Jim Morrison Pardoned at Last
Plus: Read Rolling Stone's coverage of the 1979 incident resulting in
Morrison's conviction for indecent exposure
By Maura Johnston
Dec 09, 2010
On Thursday, Florida's Clemency Board pardoned the late Doors
frontman Jim Morrison for two misdemeanor convictions stemming from a
1969 incident in which he allegedly exposed himself.
The pardon was requested by outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and
the state Clemency Board unanimously granted it.
In March 1969, a bearded, drunken Morrison was performing at the
Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami when, during the performance, he
allegedly asked the audience, "Do you wanna see my cock?" After the
audience of more than 10,000 fans responded, he pulled down his pants
and briefly simulated masturbation.
"Nowadays, we would call it a wardrobe malfunction," Morrison's
former attorney said in 2006. But in 1969, a media circus ensued,
with local radio stations taking The Doors out of rotation and a
"decency rally" held at the Orange Bowl. Eventually, the Miami
district attorney at the time charged Morrison with a felony count of
lewd and lascivious behavior, as well as three misdemeanor counts
stemming from his public drunkenness.
Morrison surrendered to the FBI in Los Angeles that July; after a
1970 trial, he was ultimately found guilty of two misdemeanors
indecent exposure and "open profanity." Morrison was sentenced to six
months in jail and a $500 fine, but he appealed the sentence and was
released on $50,000 bond; he would be dead less than a year later.
Morrison's widow, Patricia Kennealy Morrison, told The Associated
Press that she isn't happy with the pardon; she claims that Morrison
did not expose himself on stage, and said that she thinks the charges
should be expunged.
"I have a real problem with the semantics of a pardon," she told the
AP. The pardon says that all his suffering and all that he went
through during the trial, everything both of us went through, was negated."
Morrison's ex-bandmates, however, support the pardon.
Read Rolling Stone's original coverage of the 1969 incident
Doors' Jim Morrison pardoned for indecent exposure
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Forty years after Jim Morrison was convicted
of exposing himself at a wild Miami concert, this is the end:
Florida's Clemency Board, egged on by departing Gov. Charlie Crist,
pardoned The Doors' long-dead singer Thursday.
Some people who were at the Miami show March 1, 1969, insist even
today that he exposed himself, though others in the audience and
Morrison's bandmates contend he was just teasing the crowd and only
pretended to do the deed. Crist, tuned in to the controversy by a
Doors fan, said there was enough doubt about what happened at the
Dinner Key Auditorium to justify a pardon.
The board, which consists of Crist and a three-member Cabinet, voted
unanimously to pardon Morrison on indecent exposure and profanity
charges as they granted several other pardons Thursday. At the
hearing, the governor called the convictions a "blot" on the record
of an accomplished artist for "something he may or may not have done."
He said Morrison died before he was afforded the chance to present
his appeal, so Crist was doing that for him. Board members pointed
out several times that they couldn't retry the case but that the
pardon forgave Morrison and negated his sentence.
"In this case the guilt or innocence is in God's hands, not ours," Crist said.
Morrison had received a six-month jail sentence never served and
a $500 fine for the 1970 convictions, which carried consequences for
the band. Ray Manzarek, The Doors' keyboard player, said Miami was
supposed to be the start of a 20-city tour, but every venue canceled
after Morrison's arrest.
"We had the mandate of heaven, and I think at that moment, he lost
the mandate of heaven," Manzarek said. "In the recording studio, the
magic stayed, but I think at that moment in Miami, the live
performance magic left for a little while and then came back intermittently."
Morrison's appeals were never resolved. He was found dead in a Paris
bathtub in 1971 at age 27. No official cause of death was ever issued
his manager said he died of "natural causes."
Manzarek and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger supported the pardon
because they say Morrison never exposed himself, though they agreed
Florida's move will have little affect on Morrison's wild, outsized,
drug-addled rock 'n' roll image.
"Jim's legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic
American poet. I don't think that the Miami episode has altered his
image one iota," Manzarek said.
The pardon isn't enough for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, who says she
married Morrison in a ceremony that was never made official. She
wanted the convictions expunged and called the pardon "a complete
cheap, cynical, political ploy."
"I have a real problem with the semantics of a pardon. The pardon
says that all his suffering and all that he went through during the
trial, everything both of us went through, was negated," she said.
Kennealy Morrison says she exchanged vows with Morrison in a Celtic
pagan ceremony. Morrison left his entire estate to another woman,
Pamela Courson, a longtime girlfriend who was with him when he died.
Courson died in 1974.
Kennealy Morrison said Morrison's convictions led to his demise, and
that of the band. She said he felt like he "had been made a scapegoat
of the counterculture movement."
"He cared about it. It affected him deeply. In fact, I think it was
one of the contributory causes of his death, actually. It certainly
destroyed The Doors, pretty much. They didn't perform so much as a
group after Miami, after the verdict came through," she said.
Manzarek and Krieger said Morrison's main interest in appealing the
case was avoiding jail time.
"He wouldn't give a (expletive)" about a pardon, Krieger said. "He
would think it was old news."
Here's what most people who were at the concert agree on: The Doors
went on stage late. The auditorium was oversold and wasn't air
conditioned. Morrison was drunk and stopped in the middle of songs
with an anti-authority, profanity-riddled rant.
A live lamb was brought on stage at one point, and Morrison also
grabbed a police officer's hat and threw it in the crowd. The singer
took off his shirt and fiddled with his belt, and fans poured onto the stage.
"There were 100 photos offered in evidence at the trial, photos of
everything Jim with the lamb, Jim with the hat, on the stage
collapsing, riot in the audience. Not one photo of Jim's magnificent
member," said Manzarek.
"It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis," he said.
Krieger added: "Nobody would like to have that charge hanging over
their head even if they are dead. I'm sure his family would be happy
to see that go, especially since it never happened."
While Morrison denied exposing himself, he defended the use of nudity
in theater even after his arrest. And he never toned down his lifestyle.
The fact that Morrison didn't change his life is exactly why he
shouldn't have been pardoned, said retired Miami police sergeant
Angel Lago, who came to Tallahassee to speak against the pardon.
While he wasn't on the police force at the time of the concert, he
said a friend testified at the trial that Morrison exposed himself.
He firmly said his friend wouldn't have lied under oath.
"The man is not worthy of this. I don't care if he was a poet, I
don't care if he walked on water," Largo told reporters during a
break in the meeting.
Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, began considering a pardon
for Morrison in 2007 after fan David Diamond of Dayton, Ohio,
contacted him, and began pursuing it after he lost a bid for U.S.
Senate last month. He steps down as governor next month.
Jim Morrison pardoned by Florida for his night of infamy, 41 years on
Outgoing governor of sunshine state who was 13 in 1969 says Doors
frontman was probably not guilty of indecency
9 December 2010
In the words of Jim Morrison: This is the end. Nearly four decades
after his death, Florida's clemency board pardoned the legendary
Doors frontman of convictions for indecent exposure and profanity at
a Miami concert that were apparently driven by official hostility to
the counterculture of the time.
The outgoing governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, engineered the
pardon because he said there were grave doubts as to whether
Morrison, who died in his bath in Paris in 1971, was guilty.
But one of Morrison's lawyers says he probably was guilty, although
he also thinks it ironic that the singer was cleared of the one
offence he undoubtedly committed being very drunk in public during
Morrison was arrested after a raucous performance at a Miami venue in
1969 in which he was accused of dropping his trousers and launching a
drunken and profanity-laced anti-authority rant.
Morrison, who would have been 67 this week, was sentenced to six
months in prison and fined $500 (£317) but never went to jail. He
moved to France while the case was on appeal and was found dead,
possibly of a drug overdose, the following year.
Crist, who was 13 when Morrison was convicted in 1970, says the
evidence that the singer exposed himself during a concert was weak
and the authorities were seeking to make an example of a leading
counterculture figure with a reputation for sexual promiscuity and
drug use. Crist said he had a "duty to right a wrong".
"It's not about the guilt or innocence of the man and it's not about
retrying the case here today. That's not what this is about. We have
had an opportunity for about 40 years for this son of Florida whose
body of work has endured and has this blot on his record, if you
will, for something that he may or may not have done when he was
essentially a kid," Crist said.
The Doors keyboard player, Ray Manzarek, said that Morrison only
pretended to expose himself during a concert in which he brought a
lamb on stage and talked about having sex with it, before concluding
that it was "too young", grabbed a police officer's hat and threw it
into the audience, and told fans to "love your neighbour 'til it hurts".
"It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis," he told the
Associated Press. "He was just doing a mind trip as they would say
a mind trip on the audience and they totally fell for it … There
were 100 photos offered in evidence at the trial, photos of
everything - Jim with the lamb, Jim with the hat, on the stage
collapsing, riot in the audience. Not one photo of Jim's magnificent member."
But Robert Josefsberg, one of Morrison's defence lawyers at his
trial, is more sceptical. He thinks that the singer probably did
break the law but that the charges were politically motivated. "The
charges brought against him were that it was 1969, it was a different
world. There were all sorts of political and social pressures," he
told the New York Times. "People were terribly offended by what he
did. And I think it got blown out of proportion, as most things do.
It gathered its own steam and fed off itself, and it became an
atrocious thing. Not that I'm saying dropping your pants in public is
acceptable. It's not. It's also not the worst thing in the world that
ever happened. I'm not justifying his behaviour, I think there was an
Even the fans who were there can't agree. Lee Winer, now a
56-year-old resident of San Francisco, says Morrison put it all out
there. "He actually unzipped and pulled his pants down a little bit,
enough where you can see everything. I do remember being shocked when
that happened, and definitely it happened," he told the Associated Press.
But Helene Davis, back then an 18 year-old seated in the front row,
says that there was nothing to see.
"We were watching and waiting because it was obvious that's where he
was going with it," she said. "I just remembered thinking, 'Yes, it's
going to happen! It's going happen! It's going to happen!' And it never did."
Manzarek says it makes little difference.
"Jim's legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic
American poet," he said. "I don't think that the Miami episode has
altered his image one iota."
In 2003, 37 years after his death, the foul-mouthed comedian became
the first person in the state of New York to be posthumously
pardoned. Bruce was convicted of obscenity for using bad language in
a Greenwich Village nightclub act in 1964.
In 2007, four years after his death, Johnny Cash was symbolically
pardoned by Starkville municipal court judge William Eshee for a 1965
incident of public drunkenness . The night Cash spent in jail in the
Mississippi town was immortalised in the song Starkville City Jail.