Governor Charlie Crist, who leaves office next month, brought the case before the board, which agreed in Tallahassee today to clear the musician.
Morrison, a Florida native who would have turned 67 yesterday, was accused of revealing his genitals in a 1969 performance at Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove. He died in a Paris bathtub in 1971 while appealing the case, which justifies clemency, Crist said.
“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 justice system,” Crist told fellow members of the board.
Crist, 54, joins former New York Governor George Pataki in pardoning an entertainer after his death. Pataki in December 2003 granted clemency to the comedian Lenny Bruce, who was convicted of giving an obscene performance at Café Au Go Go in New York City in 1964.
The Doors released 14 albums that sold more than 1 million copies each, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Among their most popular songs are “Love Me Two Times,” “People Are Strange” and “Light My Fire.” Morrison is buried in Paris’s Pere-Lachaise Cemetery.
The singer was sentenced to six months hard labor for his alleged obscene behavior in Miami, which included profane language, according to court records. The jury acquitted him of drunkenness and lewd and lascivious behavior.
Calling for ‘Nakedness’
Morrison admitted removing his shirt during the concert and calling for “a little nakedness,” according to a transcript of court testimony provided by Crist’s office. He denied flashing the audience.
The governor’s office got “constant” inquiries about the case over the past four years, said Sterling Ivey, Crist’s spokesman. The almost 200 received since November showed 120 in support of a pardon and 77 against, he said.
A full pardon is meant to restore the rights of a convicted person and doesn’t imply that a crime hasn’t been committed.
“It’s not about the guilt or innocence of the man,” Crist told the board. “We have had the opportunity for 40 years for this son of Florida, whose body of work has endured and who has this blight on his record for something he may or may not have done when he was essentially a kid.”
The man who brought the case to Crist’s attention in 2007 was Gary Fineout, then a reporter with the Miami Herald, Ivey said in a telephone interview.
Fineout’s interest was sparked “sort of by accident,” the reporter said in an e-mail, after he became aware of a fan effort to have Morrison pardoned. Fineout asked Crist whether he would review the case, he said. It was a request made for a possible article, not because he thought Morrison should be cleared, he said.
Crist said he’d consider a pardon because both he and Morrison had attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, according to a 2007 Herald article by Fineout.
After being contacted by Dave Diamond, a fan trying to draw attention to Morrison’s case on Constitutional grounds, Fineout said he began asking at every quarterly meeting of the clemency board whether the issue would be considered.
“I made a decision to just keep asking until I got a solid yes or no answer,” Fineout, 45, said in the e-mail.
The effort to clear Morrison was initiated in 1996 by former Doors manager Danny Sugarman, who died in 2005, and is now led by three fans, Diamond said in an interview.
Sugarman and fans first focused on petition drives, an effort that made no headway with Crist’s predecessor, former Republican Governor Jeb Bush, Diamond said.
Diamond, 37, introduced a new tactic: Crist, the state attorney general before being elected governor in 2006, would be more likely to respond to legal arguments than petitions, he reasoned.
After doing research, the Dayton, Ohio, television producer with no legal training presented Crist with what he called seven Constitutional and legal flaws in the prosecution of Morrison, including that the singer died before his appeal was heard.
“This is a pretty hot climate for First Amendment issues and Constitutional issues,” he said via telephone, citing privacy cases after the Sept. 11 attacks. “For the folks out there that are into the Constitution, we don’t think that this is the wrong time to have this sort of a discussion.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.