The readers’ forum

Provide adequate defense to deaf defendants

 

For Florida’s three million citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing, being heard and properly represented by the hearing world can mean the difference between life and death, success and failure, freedom and incarceration.

The failure to accommodate deaf residents’ communication needs often results in severe and tragic consequences, including the failure to receive a proper education, higher rates of unemployment, medical misdiagnosis and the greater likelihood of wrongful conviction.

The case of Felix Garcia is a prime example of a terrible injustice that grew out of the system’s failure to meet the critical needs of deaf Floridians.

Garcia, a deaf man, was framed and wrongly convicted of murder in 1983. The trial court failed to provide adequate accommodations to make sure he understood what was being said. He did not have the benefit of a sign language interpreter and his inability to understand the proceedings played a significant role in his conviction.

Although his brother and sister later provided affidavits attesting to his innocence, Felix remains behind bars, having served 32 years of a life sentence so far.

It will take an act of the governor and Cabinet, serving as the clemency board, to right this wrong and provide executive clemency to Garcia.

For other deaf citizens, the Florida Legislature is in a prime position to make sure their rights are protected and their needs are met. This year, advocates are promoting legislation, SB 1304 and HB 1125, that would require licensure of sign language interpreters and restoration of funding for the council that coordinates the state’s policies concerning deaf Floridians.

Having competent, credentialed sign language interpreters will help avoid grave consequences like the one that befell Garcia and will ensure that deaf Floridians enjoy the same rights as other Florida citizens.

It is the fundamental responsibility of elected officials to listen to all of their constituents and serve as their voice.

Raise your voice by encouraging the Florida Legislature to pass this important legislation and provide the modest funding needed to make sure the needs of deaf residents are represented.

You can also visit Justice for Felix Garcia on Facebook to sign the petition asking the governor and cabinet to grant him clemency.

Reggie Garcia, Tallahassee

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ray Allen home was violated

    Young people who are 18 and 19 are not “teens.” They are, at best, young adults, eligible to vote and serve in the military. Teens younger than this have been charged and convicted as adults for murder and other crimes.

  • Riots and rubble

    We need to keep a clear perspective about the world. A black youth is killed by a white cop in Ferguson, Mo. I took note because I grew up in Webster Groves, a hop, skip and jump from Ferguson. Michael Brown allegedly was shot six times in broad daylight with his hands up. This seems excessive. There’s much confusion swirling, and we’ll have to wait until it is sorted out.

  • No fear

    Re Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s Aug. 17 letter, Same-sex marriages would open Pandora’s Box: I do not see a Pandora’s Box. I see sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, cousins, the dearest of friends. I want to give them my love and support for all good things; not limits on aspirations, ambitions and fulfillment, that are rooted in fear. I do not fear a Pandora’s Box. I am Roman Catholic and I was told, “Be not afraid.”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category