effort]

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. 

Over 400 Signatures for Felix

By BitcoDavid

I was delightfully surprised when checking Felix’s petition, this morning. We’ve finally gotten out of the 300s, where we’ve been stuck for months. We are now the longest lived, and largest petition, since this case went public. As Pat Bliss stated in her last update, the clemency hearing for Felix is underway now. We need to get his petition delivered to Pam Bondi, Governor Scott and the rest of the cabinet members immediately. And we can’t do that until we have those 1000 signatures.

Please sign the petition, share it with your friends on FaceBook, Twitter and all the other social networks. E-mail it those, whom you believe can help. An innocent Deaf man is counting on us. He’s been seeking the justice that is rightfully due him, for over 30 years.

 

Felix, it turns out, is good with computers. In fact, he’s actually written several programs in use today, for the Florida DOC. Wouldn’t it be great to see this man who’s had his entire youth stolen from him, complete his education and perhaps find a place in the computer industry? Or think of the book he could write. Maybe the contribution this deeply devout Christian can make to the religious community.

No matter what he does, Felix must be freed. He deserves the chance at a life. He deserves Justice.

So, when you’re friends ask what you did today, you can either respond with the usual – nothing, or you can say you helped a Deaf man, framed in a murder case – and wrongfully imprisoned for 30 years – finally, win back his freedom. Please! Please! Make it the latter.

In case you missed it, in its many locations on the site and in this post, here’s the link to this vital petition:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/453/783/026/felix-garcia-should-be-granted-a-full-pardon

Please understand that Felix’s clemency is up to the Judge, the lawyers – the court. But this petition, especially when delivered into the hands of power in the state of Florida, can have a profound impact on the final outcome of those hearings.

[Editor’s Note: You can see Felix’s amazing 8 part video interview with Pat Bliss and James Ridgeway, on our site. Links to all 8 segments can be found in our right hand sidebar. But for convenience, I have included a link to the first segment here. — BitcoDavid]

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.

Not Really a Digest Post – Sort of an Apetiser

By BitcoDavid

"A-S-L" signed with American Sign La...

“A-S-L” signed with American Sign Language, combined Image:Sign language A.svg, Image:Sign language S.svg and Image:Sign language L.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First off, last night’s ASL meetup went well, except that Marsha Graham was not in attendance. Marsha suffered a bad fall yesterday in the early part of the day, and broke her shoulder. She’s currently in the hospital, and the road to recovery looks long and difficult. In order to respect her privacy, I won’t mention the name of the hospital, but you can send your well-wishes and good thoughts here, to DeafInPrison.com, and I will be sure she sees them. Simply comment below, and I’ll forward any messages to her. Marsha has been a tireless advocate for both the Deaf and HoH communities, and the wrongfully convicted prison population. She has been a wonderful asset to DeafInPrison.com and has been invaluable to me in my effort to learn Sign.  Let’s show her that we appreciate all she’s done.

One individual at the meetup however, was someone whom I hadn’t yet met. His name is Paul. He asked me if I was an engineer. I stumbled through signing back, “How did you know?” He said, “I read your blog.” It was awesome! Imagine that! somebody reads my blog!

Moorbey has honored DeafInPrison.com with an award nomination. We are the proud recipients of the Versatile Blogger AwardThank you Moorbey for the respect. It is mutual.

versatile

The Versatile Blogger award – Thank you Moorbey’z Blog. There are many great sites throughout the Blogosphere – tireless workers struggling to bring you the truth. Moorbey’z Blog is one of the best.

The Rules:  Thank and link back to the person who awarded you. Nominate 15 bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award and include a link to their site. Drop 7 pieces of info about yourself.

So, Here’s mine.

  1. I’m an auditory learner. When given information orally, I have an almost eidetic memory. Reading is my second strongest learning method, but I can usually repeat information I have learned aurally, word for word. It makes Sign very difficult for me, because although much of the information is imparted aurally, the bulk of what you learn, is obviously visual.

I tend to look at the world in X-Ray. It’s hard to explain, but when most people look at something like a car, they see 4 wheels and a box. When I look at a car, I see gears, pistons and pulleys. It’s true with everything. You see a vacuum cleaner, I see a motor, an impeller and pipes.

June supervises the boys and their friends, To...

June supervises the boys and their friends, Tooey and Eddie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was a Leftist before it was cool. All the stuff that people think is new – like Feminism, racial and class equality, Environmentalism and animal rights – have been my fight for decades. Sometimes, it’s disheartening because it seems like we’ve made so little progress, and it’s taken so long. Other times, though – I can see how far we’ve come, and I feel good about it. For example, I can remember when it was actually surprising to see a Black doctor or a Female lawyer. I can remember when all women were June Cleaver, and all Blacks were Fred Sanford. We have made some progress.

I hate the word consumer. I far prefer the word Citizen. Where the former is castrating and countermining, the later is empowering. If you must use a word in reference to commerce, use the word customer. The customer is an essential element in the transaction of business. The consumer is simply a sheep. Cattle for the slaughter.

English: Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, Jethro...

Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, Jethro Tull in concert, Chicago 1973. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing about being old. I’ve seen Jethro Tull, the Airplane, the Dead, Yes and the Who. I saw Genesis with Peter Gabriel, in New York at the Beacon Theater. I saw ELP when Keith Emerson did his flying Piano bit. I saw Elton John right after he got back from the former Soviet Union. My only regret is that I wasn’t at Woodstock. My parents wouldn’t let me go. OK, so kids nowadays have iPads and Wiis. But, if you haven’t seen Pink Floyd – the real Pink Floyd – you haven’t seen anything.

Everybody complains about being married, but I like it. I wouldn’t trade one minute of the life I’ve shared with my wife, for anything. She’s a wonderful woman and I love her.

When I was about 5 years old, my dad took me to see How the West was Won, in Cooper Cinerama. From that point on, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with cinema. I love movies. Even the bad ones. I just love movies.

15 Nominees:

Life in Color with Closed Captions (http://withclosedcaptions.wordpress.com/)

Lockup Reform (http://lockupreform.com/)

End Solitary (http://stopsolitary.wordpress.com/)

A Public Defender (http://apublicdefender.com/) – A lawyer that can write? Yup.

BitcoDavid’s BoxingBlog (http://bitcodavidsboxingblog.com/) – Sorry, shameless self promotion.

C’mon People or Sheeple? (http://menantum.com/)

Carpenter’s Cabin (http://lascrucescarpenter.wordpress.com/) – Misbehaved Woman’s hubby.

Donnatella’s Space (http://lady6x.wordpress.com/)

Undergrad Woman (http://pinkystanseski.com/) – Still waiting for a piece, Pinky.

Thought Snax (http://thoughtsnax.com/) – A bit different, but generally a fun read.

Just Cruisin’ 2 (http://cruisin2.wordpress.com/) – Cars, Dogs and some other stuff.

Femineach (http://feimineach.com/)

Any of Glenn Langohr’s sites (http://audiobookprisonstories.com/) – Glenn is an amazing asset, and an awesome writer. His story is one you need to learn about. While the rest of us were talking about prison life, Glenn was living it.

Solitary Watch (http://solitarywatch.com/) – James Ridgeway is the Granddaddy of this whole movement. He’s been writing about prison reform and solitary confinement since most of us were still in Garanimals.

Lipreading Mom (http://lipreadingmom.com/) – Be sure to check out the upcoming Stop Hearing Loss Bullying video from Lipreading Mom. BitcoDavid is editing it, as you’re reading this.

English: Medication used for obesity. Orlistat...

Medication used for obesity. Orlistat and sibutramine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lastly, there’s this. Suppose you wanted to lose those love handles, and diet and exercise just weren’t working fast enough. So, you decide to try something like Xenedrine, or any of a dozen different OTC weight loss aids. Now, suppose you’re on parole. Did you know that products like that can make you test positive for amphetamines? It’s true, and you could end up violated, all because you wanted to shed a couple of pounds. The jails are chock full of guys who ate poppy seed bagels, or took a decongestant, or ate some Xenedrine.

Yet the companies that market these faulty tests continue to push them on the public, and authorities such as P.O.s and even bosses, continue to believe in their accuracy – at the cost of your freedom and livelihood. Know this. You always  have the right to demand a blood test, administered by a medical professional.  Breathalyzers and piss tests are horribly inaccurate,  and all the more so when administered by inexperienced law officers and employers. Do yourself a favor. Say I want my doctor to give me a blood test.

Well, don’t forget to drop a line for poor Marsha, and Peace. Out.

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.

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