Thirty-two years ago, Felix Garcia was framed and sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit. In 1981, Joseph Tramontana, Jr. was murdered during an armed robbery. Felix Garcia, a deaf man, who was only 19 at the time of the murder, signed a pawnshop receipt for a ring at the request of his older brother and sister. He was unaware the ring was stolen, and he did not realize that by signing the receipt, he was signing his life away.
From birth, Mr. Garcia suffered from crippling ear infections.By the age of three, his ear infections had become so severe that he suffered from massive hearing loss. Ashamed of and often punished for his impairment, Mr. Garcia hid it as best as he could, relying on others to help him with his studies, and, as a result, never received a proper education. By the time he received his GED, he was considered severely hearing impaired and had only attained a fourth grade level of reading and comprehension skills.
In 1983, Mr. Garcia went to trial for the murder of Joseph Tramontana, Jr. The court failed to provide Mr. Garcia with an interpreter or adequate services for the deaf, to ensure his understanding of the proceeding. He was provided with a loud speaker, which he had to turn up to full volume, but was ordered to turn it off when it produced too much feedback. The court then provided him with a court-appointed hearing aid, but because it was not made for his ears, it did not aid him in comprehension. Therefore Mr. Garcia experienced the entirety of the legal proceeding as noise.
In addition to these injustices, during the trial, Mr. Garcia was positioned in such a fashion at the defense table, that he was unable to read the lips of those called to testify. When his sister was called to speak, he believed she was testifying to his innocence. He was unaware, until he received his trial transcripts and had them read to him, that she had, in fact, testified against him. He answered yes to the questions he couldn’t hear or understand because, he said, he believed that would allow the proceeding to end sooner so he could go home. There is only one actual piece of physical evidence linking Mr. Garcia to the murder, and it is the pawnshop receipt his brother asked him to sign, for a ring stolen from Mr. Tramontana, Jr. during the robbery.
Mr. Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery on the basis of this one piece of physical evidence and the testimony of his older sister. His inability to hear and the lack of appropriate support, to ensure that he understood the proceedings, played a central role in his conviction.
His brother and sister have since recanted and had provided affidavits attesting to his innocence. Two witnesses, his girlfriend and his girlfriend's mother, testified that he was across town at the time the murder was committed.
During his time in prison, Mr. Garcia has remained positive, never wavering in his belief that justice will come. While in prison, he has learned American Sign Language (ASL) in English and Spanish. He has also been very proactive in continuing his education and has been committed to gaining vocational and life skills, completing multiple vocational programs. He is very involved in faith-based work and is currently teaching ASL and computer programming to other inmates. We have every confidence that Mr. Garcia is ready to transition successfully into society.
Mr. Garcia has applied for an Executive Clemency Request for Review and a Commutation of Sentence.
This petition has been written because Felix Garcia is in need of champions; people to rally and take up his cause, because an injustice to one is an injustice to all. Your signatures on this petition can return a life that was stolen from him at the age of 19.
“The case of Felix Garcia is a tragic failure of our justice system, triggered in no small part by his disability and the systems failure to respond,” said Reggie Garcia (no relation), an attorney who is an expert specializing in clemency actions, is representing him pro bono. “Justice is supposed to be blind, but it should not be deaf. We urge the Governor and Cabinet not to turn a deaf ear to the injustice this man has endured for more than three decades.”
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