WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Florida man will finally get his chance to tell his side of the story thanks to a ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal.
Seven years ago, 28-year-old Jose Garcia says a power outage blew out his alarm clock and caused him to miss a mandatory court appearance in Palm Beach County.
The Palm Beach Post reports that as part of a plea deal, Circuit Judge Amy Smith had agreed to let Garcia out for a week before he began serving his sentence on charges that included burglary and possession and sale of cocaine.
The judge told Garcia that if he showed up on Jan. 18, 2007, she'd sentence him to five years. If not, she would impose the maximum 40-year term.
He didn't show up. And she sentenced him to 40 years.
In court papers, Garcia said he overslept that day because his alarm clock didn't go off due to a power outage. He jumped on a bus and arrived at the courthouse three hours late. He said he went to the jail and tried to turn himself in, but jailers didn't have a warrant for his arrest.
The Post reports Garcia was finally arrested after midnight the next day and he's been in prison ever since.
The appeals courts, in a three-page ruling, said Smith should have given Garcia the chance to tell his side of the story. The court ordered Smith to conduct a hearing to determine whether Garcia's actions were "willful." If the judge rules they were, then Garcia will return to prison with an expected released date of 2041. If not he could get a reduced sentence.
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