More than 100,000 people signed a petition to free Tampa’s Felix Garcia. Advocates for the deaf claim he was framed for murder back in 1983, and was unable to follow his own trial because of his hearing problem.
His story has been shared and his face shown on posters in rallies for the disabled on the Capitol steps.
So FOX 13 investigated his case, and interviewed Felix Garcia from prison. He lost most of his hearing and requires a sign language interpreter to effectively communicate. But the scope of his hearing loss in 1983 is a matter of dispute.
Doctors for the prosecution say he was competent and could hear his trial, while the court-appointed doctor testified that Felix Garcia had up to 70-percent hearing loss.
Garcia’s legal advocate, Pat Bliss, claimed Felix tried to make it appear as if he understood the proceedings when he really didn’t, out of a misguided attempt to appear alert.
“He thinks hearing people are so smart, he wants to compete that he’s smart too,” said Bliss. “He’d just smile and nod, pretending he understood everything so he wouldn’t appear stupid.”
Thirty-two years ago, Felix Garcia took the stand, answering questions that he later said he couldn’t hear or understand. He later said he was unaware that his own family accused him of murder.
“He was played as a patsy and played right into it,” said Felix’s attorney Reggie Garcia, who is not unrelated to Felix. “He’s served 33 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.”
LINK: Read Felix’s testimony (PDF)
But to prosecutors, Felix Garcia is a killer who walked into a north Tampa hotel room back in 1981 and shot a guest in the head. His own brother and sister said he did it, and the jury agreed.
Years later, a signed affidavit shows his brother changed his story. Felix’s older brother Frank later said he committed the crime. Detectives found 13 of Frank’s fingerprints at the crime scene, and no prints from Felix.
Meanwhile, Felix’s ex-girlfriend and her mother gave him an alibi the night of the murder. They said he was at their home nearly six miles away from the hotel when the killer struck.
But Felix signed a pawn slip for the dead man’s ring — and that, combined with the testimony, sealed his fate.
Felix now claims Frank drove him to a pawn shop and tricked him into signing for the ring. Frank later claimed he framed his little brother to save himself from the electric chair and protect another man named Ray Stanley. According to another signed affidavit, their sister Tina backed that up.
However, Tina told FOX 13 she does not remember signing that affidavit. She said Stanley was not involved and she thinks Felix is guilty.
“Did I sign the affidavit? I do not remember, and I don’t believe I signed one,” Tina Daniels said. “He needs to stop and leave this family alone is what he needs to do.”
Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober personally prosecuted Felix’s brother Frank. He concedes that Felix had a hearing problem, but says he was competent, and could hear and participate in his trial, and that the trial was fairly conducted.
Judges have previously considered and denied Felix’s request for a new trial. Felix’s next chance for parole is in two and a half years.
“Please. It’s the only way the truth will ever come out,” Felix insisted. “The truth is there. It’s there!”
You can read more ( and watch many videos!) about Felix Garcia at the Deaf In Prison Blog here on WordPress:
and Follow the Facebook dedicated to him!