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.

Latest from Pat Bliss

By BitcoDavid

Pat Bliss sent me the following via e-mail:

Felix arrived at the Wakulla prison yesterday to begin his new venture in Special Programming known as a transitional program or Lifer’s Program. He was sent there by the parole commission at his parole hearing in November 2014. It is an 18 month program. Last we talked, he is looking forward to it so he can prove to the parole commission what he can accomplish. In our talk he also mentioned how much he appreciated the support of those in the free world – a hope someday he will be there too. Here is his new address:

Felix Garcia #482246
Wakulla Correctional Institute – Annex
110 Melaleuca Drive
Crawfordville, FL 32327

Just so you all know, our clemency action is still inline to be heard before the Clemency Board, our approximate wait is about another 3-4 years. However we – the legal team – are still active in tying to get Felix’s case heard early, which is possible under Clemency Rule 17. Hence, all the publicity that was – and will be – coming forth highlighting this case.

In response to the USDOJ investigation into the deaths of 346 inmates – during 2014 – in Florida, Governor Rick Scott has brought on Julie Jones, as the first female Secretary of the DOC, in the state’s history.

FlNewsServ

According to News Service Florida‘s Dara Kam, Ms. Jones held her first conference with state legislature on Tuesday, January 20th.  In it, she asked for more money, and more gubernatorial oversight. She pointed to an understaffed and besieged DOC, crumbling infrastructure, an overwhelming increase in mentally ill inmates, and private vendors who are failing to fulfill their contracts, as some of the causes for the department’s dysfunction.

Quote Jones:

“Staffing is key to lowering the temperature in these facilities. It’s going to take all hands on deck and it’s going to take a true change in how we look at the role of the corrections officers and also the expectations of what those corrections officers, what services, they deliver to those inmates. Quite frankly, it’s a service. They’re there to keep them happy and they’re there to keep them healthy … and do it in such a way that they enter the facility in the same way that they exit the facility. And we’re not doing that.”

Over the past 4 years, the state legislature has cut over over 1 billion dollars from the budget, and laid off over 1000 COs and employees of the DOC. They have shifted numerous services that were performed in-house, over to private concessionaires – including health care. Jones is looking for about 35 million of those funds to be restored, a return to previous employment levels and for the renegotiation of contracts with outside vendors. She is also seeking new and improved training for COs in dealing with the mentally ill and senior inmates. I found no mention of the Deaf, in the NSF article.

In her comments regarding infrastructure, for which she is seeking 15 million in additional funds, she mentioned one facility that was built in 1913, and is still in use.

Greg Evers With Tractor

Greg Evers With Tractor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman, Greg Evers (R) stated that he thinks “…the legislature has a cross to bear.” He was speaking on the recent spate of corruption charges, the investigations by both the USDOJ, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as Whistleblower lawsuits filed by individuals who claimed they were targeted for retribution by prison guards and authorities.

Quote Evers:

“I can tell you how far we will go. We will go to the point that when you go to prison that you will be given the opportunity to enter the Department of Corrections. You will be allowed to rehabilitate yourself … and you will come out alive on the other side and not leave the prison in a body bag,”

Above all, Jones is working to either renegotiate, re-bid or terminate relationships with private health care providers and the private prison industry. She said she believes that private prisons tend to cherry pick inmates and facilities, and that the standard of health care provided by private industry is below state norms.

The Florida DOC health care system, as provided by Corizon Health and Wexford Health Services, has been under Federal Court oversight since 2000, and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, for a decade prior to that.

To see the original article, go here:

http://www.newsserviceflorida.com/

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.

2014 in Review

By BitcoDavid

I hope you all had a great New Years holiday. Since my days of wearing lampshades have gone the way of the pterodactyl, my last vice consists entirely of food. Like all Jews, to me the last day of the year means one thing and one thing  only – Chinese! I’ll be running a lot of laps, and doing a ton of crunches, to pay the tab for all those fried dumplings and scallion pancakes.

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)

It was a difficult but rewarding year. Felix Garcia got a shot at clemency, and a shot at parole. Though neither worked out the way we had hoped, we did see a few small victories in his case. Sachs Media contacted me to write a letter for the parole board – and I not only worked on it for hours, but spent a fortune over-nighting it to Florida – only to have it go unread, at the hearing. Thankfully, my readers here, did read it, so I don’t feel the work was wasted.

We had a great Supporter Contribution from an attorney who presented an argument for why he believes Felix should not be released. Pat Bliss handled our rebuttal. Although we disagree with his premise, we welcomed his objective and informative input. DeafInPrison.com is always looking for well written and thoughtful alternatives to our point of view. This particular attorney was reticent about coming forward and speaking his mind, in the decidedly Left Wing Blogosphere. I helped him create a screen-name and guaranteed his anonymity. A courtesy we will always extend. On the other hand, if you want some 80,000 people knowing who you are, we’re able to help with that as well.

It hasn’t been a good year for the police. An individual for whom I hold great respect and admiration – MadMike – promised me a piece from the pro-police perspective. He’s a former law enforcement professional, and a university professor. To add just a soupçon of irony, the school he teaches at, is none other than Kent State. He’s working on a post, as we speak, and I’m sure it will be emotionally moving and highly edifying.

I’ve had a number of personal ASL adventures. A total stranger walked up to me at Northshore Mall, after Meetup, and signed “You Deaf?” to me.

DeafInPrison.com / Google Images

DeafInPrison.com / Google Images

Even more impressive, was that he thought I was lying when I signed back, “No – Hearing.” I attended a holiday party where some were Hearing and some were Deaf, but the rule was, voices off. I was there – and signing – for a good 4 hours. I even gave a Deaf man a ride home. Think about how significant that is. I followed route directions, from a person who cannot talk. I’ve had 2 sections of “Conversational ASL,” at Beverly School for the Deaf, and am in the process of getting a Sign tutor. Someday, I might be able to do all these posts in Signed video.

Speaking of video. We are about 3 quarters of the way through our complete system upgrade. Some machines haven’t been replaced for 8 years. 8 years to a computer is like 15 to a dog. My video editor is now a quad core Xeon, with 3 SSDs and 6G of DDR 1066. Many of you already have better tech than that, but if you saw the poor old workhorse that I was using, you’d get what an upgrade this is. I built my video editor 8 years ago, with parts that were bordering on obsolete – back then. And it wasn’t without a tear or two, that I waved goodbye, as the big green truck hauled it to its final rest.

I'll never tell.

I’ll never tell.

My mail server and my main workstation are the last two machines to go. That should happen this coming month. We’re running Win7 Pro, and although it’s 15 years late, we’re finally in the 21st century. LED projection, and then of course teleportation are my next challenges.

Most people are glad to see a year go, and pin their hopes on the coming one. While I do have really high hopes for 2015, I can’t call 2014 a bad year. In fact, from the point of view of DeafInPrison.com – it’s been a great year.

Here’s WordPress’ annual report.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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 Response to the Parole Hearing

By Pat Bliss

Photo of entrance to horse farm at Marion CI. The equine training program is the result of a partnership between DOC and the TRF. The program will train inmates to rehabilitate retired thoroughbred racehorses for use by the Department of Corrections and other law enforcement agencies, adoption by the general public, and provide life-long retirement for some horses. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/secretary/press/2001/horses.html

Photo of entrance to horse farm at Marion CI. The equine training program is the result of a partnership between DOC and the TRF. The program will train inmates to rehabilitate retired thoroughbred racehorses for use by the Department of Corrections and other law enforcement agencies, adoption by the general public, and provide life-long retirement for some horses. State of Florida

I arrived at Marion Correctional Institution, thinking I was early, but still having to wait one and one-half hours, to get in. Fortunately it was not raining. I was checked through security, and waiting for Felix to come into the visiting room. Actually, I was very excited with the news of the parole decision, as I knew in my heart that it would be good news.

He came in without his cane, this time – with a big smile on his face – and gave me a strong hug. I asked, “Want to get in line to the canteen first?” We did, and our conversation went like this:

P: Have you heard anything?

F: I heard on TV 3 years and saw you wearing red.

P: What else?

F: Nothing else, but everyone in the room turned and looked at me and said, ‘is that you?’ I said ‘yes.’

P: They also reduced your PPRD by 12 months and you are going into the Lifer’s Program, what do you think of that?

F: Wow! Wow! (Surprised, he rubbed his head and clapped his hands) he said ‘hard to take in, freedom in view. I’m excited to get started.’

Entrance to Marion CI. State of Florida

Entrance to Marion CI.
State of Florida

I bought the items for our lunch and we found a place to sit – Felix on one side of the table and I, on the other. The authorities had allowed him to bring in a few pieces of paper, and a pen. We could write back and forth if we had any difficulty understanding each other.

At one point, Felix said, “You know, most of my life was not about freedom. It was convincing them I am innocent. This latest thing with the parole is like finally someone is listening. Most parolee’s are put off for 7 years and they give up. When I saw [the] 3-year thing, I started to cry. They gave me hope. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Aerial view of Marion Work camp. Wikimapia

Aerial view of Marion Work camp. Wikimapia

In a letter to a supporter, Felix had mentioned a big tree that he had seen when he arrived at Marion CI.I asked him about that, and he said, “It is so big and tall, haven’t seen one like it in 33 years. I hugged the tree the first time I saw it. You don’t see the power of God until you see the bigness of that tree.” He would look up and stare at it, and others would stop and look up too. Something they never did before, as they took it for granted.

Marion K9 Team Google+

Marion K9 Team Google+

We talked about the Lifer’s Program, and I told him, the future is now is your hands. Felix is an achiever, one who always wants to improve himself. Maybe it is also a desire to prove to himself that he is normal. He can be like everyone else – smart. But Felix doesn’t realize that not all Hearing are smart. Just because one can hear, and live in the free world does not mean they have been a student of life, and taken advantage of the opportunities offered them. Felix is so wise about the things that matter – character, honesty, kindness and generosity. As I told the parole board, 5-10-20 years more will not change Felix. His character and faith will continue to keep him strong.

Before I left, I asked him if he would write something to the Deaf Community. It by no means excludes his hearing supporters, as he has repeatedly mentions the letters of encouragement he receives – the awesomeness of so many, caring about him – but in this instance, the message is for the Deaf Community:

I just want to thank all of my Deaf brothers and sisters for your support and sticking with me through these hard times. If anyone knows how hard it is for the Deaf people to live in a hearing world it’s you. But now you know that your prayers were heard and society sees us as people. Thanks to God. We have a awesome God. :)

He drew a smiley face at the end.

It was a great visit. They all are. We have become as close as a mother and son. But, this particular time, I felt a great sense of accomplishment in leaving Felix with real hope, and a goal to strive for. We’ll be seeing each other again in a couple months, for other business. It was with that thought, that we said our good-byes. Merry Christmas, and I pray God’s blessings to you all.

— Pat Bliss

[Editor’s note: You’ve all seen the pictures of Felix, and the pictures of Pat Bliss at the hearing. So for the graphics for this post, I chose to find some pictures of Marion CI. In so doing, I learned about some of the progressive and innovative programs they have in place. I will speak more to this, in a future post. — 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.

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.]

Press Release Video From Sachs Media

By BitcoDavid

This video was created by Dave Heller, and sent to me by Porsche Haynes of Sachs Media Group, via Pat Bliss. It can also be seen on Vimeo.

Pat has shared with me, some of the monumental effort she put into this hearing – the travel, the personal financial expense, the sleeplessness and the endless meetings and interviews. She assures me that she will be submitting posts on the hearing, including Felix’s reactions to this devastating news.

She also told me that although we didn’t get what we wanted, we’re not complete losers in the outcome of this case. Felix’s next parole hearing will be in 3 years, which could have been 7. And he has received a 1 year reduction in the overall sentence. Frank on the other hand, whose hearing also took place on the same day, did not receive any of these benefits.

Here’s a link to coverage on Tampa Bay Times.

DeafInPrison.com will continue to work towards obtaining justice for this innocent Deaf man, and will continue reporting on this story, whenever we have information to share.

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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