By Pat Bliss
When we began this year with three paths to take Felix’s case, we did it knowing there are no guarantees. Unbeknownst at that time to us all, something was soon to take place that started our year with a bonus. And very appreciated.
As many of you already know there was a rally in March of this year in Tallahassee, Florida, on the Capitol steps, put on by organizations of Deaf Interpreters to garner support for a bill in legislature that would require licensure of all sign language interpreters as they are the gateway of communication between the deaf and the hearing. This event was well covered by the media. Felix’s case was highlighted as a prime example of a deaf defendant going to trial without an interpreter that resulted in grave consequences. This exposure propelled Felix and his case into the limelight that yielded a new group of advocates and have added to his support base.
In one of meetings in January, we talked about doing a Federal Habeas based on a new US Supreme Court case McQuiggen v. Perkins stating the time bar for filing on actual innocence cases may not be considered in certain cases. However, as the caselaw reads, it would require live court testimony to verify any old evidence showing innocence. Frank Garcia already confessed in open court in 2006 and the court did not believe him so that ruled him out. Another participant was Ray Stanley, but he is deceased. The last participant was Tina Garcia who wrote an affidavit in 1996 proclaiming her part and that Felix was actually innocent. We needed her live testimony to prevail in a court action. She was located but would not cooperate. Why not help? Well the obvious answer is, she was a participant in the crime, she testified against Felix for the State and she is still free. She of course will not jeopardize her freedom. This avenue has closed at this time but will be available later down the road if anything new is developed.
So we became focused on a clemency hearing in Sept. It was a long shot but with the publicity and lead attorney Reggie Garcia and the team’s persistence we went forward on hoping the Clemency Board members‘ could be influenced to take our case in September. Legislatures were approached, Cabinet Aids had questions, the Governor’s counsel on clemency was updated. I must interject here, that normally it takes 5-6 years for a case to be heard before the Board but there is an exception rule that could expedite the action which we had filed. Last week I was informed our request was turned down. For now. In the meantime we are at work on providing more proof to show Felix’s innocence for future hearing, hopefully not far off.
The third path is Felix’s upcoming Parole Hearing possibly in January 2015. This hearing has a lot of potential with the impressive number of accomplishments Felix has done to improve himself, his extraordinary prison behavior, his faith to remain strong and do the right thing, together with this excellent legal team that will be present. We will be focused on this later in the year.
What about the petition? As Attorney Reggie Garcia said “keep the signatures coming.” It is not needed in September but will be needed at a later date. And Felix keeps tabs as he has access to a freeworld person who comes in as a volunteer, and looks up deafinprison.com to see the numbers. Felix is appreciative so many care. There is a second petition also that is accessible to you and you’re encouraged to sign them both – for the total sum will be quite impressive.
How is Felix doing these days? He couldn’t be happier with his work and is delighted to be able to hear with special headphones music on his computer. He said “I can’t understand all the words but I am trying. I want to sign it [for better understanding]. Wow, Mom, I am in my own world here. I have been blessed to get this position, the Lord knew I was reaching out because I needed Him.” Who are we to complain when a deaf man, innocent for close to 33 years in prison, can say he is blessed? That takes faith.
–Pat Bliss (mom)
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.