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Deaf Inmate to Get Hearing

November 17th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

A deaf Tampa man who was convicted of a murder his lawyers say he didn’t commit 33 years ago has a shot at freedom this week, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, he has inspired legislation that would help other deaf citizens who get in trouble.

When emergencies strike Florida, a deaf interpreter helps deliver the message, but when Felix Garcia was charged with murder in 1981, he had little or no idea what was happening or what he was signing according to his attorney, Reggie Garcia (no relation). “No sign language interpreter at trial, which is very troubling because he didn’t understand the proceedings. They gave him, quote unquote, a hearing aid and a loud speaker.”

Felix’s brother Frank, who looks like Felix first implicated him at the urging of a since deceased accomplice. Attorney Garcia explained the threats this way. “He was Tina’s boyfriend and pimp. He was wearing the stolen jewelry. He blamed Frank, who was in the hotel room, 13 of his  fingerprints, He blamed Felix, He put a gun to Tina’s head and said you will blame your two brothers or I will kill you. So, once he died, both of them came clean and said in affidavits that Felix had neither to do with it.”

More than a hundred advocates for the deaf came to the Capitol last year to support legislation requiring interpreters for the deaf facing criminal charges.

Last year the legislation giving the deaf an interpreter at court hearings couldn’t even get a hearing.

State representative and former police officer Ray Pilon was one of the co sponsors.

“Somebody who has this malady certainly deserves to be able to understand everything that’s going on in a courtroom, in a real estate transaction,” says Pilon.

Felix ‘s supporters are hopeful that the commission reviewing his case will be supportive.”

Felix Garcia’s supporters say they are not criticizing the fact he did not have an interpreter in 1981 because it was standard procedure for the era, but they do think its reason enough to revisit the case.

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