Tuesday, December 26, 2017

New Christmas Poem by Charlie

Holiday Newsletter 2017

Merry Christmas from Charlie and Libby Norman! 2017 was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, filled with both hopes and disappointments.

            We began January, 2017, with continuing preparations for the expected parole hearing due this year. We already had key pieces in place. First, the incomparable “Prisoners of Christ” program in Jacksonville, a faith-based private residential transition and re-entry program that prepares ex-offenders for life in free society and has been in continuous successful operation since the early 1990s, had confirmed they were ready to accept Charlie upon his release. Additionally, Charlie had the support of prominent businessman, Kevin Gay, founder of “Operation New Hope,”  a program for ex-offenders that provides jobs and training.
            Second, the preeminent psychologist, Dr. Harry Krop, of Gainesville, had previously re-tested Charlie and written a highly-favorable evaluation that confirmed Charlie’s status as a well-balanced man who has survived decades of imprisonment  with his mental health intact, something everyone who knows him already knew. Dr. Krop stated that Charlie’s risk factors for recidivism were in the lowest five percentile of the prison population. This priceless evaluation was specifically notable since most people who have been imprisoned for decades become institutionalized and suffer irreparable damage in mind and body from the years of isolation and neglect. Charlie has spent his entire imprisonment educating himself and others in a variety of programs and skill areas, many of which he created and implemented. He has deliberately worked to keep himself engaged and plugged-in to the “outside” world, keeping up with society, and in touch with a variety of real people to stave off the isolation. Charlie has been preparing for his release since the day he came to prison.
            The third essential piece of  our parole plan was granted in January. Charlie’s sentencing judge in 1980, J. Rogers Padgett, of Tampa, now a senior judge and still hearing cases, wrote a letter to the parole commission stating that not only did he not object to Charlie’s release, but also that he supported his parole release. Judge Padgett further stated that in his opinion, Charlie was in complete compliance with Florida Statute 947.18, the controlling law on parole.
            Then came April, 2017, bringing the high point of the year thus far when Charlie met with  parole examiner, Z.C. Rowan, an investigator with over 40 years of experience with parolees. Based on Charlie’s parole release plan and his prison record of unparalleled positive accomplishments, Mr. Rowan approved Charlie’s parole release for July 4, 2017 –Independence Day! Shortly after that, his parole hearing was set for May 24. All the pieces were in place, and pointed to a good outcome on May 24th, our 3rd wedding anniversary.
            At the parole hearing before the Florida Commission on Offender Review in Tallahassee on May 24th, the commissioners refused to authorize the July 4th release date, and postponed their final decision to another hearing on July 19, 2017, at which time they “suspended” his release date.  Again, Charlie was denied a fair and impartial hearing. The commissioners are three novices who were approved for appointment to their jobs by the two politicians who oppose Charlie’s release. Because of this continuing political tampering by the former prosecutor and his protégé, the attorney general (acting on political payback), and despite Attorney Bill Sheppard’s impassioned presentation at both hearings, the commissioners refused to honor all the experts who supported Charlie’s parole release.
            That was the low point of 2017. Instead of preparing Charlie’s welcome home, we geared ourselves to endure and survive more of this wrongful imprisonment. With Mr. Sheppard and associates, we have begun preparations for a court fight.
            In August and early September, we missed 3 weekends of visits due to the hurricanes, as the state prisons were all closed to visitation. Other than that, thankfully the hurricanes did not cause any other major damage.  In August, Charlie was again heartened and cheered by a visit from his long-time friend and supporter, Gary Smigiel and his wonderful family. We continue to be in contact with Charlie’s lovely and thoughtful mother, Lucille, his Aunt Alice, his brother, Dan, and nieces and nephews, in addition to Aunt Glenda Walker and family in Texas. It is very difficult for our loved ones to visit in person, so we are grateful for the telephone, e-mail, and letters.
            In September, out of the clear blue, Charlie’s first cousin, Sue Jones, contacted us by e-mail. Charlie says, “Her mother, my Aunt Frankie Lee Hatchell, was my father’s older sister. After my father’s death in 1985, Aunt Frankie and Aunt Eloise, my father’s youngest sister,  visited me in prison at Zephyrhills C.I. I’d spent little time with my Norman relatives growing up, but after we reconnected, Frankie, Eloise and I became much closer. They are all gone now, and to hear from my cousin, Sue, touched me greatly.”
            One more incident of note that happened one afternoon at the Orange Park Mall, south of Jacksonville when Libby made a purchase at one of the stores at the mall and got into a conversation with the sales clerk, Dawn. She suggested that Libby register her e-mail address to receive sales notices and coupons, so Libby filled out the form with the freecharlie e-mail. Dawn asked what the “freecharlie” meant, was it a certain name. Libby told her it did mean something, but it was too much to explain. She asked if it referred to Charles Norman. Flabbergasted, Libby said it did. Dawn said, “I’ve been following Charles on the Internet, and so have many of my friends. He has been in prison too long, and should be released.” After they talked some more, Libby left the store, elated, amazed at what had just happened, a totally random contact of familiarity and support.  That’s the power of the Internet.
            Also recently, in another surprise contact, we received an e-mail from a new friend, Gary M., who had read about Charlie’s case and was so affected by the injustice of it that he contacted Andrew Warren, the new Hillsborough County state attorney, and is continuing to work with him on Charlie’s behalf. We are very grateful for these new blessings that have brought hope.
            In October, Charlie embarked on a new job as “impaired inmate assistant,” and helps blind, crippled, and deaf inmates in his housing area. Earlier this year, he also was “treated” to a trip to Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville for a procedure to remove kidney stones. Dr. Mark Abramson, a urologist from Jacksonville Memorial Hospital, arranged for a  CT scan, a cystoscopy, and X-rays, which turned up two kidney stones. Charlie says, “I was outfitted in handcuffs, a waist chain, and leg irons, then transported in a prison van to the hospital for an ultrasound surgery. I was impressed by the kindness and professionalism of the doctors, nurses and technicians at Jacksonville Memorial Hospital. After the ultrasound, three nurses kept me company for an hour, monitoring my vitals, until I recovered. Another nurse, Mary, brought me a much-appreciated hot meal of beef tips and gravy over rice and green beans, something unavailable in prison “chow.” I did a lot of rubbernecking when we got off I-95 onto University Boulevard, still amazed at the traffic congestion, the dozens of fast food places, car lots, stores, and other businesses. I realized I was only a mile or two from Libby’s downtown office, which made me wistful, sad that I should have been out of prison already, working at the Prisoners of Christprogram, and seeing her every day, rather than being chained up like a condemned man.”
            This fall, Libby has embarked on a new weight-training fitness program, with good results, realizing that the future demands good health. We both intend to be “here” when Charlie is released, and desire to live as long a life together as we are allowed.
            All through 2017, Charlie has been continuing with his writing and artwork. He currently has several articles published by Loen Kelley in New York,  on www.prisonwriters.com, and we continue postings on the blog, charlienorman.blogspot.com. He continues working on his drawing techniques, several examples of which are offered in this booklet for your enjoyment. We continue matching these drawings with his poetry to create additions to our greeting card collection.
            We are both determined, and we will not give in to the low points or give up the fight to secure our much-deserved freedom. We maintain our faith in God, and in the hope that prayers will be answered. We are abundantly blessed by the love and support of family and friends, and always give thanks for all that has been bestowed on us. We greet the future clad in this armor.

May you and yours have a joyous and prosperous 2018. Please keep in touch.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Charlie and Libby Norman 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Dateline Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017
            Over 30 prisons in the South Florida area were evacuated over the past weekend, Sept. 7 – 11, 2017, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s landfall. The prison system is very skilled at moving crowds of people, and Florida Highway Patrol troopers escorted dozens of prison transport buses to safer prisons in North Florida. Here at Columbia Annex C.I., already filled to capacity with about 1600 men, we hunkered down, waiting out the high winds and rain. At least a couple hundred evacuees were housed at the main unit next door.
            Without law library access (every activity cancelled). and not wanting to squander the time opportunity, I  began work on a colored pencil drawing of my second-favorite flower, a giant sunflower.
            When I was a child in East Texas in the 1950’s, my grandmother, Memaw Walker, planted a vegetable garden every year. Along the fence she always planted a windbreak of sunflowers, and the huge yellow blooms fascinated me. In prison, over the past 39-plus years, I’ve had opportunities to plant my own flower and vegetable gardens at various prisons I found myself in. Sunflowers were almost always there, along with my favorite flowers, roses.
            At Tomoka C. I. in Daytona Beach, I grew my biggest sunflower, over twelve feet tall, with an 18-inch giant bloom. The prison administration heard about it, and made several treks to the compound to marvel at the mammoth flower, along with the four-foot long Chinese radish. When officials from Tallahassee visited, the warden would walk them down to show off the plantings, claiming bragging rights.
            Memaw would have been proud.
            On a family note, my wife, Libby, weathered the storm with limited inconvenience in Jacksonville. We spoke on the phone several times until Monday afternoon, Sept. 11th, when the phone lines belatedly failed. Before we were cut off, she did relay the news that our family in Tampa came out okay, although electricity is still off in spots [power was restored by Sept. 13]. My mother, Lucille Norman, lost her 100-year old hickory tree in her front yard, the old tree finally succumbing to Irma’s high winds. My Aunt Alice Walker and the rest of the Norman family were blessedly spared the worst of the storm’s fury. Prayers were answered.


Sunday, September 10, 2017


Editor’s note: It is a fact that Charlie Norman loves dogs, dogs of all kinds and sizes. He grew up with dogs around him, and has nothing but good memories of dog experiences. In most prisons, the only dogs are the dope/cell phone detection dogs which are allowed no interaction with prisoners, so “dog love” is yet another feature that Charlie has been deprived of for much too long.

Here is a story from that esteemed publication, The Gainesville Sun, that caught Charlie’s eye. It tells of an incident where a small Chihuahua, Coco, a “rescued” dog, prevailed against a giant (compared to him) evil, a true story of a hero:

Gainesville robber flees when Chihuahua attacks

“He’s a very, very good dog,” said Coco’s owner.

The robber might have thought little Coco, a 7-year-old Chihuahua, wouldn’t cause him any trouble when he assaulted the woman taking the dog for a walk.

And he would have been wrong.

Gainesville police say a man about 5 feet, 9 inches tall approached the woman from behind as she walked Coco at Bivens Cove Apartments, at 3301 SW 13th St., around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The robber struck her on the head with a glass bottle and demanded money.

Coco, a brown dog with graying fur on his muzzle and around his eyes, bit the robber’s leg, and the man fled into the nearby woods.

Coco was rewarded with treats.

“He had a bone; he had another bone,” said Blake Pfirrmann, 45, Coco’s owner and the woman’s caregiver of 21 years. They live together, along with two other women.

For safety, the woman who was attacked wished to remain anonymous.

The Gainesville Police Department was unable to find the robber, who the woman said smelled of alcohol. Officers urge anyone with information to call GPD’s detective bureau at 393-7670.

At his home on Wednesday, Coco barked at visitors, even as Pfirrmann held him. The dog growled and trembled at first, but soon warmed up to the guests and welcomed petting and Milk Bones, one of his favorite treats.

“He’s very, very protective,” Pfirrmann said. “He bites if he feels endangered.”

After the robbery attempt, the woman walked near the complex’s pool until she was sure the man had gone. Then she returned to her apartment.

“I did not want him following us,” she said.

She wasn’t carrying money when the man tried to rob her; she was checking the mail.
The woman said neither she nor Coco heard the robber come up from behind. The man was wearing jeans, so she doesn’t know how deep the bite went.
She was wearing a baseball hat sideways during the walk, and she thinks the man hit the cap’s brim. The glass didn’t break. The woman suspects it was a beer bottle.

On Wednesday she had a bruise on her temple.

Pfirrmann and the woman have lived at Bivens Cove for about three years and had not experienced a violent encounter there before. After the robbery, the woman wanted to move. On Wednesday, she was uncertain.

“It’s everywhere,” she said. “If you think about it, it’s everywhere you go.”

Pfirrmann said he has begun warning neighbors to walk in more populated places in the complex.

Coco had been abused before Pfirrmann adopted him four years ago, the man said. And four months ago, Coco bit a woman who stepped on his paw.

But after Tuesday, Coco is “a hero,” Pfirrmann said, and he plans to get him a badge.

At the home, Coco rested his head on his housemates’ laps. He is chocolate in color, with big brown eyes and a small white spot on his neck. His hobbies include sunbathing and break-dancing on command, spinning on two legs and barrel rolling. He dances in circles while he poops, which would be too much information if it weren’t so endearing.

“He’s a very, very good dog,” Pfirrmann said.
(photos below)

Upon reading the story myself, I was struck with the similarity of Coco’s actions and Charlie’s actions. Coco is a very small dog, but he did not hesitate to use what attributes he has to protect himself and his loved one, even though the attacker was a giant, much more powerful than him. Charlie is forced to continue to defend himself against a powerful giant of misused political authority that persists in using all manner of illegal means to keep him buried in prison. Regardless of the odds, Charlie keeps biting back to defend himself and survive for his loved ones. He is my hero.