By Pat Bliss
I know BitcoDavid is working hard on Heather Hardy’s music video for Felix, and I’m sure it will be great when it’s done. He tells me that he’s trying to get it online as soon as possible, so as to coincide with all this other activity in the case. But I also know what a perfectionist he is, and he won’t put product on DeafInPrison.com, until he’s sure it’s as good as he can make it.
As I reread my last post on Felix’s case last January, I am amazed how much has transpired since then. A fourth attorney came on board later that month. Jamie Johnson is from Patton Boggs, an international firm with offices in 12 other countries. Early in February, lead attorney, Reggie Garcia, acquired the pro bono services of Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee. With this highly experienced team working together, it has kept me busy practically 24/7 with answering questions, gathering documents, checking for accuracy. Not had much time to write, hence the delay in this update.
On March 25th the unseen publicity work behind the scenes culminated into action with a rally on the steps of Florida’s Capitol in response to two bills in congress requiring licensure of sign interpreters and restoration of funding for the council coordinating Florida’s policies concerning deaf Floridians. Felix’s case was used as a prime example for the need of a sign interpreters for a deaf defendant going to trial, without a sign interpreter the result is an unjust, unfair trial. It resonated with the press and the deaf community. It was seen on several TV nightly news programs, online news, and in print newspapers. That event has generated a new level of support to see Felix freed.
However, Felix, as all prisoners, live in a cocoon – away from actual life events. Telling Felix that a lot is going on with his case is like “so what else is new?” attitude. Inside he cannot grasp the excitement, the fervor among his legal team working on his freedom. He doesn’t comprehend the interest his case has garnered with so many of the Deaf organizations in FL. And all the new supporters seeking his freedom. But that has changed. Felix has now realized something is actually happening when he saw the picture of clemency attorney Reginald Garcia standing on the steps of the Capitol speaking, with his own picture on a poster front row. Seeing the picture reminds me of an earlier post I did where Felix said “we are picture people.” When he saw something so evident it became a reality, that convinced him. I can relax now knowing my “son’s” hope is again alive and well.
The best is yet to come on this road to freedom. Under the leadership of lead attorney Reginald Garcia and the team, my heart is filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. But I would be amiss if I did not include the support of so many people, including websites, around the country and internationally. Words cannot express what I feel. Thank you!
I asked one of Felix’s supporters to write up a brief story about a recent visit he made to Florida, to visit Felix. His name is Henry Kingsbury, and he’s a retired music professor. Here’s his perceptions on the visit.
I’ve been writing to Felix from my home in Maine since I read about him in Mother Jones. I finally flew down for a visit with him on Saturday, April 12. I don’t know sign language, so at first I was a bit apprehensive as to how well Felix and I would communicate with each other, and indeed, for the first hour or so we had several pauses and wondering what to do or say next. But pretty soon we were both talking a blue streak (he’s pretty good at lip-reading, as long as I make sure to be standing right in front of him while I’m saying something), once or twice stopping to go back and make sure we were actually understanding each other. We both had to work at this — but we DID work at it, and we had a wonderful, wonderful visit.
Felix has an amazing awareness of the best and the worst of life: he told me about prison gangs and violence, about the ill-treatment of deaf people, and getting by within the prison economy. But he also demonstrated an amazing personal discipline. Although he is intensely emotional on the matter of getting his freedom, he is downright joyful once he starts talking about all the things he’s learning; he enthusiastically showed me how he had repaired, using nothing but retooled junk, a pair of old sneakers. He’s very enthusiastic about what he’s been able to learn in an educational program he’s been in these last few months (but only for the time being: right now, he’s allowed to use computers with various application software — word processing, mechanical drawing, etc.; no e-mail or internet), and gleefully told me about the things he could do on the computer.
After he told me about some of the awful corruption inside the prison, I told him the biblical story behind the word, “shibboleth,” and he was so interested in this new word that he wrote it on his hand, so he could look it up in his dictionary when he went back inside. We had a nice little lunch (Felix, of course, said grace). He taught me a few ASL signs, and we talked about his coming to Maine when he gets out (apparently he’s never seen snow). But that’s only when he gets out, when he gets out. I said, when he gets out. Did I mention the importance of getting this guy out of prison? Soon? His ability to maintain a sense of cheerfulness, even while enduring the unendurable, left a profound impression on me. It was an amazing day.
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.