Jim Morrison to Be Pardoned?

Jim Morrison's Miami Mugshot
Jim Morrison: The Miami Incident

Editor’s note: March 1, 1969 is a day that lives in Doors infamy. On that date, The Doors arrived in Miami, Florida eager to kick off a big tour promoting their new “The Soft Parade” album. Or rather three of them did. Jim Morrison had seen the confrontational theater group The Living Theater over the previous week, plus he’d been drinking heavily throughout the day. Inspired by anarchist theater and the booze he showed up late and treated the audience to a chaotic, profanity-laced performance. You can read our full synopsis of the Miami concert here. After a trial marked by irregularities, Morrison was convicted of profanity and indecent exposure. Freed on bond, he traveled to Paris and died before further appeal.

The story had a final, strange twist. In 2010, almost 40 years after Morrison’s death, Florida’s then-governor Charlie Crist announced that he would seek a pardon for The Lizard King. The Doors Examiner live-blogged this sequence of events, and over the next two days we’ll present two sets of articles, one leading up to the decision to pardon Jim Morrison and one considering its aftermath and impact.


Florida Governor Charlie Crist to Pardon Jim Morrison?

Florida Governor Charlie Crist is once again floating the rumor he may pardon Jim Morrison before his term of office expires. If Governor Crist had brought this up BEFORE the election he might have discovered a heretofore unknown voting bloc, Doors fans, and he might be a Senator-Elect today!

Jim Morrison: Wanted in Miami

Online petitions to pardon Morrison have circulated before and been delivered to Crist and his predecessor Jeb Bush. While the Governors have addressed the issue, in cursory ways, none has seriously pursued the matter, and it looked like Crist was following the same course, saying in Washington, D.C.’s The Hill, “Candidly, it’s something that I haven’t given a lot of thought to, but it’s something I’m willing to look into in the time I have left. Anything is possible.” Maybe the reporter was a Doors fan that asked the question?

Among Doors fans it’s a common opinion that Morrison should be granted a pardon. During Morrison’s Miami trial there were irregularities that would have granted Morrison a new appeal and probable exoneration.

I would like to offer an alternate theory. Jim Morrison once said, “If you make your peace with authority, you become an authority.” Morrison is now known as a rebel and for flouting authority and that image attracts young people of every new generation. If Morrison is granted that pardon (as justified as it may be) aren’t we making Morrison’s peace with authority? Aren’t we saying that Jim Morrison has now become a safe commodity? No longer the rebel, no longer a threat to the establishment? And wouldn’t young people stop seeing Morrison and his message as an outlet of their angst and outrage at the prevailing wisdoms of society? And in the end it would finally make Jim Morrison a safe, sanitized idol, his voice muted by absorption of the establishment he struggled against?

Originally published November 9, 2010, and appears in The Doors Examined.

Morrison Pardon a Done Deal?

The Doors in Miami 1969

Florida newspapers are reporting this morning (December 9, 2010) that Governor Charlie Crist has lined up enough votes to get Jim Morrison pardoned at today’s hearings of Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency. Crist can’t pardon Morrison (or anyone else) on his own authority; it takes the Governor’s vote plus two other members of the board.

If these reports are correct and the vote goes through as expected we could hear official confirmation of the pardon by this afternoon. Of course we’ll publish the details as soon as they become available. The pardon would come one day after what would have been Morrison’s 67th birthday.

Some fans question whether a pardon for Morrison will eliminate his outlaw status. Most fans eagerly await the pardon, but all agree that in Jim Morrison’s obscenity trial the verdict was a miscarriage of justice. Now Doors fans await the decision with bated breath.

The story was first reported in the Orlando Sentinel, picked up by the AP and stories have appeared in The Hartford Courant and AOL News.

Originally published December 9, 2010 and appears in The Doors Examined.

Florida Governor to Submit Jim Morrison for Pardon

The Doors in Miami

In an announcement this afternoon Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced he will submit to the state’s clemency board Jim Morrison as a candidate for a pardon from charges stemming from his March 1969 performance at the Dinner Key Theater. The incident resulted in a conviction on the charges of indecent exposure and profanity, both of which were misdemeanors, in September 1970.

Mr. Crist was quoted in the New York Times today as saying “I’ve decided to do it, for the pure and simple reason that I just think it’s the right thing to do. In some ways it seems like a tragic conclusion to a young man’s life to have maybe this be a lasting legacy, where we’re not even sure that it actually occurred. The more that I’ve read about the case and the more I get briefed on it, the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here.”

Morrison’s possible pardon has come to Florida’s governors in the past, including Crist, but no real consideration seems to have been given to Morrison’s case. Morrison’s conviction in September of 1970 was immediately appealed by Morrison’s attorney Max Fink, on several appealable grounds, such as the Judge “forgetting” to give a jury instruction that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove exposure, or the failure to allow testimony that Morrison was within his First Amendment rights and was within the Supreme Court‘s definition of community standards. Morrison was out on bond at the time of his death in July 1971.

Morrison’s pardon still needs to run the gauntlet of the full Board of Executive Clemency, which includes Gov. Crist. The board is set to meet on December 9th, (2010), the day after what would have been Morrison’s 67th birthday.

Originally published November 16, 2010 and appears in The Doors Examined.

Jim Morrison Still Provoking the Establishment

It seems Jim Morrison may still know how to provoke the establishment. Or is it writers’ pens? In a New York Times article published online tonight (November 17, 2010) and to be included in tomorrow’s edition, writer David Itzkoff tries to make the case that Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s move to have Jim Morrison pardoned may be reigniting culture wars of the ’60s.

The article mentions the decency rally that was held at the Orange Bowl which was organized by Mike Levesque, then a 17 year old high school student. The rally and had guest speakers on subjects of virtue, people such as Anita Bryant who later be more well known for her virulent anti-gay prejudice than her singing or being a spokesperson for an orange juice brand.

Itzkoff rightly quotes Ray Manzarek as saying “The battle then was the battle that’s being fought today, it’s the battle that America has been fighting.” But the rest of the article actually points out, or at least implies, that a Morrison pardon may be closer than the public might expect. He (Itzkoff) quotes Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, the current state attorney for Miami-Dade county, as saying, “It is not worth the time, the expense, or the use of precious staff resources to uphold.”

The only person mentioned in the article who opposes the pardon effort is Claude R. Kirk, Jr. who was the governor of Florida during the time of Morrison’s trial. Kirk was quoted as saying, “The state didn’t do anything to him; it tried him and found him guilty. Why would you pardon him, then?” Of course anyone familiar with the case knows that is simply an untrue statement. There were several areas that were being considered for appeal, including bias on the part of the judge.

You can judge for yourself in the New York Times article “Pardon Bid for Jim Morrison Relights Old Fires.” I also found an interview with Robert Josefberg who was Morrison’s local attorney in Miami that was a little more insightful than the Times article, and which the Times quoted from but pulled Josefsberg’s comments out of context.

[This video was shot at the time and includes interviews with teenagers and some of their comments are very illustrative of prevailing attitudes. It also makes me wonder where these people are today and what music their children are into?]

I would like to thank Mr. Harold Lepidus, the Bob Dylan Examiner.

Originally published November 18, 2010, this article appears in The Doors Examined.


Florida Governor Charlie Crist Has “Last Word” on Jim Morrison

This week has been rife with the story that Florida Governor Charlie Crist will seek to pardon Jim Morrison from his conviction resulting from the 1969 Dinner Key Theater incident in Miami. The story and its updates have appeared in the New York Times and in The Doors Examiner. Last night (12/18/10)Governor Crist was on the political talk show “The Last Word” with Lawerence O’Donnell to talk almost exclusively about Morrison’s pardon.

Originally published November 19, 2010.

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