Sunday, April 27, 2008


Dateline: Thursday, April 17, 2008
Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Some things have been happening lately that caused me to do a lot of thinking about the past, my life, & some of the people in it.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Daniel Faulkner, sent me a copy of a photo he took in Atlanta in 1974. It was a picture of a 24 year old Charlie Norman with his wife, Chriselle Wilkinson Norman, 22 years old at the time. I'm writing that as from the third person because I'm so far removed now from that fellow that I had to look at the photo again to recognize it as myself.

Dan & I went to the University of South Florida together in the 1970's, & were involved in Martial Arts Institute, Inc., a taekwondo school on Busch Boulevard in Tampa. A number of us had gone to Atlanta to represent our school & attend Joe Corley's "Battle of Atlanta" karate tournament at the Georgia Tech Coliseum. I was on the board of directors of MAI, Inc., the treasurer, in charge of personnel, & one of my reasons for going there was to hire some black belt instructors for the chain of karate schools we were opening. That's where I met & became friends with Chuck Norris, Texas karate mogul, Allen Steen, some of the stars of the movie, "Enter The Dragon," (Bruce Lee was dead by then), & several other highly-ranked martial arts stars.

I see that young guy in the tailored suit, with his beautiful wife, by his Mazda rotary engine car, successful & fairly happy, smiling, & it hit me how much I've lost these past 34 years: everything but my corporeal life, & that was what they all wanted to take from me. I am the ghost looking back at the past, wondering where time went so quickly.

Dan does much of the work on the Free Charlie Now web site, & perhaps he'll post that photo so you can take a look at it. When I see that photo, & look in the mirror, I wonder if certain people who have abused their power for their own ambition & political gain realize how badly wrongfully convicting someone of a murder they did not commit can damage & destroy so many innocent lives. The ripples are far-reaching, & continue on.


Dateline: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

I've heard that some of the top CFO's & billionaires like Mark Cuban & Bill Gates get up early in the morning & spend hours reading & answering their e-mail. I'm in a little different situation, without a laptop, no wi-fi, no Starbucks or hotspots; you think "dial-up" is slow! - you ought to try prison! I totally rely on my dear friend, Libby, the President of The Norman Partnership, Inc., to check my e-mail, relay the messages to me, & send back my responses.

On a "typical" blog, I suppose the blogger would check the responses, & then make comments right then. Instant access. Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Tribune does a newspaper column that reprints & comments on some of the entries readers have made. Are you googling your name, Mr. Daniel Ruth? If so, it will lead you right here, like Hansel & Gretel's bread crumbs. If Mark Ober & Norman Cannella google their names, they're probably going to be pretty upset with me, & want my head on a platter, but come on, guys, haven't you had your turn? You did your best to strap me in the electric chair, Old Sparky, & would probably have enjoyed pulling the switch.

Most likely, Mark delegates his googling to his protege, Pam Bondi, who loves dogs. Mark is grooming her for greater things, though. My sources in the state attorney's office say that Mark has someone to do all that internet & computer search stuff for him, so he can go fishing.

They say that the best route to internet success is to mention Britney Spears, Madonna, Beyonce, & the Pussycat Dolls on WWE, but I'm not going to resort to such trickery. I'll try to maintain my focus on the fact of an innocent man in prison for over thirty years, desperate to be vindicated, no hard feelings.

I look forward to your comments & suggestions. You can also click on e-mail at the web site, . There may be a delay of a day or three in response, but I will diligently answer your questions. Thanks.



Dateline: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

I've been told that blogs should just be a couple paragraphs long, so that thousands of people will read them, post comments, catch on fire in cyberspace, tell all their friends about it, click on the "donate" button, & do like Barack Obama's supporters, send millions of dollars for the freedom campaign, raise the hue & cry, petition Governor Charlie Crist, Alex Sink, Bill McCollum, & Charles Bronson to sign the papers & kick me out of here.

So that's what I'm going to do - give you two paragraphs & shut up. "The Norman Partnership, Inc.," a Florida not-for-profit corporation, is spearheading the efforts to educate the public on the issue of wrongful conviction, & I am their first poster child. There will be more. This has been an incredible educational experience for me already, & as we prepare the first "online clemency application," I pray that you will sign up, join with us, go to the web site, & FREE CHARLIE NOW! Thanks, & good night.

Charlie Norman

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Dateline: Monday, April 14, 2008
Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Yesterday, I spoke about the national writing award from the PEN American Center in NYC. They have some great people associated with PEN - it used to stand for Poets, Essayists & Novelists - I know very few of them now; that's the price you pay for outliving others' expectations, I suppose. Larry McMurtry, Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow, the late Arthur Miller, and Salman Rushdie were once prominent, but I don't see their names anymore. Bit the ones important to me are Bell Chevigny, Jackson Taylor, Susan Yankowitz, William Brantley, and the late, great Fielding Dawson, all mentors and encouragers.

The incongruity is that so many prisoners are illiterate, can't read or write, that most people who know are amazed that anyone in prison can tie ten words together in a sentence. The inability to read and write bodes ill for our society. These people must get jobs and support poverty-stricken families oftentimes as soon as they are released, and with no education, what kind of job can they get?

Time and time again the guards have posted memos, I'd be reading them, and someone would ask, "What does it say, Norman?" I'd move out of the way so they could read it. "I don't have my glasses," is a common excuse to alleviate the shame of prison illiteracy.

I have written thousands of letters for fellow prisoners over the years. Most don't even know how to compose a simple letter. I ask them, "Just tell me what you want to say, and I'll put it together for you." "Mama, how are you, can you send me some money, when are you coming to see me, can you bring my children?" Much of it is heartbreaking, much of it is pitiful.

People in society shouldn't fear most of the people in prison -- they fear the people in society even more. These are the ones who sat in the back of the class in school, who never raised their hands, who skipped, who had undiagnosed and untreated learning disabilities and mental illnesses, who can't hold a job, so they steal, and not very well.

It is in the interest of society to teach these prisoners to read and write stories and poems, enter and win literary competitions, watch the news, take an interest in the world, become law-abiding members of that same society.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Dateline: April 13, 2008
Location: deep inside a prison cell in Florida

A couple weeks ago, I got a nice letter from the "PEN American Center" in New York City, notifying me that I'd won a national writing award, first place, for the memoir, "Fighting the Ninja," a heavy look at HIV and AIDS in prison. That's a great honor, to have intelligent, decent, educated people in New York judge my writing, and proclaim it the best in the nation. I thank them for their generosity and perception.

I don't have HIV or AIDS. I'm clean. No hepatitis, no tuberculosis, no communicable diseases. Considering the cesspool that is prison, you might think that's amazing, unless you know me. Numerous times over the years people have asked me, since I'm a prisoner serving life, they've heard all the stories about those showers, "Have you ever, uh..., you know,...uh,...?" and the answer is no. I tell them, I'm a rare bird in prison, I'm old-fashioned, I'm what they call a heterosexual, I like women, I don't like men, they don't interest me. i don't consider barnyard animals as suitable companions, either, though I've heard tell that some do.

When I wrote "Fighting the Ninja" last year, I sent a copy to my Aunt Alice in Tampa, and asked her what she thought of it. She gave me a one-word review, "Horrible!" I loved it, best review I could ask for. If you haven't read it, it's on the website, Check it out, let me know what you think. AIDS in prison is an expensive proposition. and it's only going to get worse. I have some ideas about that, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Dateline: April 12, 2008 Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Do you think the title, "Communiques From a Dead Man,' is too morbid for a blog? Or does it fit? If you read the first one, April 5th, you'll probably understand my thinking process, but since this isn't meant to be "Aunt Delilah's Southern Cooking Recipe Blog," perhaps you'll indulge my quest for the dramatic.

Which is worse, life or death? I admire the Abe Bonowitz anti-death penalty folks who go to the executions with their signs and tirelessly lobby to abolish capital punishment, but when you are serving "life in prison," you develop a different mindset.

What was that Oklahoma City bomber's name? Timothy McVeigh. A real idiot. 167 counts of premeditated murder. It would be hard to find a better poster boy for the death penalty, hanging, firing squad, electrocution, stoning, whatever your cultural choice. But there was another argument against giving McVeigh the death penalty - it was too good for him. Why should he enjoy a quick death and release from his punishment when we could put him in a concrete cell, never to get out, to grow old and sick and decrepit, to be alone with his conscience, to reflect on his crimes, to eat prison food forever, or until he dries up and dies, an empty husk of a man. That would be a far worse punishment than a quick, painless death.

Those people are right. I've known a lot of men who have served twenty, thirty, forty years and more - some are still serving time with little hope of getting out. Most of those men have been dead for years - they just keep walking around, eating, sleeping, existing, turning inward. After a time, in many cases, it would be better for society if they didn't get out, but according to statistics, 98% will one day.

So many people have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted and later cleared, thanks mostly to DNA tests, that the anti-death penalty advocates' point is clear - it is a great societal wrong to kill an innocent man, so keep them alive just in case. As for me, I believe it is a grave societal wrong to keep an innocent man in prison for life, present company included. What do you think?


Dateline: April 11. 2008

While we're on the subject of Mark Ober, I'd like to share some future topics -
"Mark Ober's Soft Spot for Serial Killers."
"The Truth About Mark Ober,"
"Mark Ober's Christmas Card Fetish."

It's true - I did send Mark a Christmas card once. I think it was 1980. He must not get many Christmas cards, for informed sources say he still carries that dog-eared Christmas card around in his briefcase wherever he goes. He even showed it off to the Parole Commission twenty-two years later!

What got Mark so excited? An innocent inscription meant as humorous: "Merry Christmas from Raiford, wish you were here."

Come on, Mark. Get over it. I hope thousands of bloggers will send Mark Christmas cards this year, so he'll have new ones to carry around.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Dateline: April 10, 2008

Recent news from Tampa concerns the outrage over used car dealer, Mr. Kuhn, making $18000 in illegal campaign contributions to a city council candidate opposing John Dingfelder. State Attorney Mark Ober refused to prosecute Mr. Kuhn, citing, "the ignorance of the law is an excuse doctrine," especially if you have two law degrees and are wealthy.

Daniel Ruth and others ask why Mark Ober gave Mr. Kuhn a free pass, when other prosecutors have put such miscreants behind bars. That's an easy one.

One advantage to serving life in prison for something you didn't do is that you have time to focus your attention on subjects that interest and concern you. I've been studying Mark Ober's campaign contribution disclosures for for almost eight years, and have come up with some astounding insights, which I will share with you over the next few weeks and months.

The question: why wouldn't Mark Ober prosecute this election law violation?
The answer: Because he is guilty of the same crime. When his own infractions are exposed, he'll be obliged to prosecute his own contributors, and we know that's not going to happen.

If you want to hear more about Mark Ober and the campaign contributions issue, or if you have something to add, please log on and blog.

How about it, Mark? Are you going to come clean?

Monday, April 14, 2008


Dateline: April 9, 2008 Location: from a prison cell

I am new at this blog game, and obviously because of my circumstances, I must learn as I go. I read the Tampa Tribune daily, a week late by mail, but enjoy Daniel Ruth, Steve Otto, and William March, their columns and the comments from their blogs. I hope that you will help me with this - take my leash in hand and lead me in the right direction - give me your insight, comments, suggestions on how to proceed, what to write about and discuss.

I have spent my time in prison more as a studious monk than a convicted murderer, and I have documented over thirty years of imprisonment in words, art, and photos. I have read over 4,000 books, the World Book Encyclopedia (twice), the Holy Bible (several times), over two hundred art books, history, science, religion, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, genetics, criminology, social science, politics, and much more. I've read every book that a number of popular authors have written, including John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King (reading Duma Key now), James Grippando, James Lee Burke, his daughter, Alafair Burke, Tom Clancy, Michael Connelly, Stuart Woods, James Patterson, Vince Flynn, Sue Grafton, Greg Iles, and several more.

There is not much I don't know about crime, punishment, and prison. When I first was locked up, I treated my imprisonment as I thought Margaret Mead would conduct herself had she been parachuted into a strange new society in New Guinea or elsewhere. Criminals of every stripe have confided in me, and I've learned more than anyone ought to know about the details of thousands of crimes. I've talked to child molesters, kidnappers, bank robbers, burglars, con men, and serial killers, including Ted Bundy and several who were never identified as such.

I've worked with juveniles in the state boot camp program, and literally thousands of adult prisoners in many other programs over the years, including women prisoners from Lowell.

Although my immediate focus is wrongful prosecution and imprisonment, if you have questions about most any other topic I will address them. I've studied the prison issues and prisoners, and I have a unique vantage point. Send me your comments. Thanks.


Dateline: April 8, 2008 Location: from a prison cell

"Innocent man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit - FREED!"
"Florida Legislature approves $1.25 million for innocent man imprisoned 26 years."

I remember Alan Crotzer in the mid-1980's at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution as a small, quiet, shy man from Tampa who attended the "GOLAB" Program I taught. He told us that he was innocent, and I said, "Amen, brother, I can identify with that."

Fortunately for him, a DNA test and the work of "Innocence Projects" freed him. I haven't been so lucky.

What is interesting is that with all the national media attention, not one peep has been heard from Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, who was an assistant state attorney along with his partner, Norman Cannella, when Alan Crotzer was railroaded and hustled off to state prison. And they are the same people who worked for state attorney E.J. Salcines, who committed egregious prosecutorial misconduct in order to guarantee my conviction and their political careers.

Norman Cannella's political career went down the tubes when the photograph of him in handcuffs with head down was featured on the front page of the Tampa Tribune after FBI agents arrested him for bribery, corruption, and being a member of an international drug cartel. He slithered out of those charges, but any hopes for higher office went KAPUT. His partner, Mark Ober, was able to keep from getting splashed with Cannella's mud, got rich as a private lawyer with Cannella, and after Harry Lee Coe's suspicious and convenient "suicide," he was elected state attorney. The foxes got into the henhouse. And they've been gorging themselves ever since.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Dateline: April 7, 2008 Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Despite what some people think, there are no country clubs in state prison, and there is no internet access. We can’t have laptops or cell phones. We can make collect telephone calls to any of ten people on our approved lists, and we can write letters. I am blessed that I have a few friends in “free society” who love me and care about me, and believe that my message should be heard, so they deal with e-mail, websites, and the intricacies of the internet on my behalf.
A few years ago, at another prison in North Florida, I told a particularly oppressive person who’d been dogging me that the U.S. Constitution didn’t stop at the front gate, and even prisoners had certain rights. His response so epitomized a certain mindset that I memorized it exactly as he said it, “The Constitution ain’t in effect in Columbia County.”
Fortunately for all of us, that isn’t true. The vast majority of prison staff are good people doing a difficult job, and I get along with them fairly well. Many of them are aware of my situation – I’ve known some of the higher ranking officials twenty-five years and more – and most ask me, “Why are you in prison?” or, “You don’t belong in prison.”
I couldn’t agree with them more.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Dateline: April 6, 2008 Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Three weeks ago, when my friend and PEN literary mentor, William Brantley, suggested I start a blog, with his help and expertise, I agreed wholeheartedly. I’d been thinking the same thing for months, but had no idea how to implement it. I knew that my story needed to spread into cyberspace if I had any hope of being rescued from Purgatory, so that if enough people discovered the truth of this miscarriage of justice, perhaps the hue and cry of thousands of good people would overwhelm the lies of a corrupt, powerful few.
FACT: I did not shoot or kill Steve Bluffstone in the early morning hours of February 17, 1975, in Tampa, Florida. I have been paying for others’ crimes for over thirty years. That should accumulate a lot of interest in a justice account somewhere.
FACT: I was wrongfully arrested and convicted of first degree murder based on withheld evidence, perjured testimony, and the actions of corrupt police detectives and Hillsborough County prosecutors Norman Cannella and Mark Ober.
Unlike the victims of prosecutor Mike Nifong, the Duke University lacrosse team players, I did not have wealthy parents to hire the best legal defense team, to shove this flimsy case down their throats. I refused their plea bargain offers to be out of prison in five years. I risked the electric chair for principle. And here I sit. This is my story.



Dateline: April 5, 2008 Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Thirty years ago today, I had no idea that in a few short hours my life would be over. I discovered that there is a place between Heaven and Hell, and my body and soul have been suspended in Purgatory for 10,959 days now, more or less, but who’s counting?
Six-thirty A.M., I was peacefully dreaming in my bed in our little house north of the University of South Florida, when my girlfriend, Debbie, lying next to me, woke me screaming.
“Get out, get out! Go! Just go! Get out now! Hurry! They’re coming for you!”
Her panicked voice startled me awake, freaked me out, and I thought she was trying to kick me out of the house.
“Hey, I’m not going anywhere, I live here.”
Her eyes focused on mine – it was like she was coming out of a nightmare – and she clung to me.
“You have to go. You’re in danger. Just leave. I’ll follow you later. They’re going to kill you.”
I scoffed at her fears. I shouldn’t have. At two-thirty that afternoon eight TPD detectives with shaking shotguns surrounded my car and told me to get out, don’t make a move, or they’d shoot.
At that moment life as I knew it ended.