March 1, 1969 the Doors walked out onto the Dinner Key Auditorium’s shifty stage. The Miami ‘concert hall’ was more aptly described as an old airport hangar who’s 8,000 seat venue was oversold by 5,000 tickets. As The 27s describes, “Mr. Morrison was already drunk from a long day spent in airports and on planes, and he took to the scene like a bothered hornet.”
What occurred next has gone down as music legend. (Read the full account at the end of this posting). In the end, Jim’s wrongful arrest caused not only Morrison and the Door’s career to suffer, but any band that assimilated with them.
Well, this past Friday (December 10th) Jim was given a posthumously pardon from Florida’s state clemency board.
A complete statement by Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, which was read by the governor during the clemency board meeting, appears below:
GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST
to the Florida Board of Executive Clemency
December 9, 2010
James Douglas Morrison – we know him as Jim Morrison – appealed the judgment and sentence he received after being convicted 40 years ago of two misdemeanors. However, he died before his appeal could be heard.
Because he us unable to state his case for clemency before this board today, I offer to do so for him.
The charges against Mr. Morrison stemmed from his alleged actions at a now-famous 1969 musical performance by The Doors in Miami. During the trial, the prosecution attempted to prove that Mr. Morrison indecently exposed himself, simulated indecent acts, and uttered profanities.
Mr. Morrison admitted to using some of the alleged profanity; however, he denied the other charges.
During the trial, some witnesses testified they saw the alleged acts for which he was charged; however, many others testified they observed the entire concert and never saw them. In fact, so many witnesses corroborated Mr. Morrison’s testimony that the judge eventually stopped the defense from presenting any more – because their collective testimony became, what is known in legal terms as, “cumulative testimony.”
Nevertheless, a jury convicted Mr. Morrison. The judge then sentenced him to six months of hard labor.
Much controversy surrounds this conviction, and not only because many witnesses testified they did not see Mr. Morrison expose himself.
Controversy also exists because Mr. Morrison was not arrested until four days after the concert. A case was brought against him only after newspaper articles recounted the alleged events at the concert, based on a complaint filed by an employee of the state attorney’s office who attended the concert.
In addition, Mr. Morrison may have been improperly prevented from presenting evidence of “community standards” of other rock performances of the era. Such testimony would have offered cultural context for the allegations against him.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Morrison himself did not exercise his right to remain silent. Instead, he forcefully denied the charge that he exposed himself on stage.
Mr. Morrison appealed his judgment and sentence; however, he died before the appeal was heard. His death prevented him from exercising his right to a direct appeal, a right given to every American by the United States Constitution. If his appeal had been heard, a reviewing court could have resolved the controversies surrounding his conviction.
In addition, at the time of Morrison’s death, a convicted defendant who died before his appeal was heard was entitled to have the conviction dismissed so that he was again presumed innocent. This doctrine, known as “abatement ab initio,” wiped the slate clean – as though the conviction had never taken place. A pardon corrects the fact that Mr. Morrison is now unable to take advantage of the presumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of the American criminal justice system.
The words of an appellate judge, penned a decade before Mr. Morrison’s trial, provide insight into the question before us today: When death prevents the accused from appealing his judgment, the conviction is “a nullity” and “[j]urisdiction to determine the issue of guilt or innocence is now assumed by the ultimate arbiter of human affairs.”
In this case, guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours. That is why I ask my colleagues today to pardon Jim Morrison.
(Excerpt taken from The 27s, written by Eric Segalstad.)
After “Light My Fire,” the requisite crowd pleaser, Jim urged the crowd to come up on stage. “Let’s get on up here! No limits! No laws! Come on. COMMMME OOOON!” Dozens of people crawled up. Off mike he asked some of the kids if they wanted to see his cock. He unbuckled his belt while Ray, John, and Robbie watched in shock and fear.
The stage became rapidly tumultuous. Hundreds of camera flashes documented what ensued. Road manager Vince Treanor held up Morrison’s pants by the waistband—he says the singer didn’t attempt to pull the pants down. The promoters rushed to the stage; one of the brothers attempted to take the microphone, but Jim pushed him away; the other retaliated by flipping him into the audience. Not missing a beat, Jim led the crowd in a chaotic whirlpool around the dark, filthy hangar. “It was Dionysus calling forth the snakes,” Ray Manzarek described years later, referring to a myth about the Greek god of wine and intoxication.
A few days after the Doors’ disastrous Miami show, a young reporter for the Miami Herald wrote an article about the concert that claimed Morrison had exposed himself and incited a riot. The reporter’s vendetta gained momentum after he quizzed the city’s police chief on what he planned to do about the rock star’s sordid antics. Ignited by the inquiries, the chief summoned the troops, and the incident quickly reverberated.
Miami’s self-styled moral protectors protested the Doors’ performance with a “Rally for Indecency” that was attended by the city’s archdiocese and comedian Jackie Gleason. President Nixon took the time to send a letter of support.
At the end of March ’69, the FBI contacted Morrison’s lawyer with a warrant signed by a federal judge for his arrest. Jim had left the state before any charges had been filed, yet the warrant cited interstate flight. Never mind that not one of the innumerable cameras that went off when Jim supposedly exposed himself actually captured anything indecent. Driven by lust for re-election and national notoriety, the Dade County prosecutor wanted to set an example, but Jim’s lawyer knew what to do. By prior arrangement Jim was booked by the FBI office in Los Angeles and released a few minutes later on $5,000 bail.
With a new direction in life, Jim didn’t worry too much about the non-legal repercussions from what supposedly happened in Florida—he left that to the rest of the Doors machinery. A flood of cancellations followed a dire warning by the Concert Halls Management Association. Radio stations dropped The Doors from airplay for the remainder of the year. Unfortunately the anti-Doors campaign affected other bands as well.
In mid-March, the Grateful Dead’s management was informed that the group’s upcoming show in Miami was canceled because the local promoters believed the two bands were of the same ilk. A few months later Janis Joplin was busted for profanity in Tampa, Florida. During the show the police demanded that the audience sit still in their seats. When the request went unheeded a policeman walked up on stage and blew a foghorn during “Summertime.” Janis flipped, and after the show she oozed with profanities toward a backstage cop. The blowout earned her two indictments for “vulgar and indecent language.” The affair was eventually settled with a fine, but it had a negative impact on her bookings as well.” (To continue reading, pick up a copy of The 27s today!)