Sometimes life seems a little unfair. I’ve lost the last two weeks to a flu bug / chest infection, my festive season was punctuated by mucus; I genuinely don’t remember much between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, which was two days after I started taking the antibiotics. I’m behind on my MA work. I’m in the middle of a dispute with HSBC that, as soon as my brain is back on track, will be going to the Financial Ombudsman, but there’s a time limit, so my brain better get a move on. I’ve often felt that this world is very silly; telling us deaf and disabled that we should get out there more and then placing all sorts of barriers in our way. In short, as I lie here in a soft bed with a gurgling chest, high temp, wi-fi internet, a box of pills within reach and coffee on request, I felt a little bit hard done by.
And then I read this.
Felix Garcia was convicted of armed robbery and murder in 1983 on the strength of his sibling’s testimonies, and his signature on a piece of paper his brother had given him to sign. His brother was later to admit, in a letter and then under oath, that he had lied in order to avoid the death penalty; that he had fitted Felix up. He had asked Felix to sign a pawn shop receipt because he himself didn’t have ID on him at the time. That pawn shop receipt became the only physical evidence linking Felix to the crime. The ring the receipt was for was from a robbery / murder committed the previous day. Pretty soon the law came looking for Felix. The law was not kind. Taking his brother’s – and his sister’s – testimony and the receipt, they put him on trial, a trial Felix understood little, if anything, of. Skip forward 29 years, and he’s serving a life sentence. He has a lawyer, who I would nominate for Lawyer Of The Decade Award if there was one, who has tried her best to get him freed. Various statutes of limitation have conspired to keep Felix in jail, and a few years ago, a judge rejected his brother’s sworn testimony that Felix was entirely innocent because he “couldn’t tell what was true”. Felix is in a jail system that, despite strong disability rights laws in America, makes little or no concession to his deafness. He’s been beaten, raped, and abused by fellow prisoners and guards, often for causing offence by ‘ignoring’ or misunderstanding them. The governor of his state, who could in theory offer him a pardon, is a Tea Party darling who is very unlikely to do so. It’s all such bullshit.
I’m trying to think of an example where someone has been so thoroughly screwed over by just about everyone that was meant to help them; his family, the justice (ha!) system, the rehabilitation (ha!) system, the powers that be. It’s not coming to me.
I’ve signed both the petitions:
and started following the Free Felix twitter account: https://twitter.com/#!/free_felix
But I fear it’s going to take a lot more to reverse this travesty.
And just as worrying: how many deaf prisoners are there out there? How many don’t have access to their trials, to rehabilitation, to appeals? No-one seems to know…
I hope that Pat Bliss, Felix’s lawyer who has worked for him pro bono for the last fifteen years, gets some recognition for her efforts, and that Felix, in the end, gets some justice.