Governor wants Doors' Morrison pardoned
| November 21, 2010 8:00 PM
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The time to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire: Florida's outgoing governor wants to posthumously pardon rock 'n' roll wild man Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors who was famously convicted of exposing himself at an anarchic 1969 concert in Miami.
Gov. Charlie Crist, a 54-year-old baby boomer and Morrison fan whose favorite Doors song is "Light My Fire," said the evidence that Morrison unzipped his pants was flimsy and prosecutors were trying to make an example of the singer, whose on-stage excesses and appetite for sex and drugs were legendary.
"There's some troubling aspects to it as to whether there was a valid conviction. The more I learn about it, the more I'm convinced a wrong may have been done here. My heart just bleeds for his legacy and his family," said Crist, who leaves office in January and figures "it's sort of now or never."
Exactly what happened that night at the Dinner Key Auditorium is one of rock 'n' roll history's enduring mysteries. Morrison clearly teased the crowd and went into an obscenity-laced rant.
"He was baiting the audience, telling them., 'I'm going to do it, I'm going to show it to you. That's what you've come for isn't it?'" Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek told The Associated Press. "The girls were screaming 'Yes! Yes!' Guys were saying, 'No! Don't do it!'"
Manzarek said Morrison put a shirt in front of his crotch and wiggled his hand behind it. He briefly pulled the shirt away and said, "I just showed you. Did you see it?"
"And of course nobody saw it," Manzarek said. He and guitarist Robby Krieger said Morrison had recently seen a stage group called The Living Theater, which was performing plays in which actors disrobed. The concert was his first and only attempt to do something similar, but he didn't follow through with exposing himself, they said.
"I wouldn't put it past him. I'm sure he would have done it if he had been a little drunker or if (manager) Bill Siddons hadn't been holding his arms around his waist and preventing him from doing so after Ray said, 'Don't let him do it!'" Krieger said. "Really, as far as the pardoning thing, I don't think Jim would care one way or another, but his family would, so that to me is the most important thing."
Morrison was found guilty in 1970 of indecent exposure and public profanity and was fined $500 and sentenced to six months in jail. But he never did the time. He was appealing his conviction when he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971 at age 27.
The governor said he plans to ask Florida Cabinet members to support a pardon the next time they meet as the Clemency Board. Crist needs at least two of the three Cabinet members to vote with him.
He has already received dozens of e-mails ahead of the Dec. 9 meeting, his final one.
"For what it's worth in your decision to pardon Jim Morrison, I along with a friend was in the front row of the concert and did not see Jim indecently expose himself. Was he drunk and raunchy, yes, but nothing else," wrote Helene Davis, who said she was 18 when she went to the show.
The idea of a pardon was first raised in 2007, when Doors fan Dave Diamond of Dayton, Ohio, wrote to Crist, saying there were no photos or video that could prove the allegations, and no witnesses who could say with 100 percent certainty that the singer exposed himself.
Diamond also noted that New York's governor pardoned comedian Lenny Bruce on obscenity charges in 2002, 39 years after his conviction.
Crist, a Republican-turned-independent who lost his bid for a Senate seat earlier this month, said Wednesday that he believes prosecutors were "trying to make a statement rather than have a hard-and-fast case" against Morrison, who was born and raised in Florida and attended Florida State University before dropping out.
But Morrison's own attorney, Bob Josefsberg, said there was some very believable testimony that the singer did expose himself.
"There were credible witnesses and an honorable jury," Josefsberg said. "This wasn't some kangaroo court that in the old South lynched someone without any evidence. This was a fair trial."
As for Morrison himself, "Jim didn't remember anything. He was a little drunk," the lawyer said.
Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, who twice saw The Doors perform, supports a pardon. Florida's chief financial officer and attorney general said they have not made up their minds.
A pardon "would make a statement to a lot of people about Florida's attitude," Crist said. "We all have a responsibility where appropriate to seek forgiveness."
Claude Kirk, who was governor at the time of the incident, suggested Crist has better things to do.
"Are you kidding? It's all bull----," Kirk said. "It shouldn't be brought up, period. It's part of why the man wound up a junkie and dead."
Some of those urging Crist not to grant the pardon pointed out that Morrison, had he been convicted today, would be put on a sex offenders list, especially since he exposed himself to minors.
"Do you consider a sexual predator designation so low on the ladder of crimes that he should receive a pardon?" Alyce Burke asked in an e-mail. "Quite a strong statement to be made by you while the state and the country battle with sexual predators."