A deaf man from Tampa who claims innocence for his role in a 1981 murder will be back up for parole Wednesday.
Felix Garcia, who turns 56 next month, is serving a life sentence in the death of Joseph Tramontana Jr.
His case will again go before the Florida Commission on Offender Review, which will consider whether to release him on parole.
Florida abolished parole in the 1980s, but inmates whose crimes were committed before Oct. 1, 1983 are still eligible.
Garcia has long claimed that his brother and sister framed him and they have since admitted to doing so, even while he remains behind bars.
That’s despite a seven-hour alibi that places him six miles away from the crime scene with his girlfriend, their 6-month-old daughter, his girlfriend’s mother, and—at least briefly—with a Domino’s Pizza delivery man.
But Garcia, sitting in a Tampa courtroom in 1983, says he could not understand the proceedings, in part because he was not provided a sign-language interpreter.
He had a 4th-grade reading and comprehension level. He experienced the entire trial as “incoherent noise,” his advocates say.
He answered “yes” to indicting questions because he thought his cooperation would speed up the trial, so he could go home sooner.
When Felix saw his sister Tina take the stand, he assumed she was doing so to come to his defense. On that, too, he was wrong.
The main piece of evidence against Felix: A pawnshop ticket that his brother Frank asked Felix to sign. It was for a ring that Frank had taken from the murder victim.
Knowing nothing about the ring’s origins but willing to oblige, Felix’s information was filed with the ring at the Tampa Gun and Pawn Shop.
That would forever change his life.
His brother Frank was convicted as well, though on lesser charges. Over time, Frank and Tina each came clean. In 1989 and again in 1996, Frank Garcia admitted under oath that Felix had nothing to do with the shooting or robbing of Tramontana. In 1996, Tina did the same.
Those attempts to absolve Felix were in vain.
Still behind him are Pat Bliss, a retired paralegal who has been working to secure Felix’s freedom for years; Reggie Garcia (no relation), a clemency expert who’s been representing Garcia for free; and Sachs Media Group, providing media relations pro bono.
Garcia last was up for parole in November 2014, when the commission turned him down but agreed to reconsider his case in another three years.
That time is now. And the time for justice for Felix Garcia, inmate #482246, is long overdue.