News

Fans push for pardon of Jim Morrison

Gary Fineout
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Jim Morrison, native Floridian, one-time Florida State University student and charismatic rock star, could get a new label if fans have their way: pardoned criminal.

Convicted of exposing himself during a notorious Miami concert in 1969, the lead singer for The Doors was sentenced to six months in jail. But he died in a Paris bathtub of heart failure in 1971, before his appeal was heard.

Nearly 36 years later, some of his fans want his record cleared. And they have asked Gov. Charlie Crist, himself an FSU alum, to consider a posthumous pardon.

"He's a `Nole? Well, given that fact, I'm certainly willing to review it," Crist joked recently, before singing a few lines from "Light My Fire."

If Morrison, who was born in Melbourne, Fla., were to win a pardon, it would add a fascinating footnote to an incident that many fans feel started Morrison and his band on a downward spiral. The fallout from the Miami incident led promoters to cancel concerts and earned the band a stream of negative publicity.

Dave Diamond, 34, a Dayton, Ohio, cable TV producer who wrote Crist last month asking for the pardon, said the ultimate goal is to remember Morrison as an artist instead of another rock-and-roll bad boy with a rap sheet. Diamond and other fans maintain Morrison would not have been charged if the incident had happened today.

"We'd just like to really see where we get to a point to let Morrison be judged because of the music and poetry and not be judged because of this Miami case," Diamond said.

Diamond's effort has the blessing of Morrison's father, retired U.S. Admiral George S. Morrison. While noting that all he knows about the arrest stems from news accounts, Morrison, 87, said in a phone interview he would welcome the pardon.

"I certainly would support that 100 percent," said the elder Morrison, who now lives in California.

But Crist can't pardon someone by himself. He needs two of the three other members of the Florida Cabinet, which acts as the clemency board. Plus there are no procedures to request a posthumous pardon: A spokeswoman for the state Parole Commission, which investigates clemency cases, said no one is sure it's ever been done before.

Morrison was charged days after a chaotic concert at Dinner Key Auditorium in March 1969. The singer gave rambling monologues, cursed and exhorted concertgoers to have sex with each other. Morrison was also alleged to have pulled down his pants and feigned masturbation, which he denied doing. The trial featured contradictory accounts. He was eventually acquitted of a felony charge of lewd and lascivious behavior, but was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity.

In his letter to Crist, Diamond noted that former New York Gov. George Pataki pardoned the late comedian Lenny Bruce on an obscenity conviction.

"It's not about Jim Morrison's image as the Lizard King or The Doors music," said Diamond. "It's about a citizen of Florida who was convicted in a case where the law was not applied."

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