Hearing-impaired seek justice for Florida man

Published On: Mar 25 2014 05:00:47 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A deaf Florida man has spent more than 30 years of his life behind bars for a crime his brother has since confessed to. Hundreds of Floridians who are hearing-impaired are making noise to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Felix Garcia was convicted of murdering a man in Tampa in 1983. Garcia is deaf and the court had no interpreter to help him understand his trial. He has spent every day since behind bars -- even after his brother admitted to the murder.

"He went into court, he didn't know what was going on, he signed things he didn't know he was signing and the result was he was incarcerated and he's still in jail," said Lissette Molina Wood, president of the Florida Association of the Deaf.

Hundreds of Floridians rallied at the Capitol seeking justice for Garcia. The majority of the group were deaf and demanding legislation that would require all interpreters to be certified, legislation they said could have helped Garcia.

"It is critical that those interpreters are competent and qualified," said Vicky Fales, of the Florida Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

The group hopes that if the bill were to ever become a law, what happened to Garcia in the 1980s would never happen again.

"This is about information, this is about the ability for individuals to receive proper legal representation, proper health care, proper education," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne.

Tom Linares and his family traveled from Clearwater to show support. He said his son can't get proper treatment in hospitals because of the communication barrier.

"There's a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunications," said Linares. "We want Bill 1125 passed and it would mean a quality of life that is so important."

Altman's interpreter bill has been filed but has not made an agenda in any committee stop.

Garcia is being represented pro bono and his lawyers are hoping for a clemency hearing from Gov. Rick Scott.

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