Awaiting Trial

Lying on an inch thick mattress, puss running out of his ears, migraine headaches, vomiting chronically and constantly passing out, would accurately describe Felix Garcia’s day-to-day existence at the old Morgan Street Jail in downtown Tampa, Florida. The woefully ill-equipped medical staff struggled to help a new inmate – coming to see them regularly – suffering from Cholesteatoma and Serous Otitis Media.

The former is a type of inner ear cyst, whose symptoms include brain abscess, deafness, dizziness, erosion into the facial nerve causing paralysis and meningitis. The latter is an acute infection and possible rupture of the tympanic membrane.

Image courtesy of http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002045/#adam_001050.disease.symptoms

Day in and day out for 2 straight years, this man – unable to communicate his misery – bided his time in the red brick building, clearly visible from I-275 as the interstate winds through the city. Morgan Street is the oldest of the Tampa jails. Since Felix’s time, two newer and more modern jails have been built in Hillsborough County – the Orient Road Jail and the Falkenburg Road Jail.

Life in jail is common and routine. Clanging alarms and loud horns awaken you at sunup. After a quick and early breakfast, you have an hour of recreation where you can walk around, watch TV, read, play cards, go to the law library on a pass or maybe play basketball. Lunch too, is ahead of time and brief. If you’re fortunate enough to have visitors – and they show up during specified times – you may be able to enjoy a few short moments of respite. Dinner comes too soon in the evening, and the day ends shortly afterwards. Then there’s talk! Jail is one of the noisiest places on Earth. Everything is iron, steel or loud and resonant concrete. There’s a constant din of banging and clanging – and the talk. It’s a steady drum-beating roar of Vox Humana.

Felix didn’t get many visits, Frank did. Inmates are allowed to make collect calls, but Felix couldn’t use a phone. Therefore, he would have a cellmate make his calls for him. Even if a TTY phone had been available to him, Felix had never seen one, and had no idea as to how to use them. If one did exist at Morgan Street, Felix didn’t know it.

After throwing up their hands in frustration, the medical staff opted to send Felix to Tampa General Hospital. The following table shows the severity of his condition.

Admitted Date

Admission Type

Discharge Date

10/19/81

Outpatient

10/19/81

10/26/81

Outpatient

10/26/81

11/19/81

Outpatient

11/19/81

11/25/81

Emergency

11/25/81

04/22/82

Outpatient

04/22/82

04/29/82

Outpatient

04/29/82

05/06/82

Outpatient

05/06/82

05/16/82

Inpatient

06/08/82

06/11/82

Outpatient

06/11/82

06/15/82

Outpatient

06/15/82

06/29/82

Outpatient

06/29/82

07/27/82

Outpatient

07/27/82

08/02/82

Outpatient

08/02/82

08/16/82

Outpatient

08/16/82

08/19/82

Outpatient

08/19/82

08/24/82

Outpatient

08/24/82

08/30/82

Outpatient

08/30/82

09/14/82

Outpatient

09/14/82

02/28/83

Inpatient

03/04/83

03/07/83

Inpatient

03/21/83

08/09/83

Outpatient

08/09/83

Felix spoke to me of being in a “fog,” not only during the trial, but also for years before he was arrested. He had a final operation, a couple of years into his prison sentence, which cleared up the fog, but the migraines, nausea and passing out still occur.

4 thoughts on “Awaiting Trial

  1. I’d like to point out that, the magnitude of Felix’s ear problems was nothing secretive. The Court was aware regarding his numerous trips to the hospital and the medical seriousness of his hearing capabilities. That should have been of concern to the Court and by letting this man go to trial – as is – would be an egregious violation of Felix’s 6th Amendment Right. Even Felix’s attorney tried to show the seriousness in his motions that I have sent. It was ignored by those in authority on this case, to make that decision.

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  2. While you’ve raised an interesting point, that the court should have proceeded more cautiously regarding his rights, having read up on the nature of his condition – I’m struck by the profound level of unremitting pain he must have endured. My heart goes out to this man.

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