A Friend Whom Felix Never Met

By Pat Bliss

Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

This friendship goes back a long time starting with a letter written in Felix’s behalf in 1996, asking help for a deaf innocent man in prison at that time 15 years. Dr. McCay Vernon replied to Felix on November 24, 1996. McCay immediately took some action by sending a copy of the letter to the Editor in Chief of Silent News, Mrs. Betty Broecker, and wrote to Mr. Frank Slater of the Florida Association of the Deaf to see if they would help. Unfortunately, neither one responded to Felix but this began an interest in Felix’s plight.

I have no letters or notes between Felix and McCay but that does not mean there were none as they could have gotten thrown away or lost at the prison. However, there had to be some correspondence because I got a phone message on 8/22/09 followed up with a letter on 8/24/09 from McCay stating he would like to volunteer his services at Felix’s parole hearing. He sent me his resume. That really touched me, as if a man of his stature would be required to show the Parole Board his credentials as an expert on the deaf.  As happens in DOC, no one appeared at the parole hearing due to the Parole Board setting the hearing one month earlier in 2010  and we were not aware of it. Hence, no one was there representing Felix and the result was a denial.


Mac could not get Felix out of his mind. He was really upset to know there was a deaf man, innocent, still in prison. He would send me copies of articles on the deaf in the criminal justice system.  In our emails I talked about writing a book on Felix’s case. Marie Vernon offered suggestions, since she is an experienced novelist.  Then Mac suggested I contact Journalist Jim Ridgeway in Washington DC, I did, and he published Felix’s story in a article for Mother Jones mag. While I was working with Jim on his article, I got a phone call from Author Joanne Greenberg saying she heard from McCay asking if she could  write the book on Felix’s case story. Joanne declined for something better and suggested I tell Felix’s story on her new blog site DeafInPrison.com . The rest is history. Felix and I are very thankful to Mac for his full support and help to get his story out to the public.


In the meantime, I am telling Felix all what is going on, how Mac helped us here and there and that he cared so much about his situation. Felix’s relationship with Mac was mainly through my letters and I would pass back to Mac what is going on in Felix’s life. Relaying back and forth messages regarding Felix continued until the day Mac was not able to do it anymore in July of this year.

Felix called me the weekend of September 1st and I told him the news of Mac’s passing. I cannot say how Felix took it as “feelings” are not translated over a TTY call but he responded the only way he could – I’ll send his wife a card. Felix could have cried when alone, however, until then, emotions are held at bay in prison life. An additional  sad part of this story is,  another friend will not be there to meet Felix when he is freed. Dr. McCay Vernon wanted to see that day so badly – he will indeed be sorely missed. 

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.

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