Governor Charlie Crist today during a meeting of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency requested a pardon for James Douglas “Jim” Morrison. The pardon was approved unanimously by the clemency board, which consists of the Governor and the Florida Cabinet. Governor Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson all voted for the measure.
Please see Governor Crist’s remarks below, as prepared for delivery.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please call Governor Crist’s press office at (850) 488-5394.
GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST
to the Florida Board of Executive Clemency
December 9, 2010
James Douglas Morrison – we know him as Jim Morrison – appealed the judgment and sentence he received after being convicted 40 years ago of two misdemeanors. However, he died before his appeal could be heard.
Because he us unable to state his case for clemency before this board today, I offer to do so for him.
The charges against Mr. Morrison stemmed from his alleged actions at a now-famous 1969 musical performance by The Doors in Miami. During the trial, the prosecution attempted to prove that Mr. Morrison indecently exposed himself, simulated indecent acts, and uttered profanities.
Mr. Morrison admitted to using some of the alleged profanity; however, he denied the other charges.
During the trial, some witnesses testified they saw the alleged acts for which he was charged; however, many others testified they observed the entire concert and never saw them. In fact, so many witnesses corroborated Mr. Morrison’s testimony that the judge eventually stopped the defense from presenting any more – because their collective testimony became, what is known in legal terms as, “cumulative testimony.”
Nevertheless, a jury convicted Mr. Morrison. The judge then sentenced him to six months of hard labor.
Much controversy surrounds this conviction, and not only because many witnesses testified they did not see Mr. Morrison expose himself.
Controversy also exists because Mr. Morrison was not arrested until four days after the concert. A case was brought against him only after newspaper articles recounted the alleged events at the concert, based on a complaint filed by an employee of the state attorney’s office who attended the concert.
In addition, Mr. Morrison may have been improperly prevented from presenting evidence of “community standards” of other rock performances of the era. Such testimony would have offered cultural context for the allegations against him.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Morrison himself did not exercise his right to remain silent. Instead, he forcefully denied the charge that he exposed himself on stage.
Mr. Morrison appealed his judgment and sentence; however, he died before the appeal was heard. His death prevented him from exercising his right to a direct appeal, a right given to every American by the United States Constitution. If his appeal had been heard, a reviewing court could have resolved the controversies surrounding his conviction.
In addition, at the time of Morrison’s death, a convicted defendant who died before his appeal was heard was entitled to have the conviction dismissed so that he was again presumed innocent. This doctrine, known as “abatement ab initio,” wiped the slate clean – as though the conviction had never taken place. 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 criminal justice system.
The words of an appellate judge, penned a decade before Mr. Morrison’s trial, provide insight into the question before us today: When death prevents the accused from appealing his judgment, the conviction is “a nullity” and “[j]urisdiction to determine the issue of guilt or innocence is now assumed by the ultimate arbiter of human affairs.”1
In this case, guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours. That is why I ask my colleagues today to pardon Jim Morrison.
1 Bagley v. State, 122 So. 2d 789, 791 (Fla. 1st DCA 1960) (Sturgis, J., writing for the majority) (granting the “[m]otion to abate all proceedings on this appeal and in the court below”), overruled by State v. Clements, 668 So. 2d 980, 982 (Fla. 1996).