TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Rock and roll icon Jim Morrison was pardoned on Thursday by the Florida clemency board for exposing himself at a raucous concert in 1969, an act the late singer and many concert-goers denied ever took place.
Outgoing Governor Charlie Crist and the clemency board voted unanimously to pardon The Doors’ lead singer, who would have turned 67 on December 8.
Morrison, the bad boy “lizard king” who became a symbol of the turbulent, sexually charged 1960s, was sentenced to six months in jail for his conviction on misdemeanor charges of profanity and indecent exposure.
He never served any time and was appealing his conviction when he died in Paris in 1971 at age 27. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but drugs have always been suspected.
Morrison fans had been urging Crist, a Doors fan whose term ends next month, to pardon Morrison for the incident that allegedly occurred during the concert at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium.
The inebriated singer taunted fans during the performance. Although there were numerous photographs from the concert, none supported accusations Morrison had exposed his penis and briefly simulated masturbation.
Morrison admitted using profanity but denied the other charges. During his trial, some concert-goers testified they saw the alleged acts but many others testified they observed the entire concert and never saw them.
Crist and three Cabinet officials who make up the clemency panel granted the pardon, with the governor arguing that Morrison’s death prevented him from exercising his fundamental right to appeal his conviction.
“In this case, the guilt or innocence is in God’s hands not ours,” Crist said.
The ruling came over the objection of at least one critic. Former Miami police office Angel Lago urged the board not to pardon Morrison, whom he said showed no remorse and did not change his behavior.
“This is a wrong message to send to the youth of this country,” Lago said. “It is absolutely wrong.”
But Doors fans were elated.
“This is an historic moment,” fan Michael Zadanic said following the vote. “It’s been a moving experience.”
The governor said Morrison may have been improperly prevented from offering evidence about community standards for rock performances of the era. At the time, the nation was sharply divided over the Vietnam war and there was deep hostility between the long-haired rock musicians and the government establishment.
The judge who sentenced Morrison, Circuit Judge Murray Goodman, said at the time that the case was about much more than bad behavior at a concert.
He said accepting the conduct Morrison was accused of “would be to admit that a small minority who spew obscenities, who disregard law and order and who display their utter contempt for our institutions and heritage have determined the community standards for all of us.”
The Doors’ appearance sparked a backlash over changing moral standards. A week after the concert, more than 30,000 people attended a rally supporting the arrest, which included appearances by entertainers Anita Bryant and Jackie Gleason.
Editing by Xavier Briand