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I’ve been asked in the past what it has been like to be close to Felix, a deaf man who started out being a complete stranger; and me with no knowledge on how to deal with the deaf. That part did not bother me. I just pursued his case like I would any other defendant. I saw innocence and I wanted to see justice done. Later, it went beyond the normal professional relationship. I cared for this young man. I will highlight some of our extraordinary times . . .

We were in court in 1999 after ten months of depositions, hearings, meetings at the jail, testing by a deaf expert, and gathering of facts. It was finally the day of the Evidentiary Hearing. Felix was in handcuffs sitting in the jury box along with other inmates. He could read body language, expression and lips together.  He put all of this together to read from the Judge, ‘denied’. He saw me sitting behind the defense table and with anguish in his face said “Why? I am innocent! Why?”  My heart bled. I mouthed back, “I will see you at the jail in a few hours.” I told the pro bono defense attorney, Richard Watts, “no.” I cried to the attorney, “my heart is so broken, this is not right.” He told me to go on and see Felix. When I walked in the attorney room at the jail, Felix was already sitting there.  I said “Felix, it broke my heart to see you alone, I will be a mom and stay with you until the day you walk out a free man.” A big smile came on his face and he called me “Mom.”  It made me cry. Then we hugged.

Felix’s letters would be up and down in emotion, and it took a while for him to be completely open with me, to trust me. I mean years! He was angry, depressed, hurt, betrayed, misunderstood by guards, ill with migraines and passing out; and would lash out at me for not getting him out. I would be lying if I didn’t say sometimes I was very hurt he’d lash out at me like this but it never daunted my passion to keep on his case. I was frustrated at the courts for not seeing the truth.

Then out of the blue, in 2002, I started getting affidavits from different inmates telling what Frank Garcia said to them about putting his innocent brother in prison and in a few said so he would not face the death penalty. I was overjoyed!  Here was the evidence in black and white. I had affidavits from both Frank and Tina declaring Felix’s innocence, and had corroborative evidence backing up what Frank (and Tina) had done. Hope came alive. I dug into this case with more fervor than ever before.

From the beginning Felix was reading my lips, watching my expressions, along with my body language as to what I was saying. I could tell by his expressions if he understood what I was trying to convey. If he needed clarification, I would repeat myself or restate what I was saying until he understood. I had tried desperately to get organizations for the Deaf to help. They would not touch a criminal case. It was trial by error as to how to put across the injustice of this deaf man. Reading what I could find in case law was my main source in understanding. Help finally came after we could go no further in the Florida State courts.

I came in contact with Dr. McCay Vernon who was quite supportive. He referred me to Investigative Journalist James “Jim” Ridgeway. Jim wrote an article for Mother Jones Magazine, that was the first publicity this case received. TL read this article and contacted Jim. Jim relayed the information to me and I contacted TL.  TL explained that she also worked on deaf wrongful conviction cases, invited me to join HEARD’s Board of Directors, and offered to help as much as she could.  Solidarity. 

From there the world of the deaf have opened up to me and to Felix. What is so exciting, this is just the beginning of what is yet to come….