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Doors singer Jim Morrison wins indecent exposure pardon

From Susan Candiotti, CNN
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Justice for Jim Morrison?
  • Jim Morrison's widow says pardon a publicity stunt
  • Clemency board grants pardon to late singer
  • Jim Morrison's widow says he would reject a pardon
  • Morrison was accused of shouting obscenities at crowd and then exposing himself
  • Jim Morrison
  • The Doors

(CNN) -- The Florida Board of Executive Clemency on Thursday voted unanimously to posthumously pardon Jim Morrison, the charismatic lead singer for The Doors, four decades after Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and open profanity.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist -- an admitted Doors fan -- proposed the official let-off for the late singer for a disputed incident during a Miami, Florida, concert.

Morrison's widow, Patricia Kennealy Morrison, who opposed the pardon, said she was not surprised at the outcome, given the fans who were supporting it.

"Since the original charges and trial were a publicity stunt to begin with, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that the pardon should follow in those footsteps," she told CNN. Her husband "did nothing to be pardoned for" and his record should have been expunged, Patricia Morrison said.

Crist, who is set to leave office in January after losing his bid for the Senate in the recent midterm elections, said that after reviewing the case file, he felt compelled to get involved.

"What I do know is that if someone hasn't committed a crime, that should be recognized," he said before the vote. "We live in a civil society that understands that lasting legacy of a human being, and maybe the last act for which they may be known, is something that never occurred in the first place, it's never a bad idea to try to right a wrong."

The governor said the conviction should have been dismissed after Morrison's death "so that he was again presumed innocent."

"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," Crist said in a statement after the vote.

Board member Alex Sink, the state's outgoing chief financial officer, said she spent the day Wednesday listening to The Doors.

Crist, Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson voted for the pardon.

Morrison had been performing with the band at a typically raucous concert at Miami's Key Auditorium on March 1, 1969, when the incident took place. Reportedly drunk and slurring obscenities at the crowd, he was accused of unzipping his pants and simulating a sex act, a charge he denied.

Despite being acquitted of lascivious behavior and drunkenness, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and open profanity and sentenced to six months in jail. He was still appealing the verdict in 1971 when he died in Paris of a heart attack at the age of 27. He would have turned 67 on Wednesday.

Doors fans have long appealed for an official pardon for "The Lizard King," petitioning previous Florida governors without success. Many argue that the trial was a sham and that there was no conclusive evidence supporting the exposure charge against Morrison.

"Since last month, about 130 people have written in favor of the pardon, and 70 are opposed," Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said. Normally, Ivey said, up to 15 letters per case are received. "It far exceeds the amount of input we usually have on clemency or pardon cases," he said.

"I just don't think there is sufficient evidence in the file or on the record, no photos or video that would indicate that the alleged act occurred," Crist said. "My heart bleeds for (Morrison) and his family."

But Patricia Morrison, author of the book "Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison," said he would reject such a pardon.

"I think he would reject this completely out of hand," she told CNN. "He would just say, 'You know, no thanks. I can't be bothered.'"

Patricia Morrison wasn't at the concert where the incident took place, but said by most accounts, evidence that Jim Morrison exposed himself was slim, although she acknowledged he was drunk at the time.

She attended his trial, and "I saw a stack of photos that the prosecution was entering in as evidence." The most compromising one, she said, "was him with his hand stuck down the front of his pants."

"Despite the fact that there were 10,000 people in the hall that night, funny thing, no one has a picture of the actual exposure of the Lizard King's lizard," said Patricia Morrison, who currently writes rock and roll mystery novels.

She calls the idea of a pardon silly, writing in a letter to Crist that Jim Morrison "would hate, loathe, detest and despise the whole idea. He would think it is yet another pathetic attempt by the State of Florida to use him for its own cheap and cynical publicity-hungry purposes, and I have no doubt but that he would rip the 'pardon' into tiny pieces."

"He didn't do anything wrong, but he wouldn't want to be cleared," she told CNN.

The late '60s and early '70s saw an evolving culture of drugs, hippies and rock-and-roll music that helped set a theme for that generation. "Make love, not war" was a popular slogan.

However, following Jim Morrison's arrest several days after the concert, a decency rally was staged at the Orange Bowl.

The trial took its toll on the singer, Patricia Morrison said. He moved to Paris during the appeal.

Even today, The Doors' music remains popular.

"He was light years ahead of his time," Patricia Morrison said of her husband. "Which, I think, is why people still identify so strongly with his art and what he was trying to do."

But she said it's hard for her to listen to the band.

"I don't listen, because I don't want to be surprised by Jim when I'm not really prepared to hear his voice," she said. "It's very painful. ... That's the voice that sings all those wonderful songs. But it's also the voice that said all those really nice things into my ear. And that's really hard to get around sometimes."

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report