Governor wants pardon for Morrison

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.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — 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 favourite Doors song is “Light My Fire” said that the evidence that Morrison unzipped his pants was flimsy and that 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.

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 emails ahead of the Dec. 9 meeting, his final one.

The idea of a pardon was first raised in 2007, when Doors fan Dave Diamond of Dayton, Ohio, wrote to Crist and pleaded the case for Morrison, saying there were no photos or video that could prove the allegations, and no witnesses who could say with 100 per cent 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 honourable 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 email. “Quite a strong statement to be made by you while the state and the country battle with sexual predators.”

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in an email that her office will not fight the pardon.

“In these tough economic times, it is not worth the time, the expense or the use of precious staff resources to uphold a pair of 42-year-old misdemeanour convictions,” Rundle said. “While I can never condone Morrison’s actions of exposing himself to an audience, I will not waste my lawyers’ time in an effort to fight an attempted pardon.”