The Ludicrous Trial, Conviction, and Pardon of Jim Morrison
When Jim Morrison arrived at the Dinner Key Auditorium on March 1, 1969, he was drunk.
Five days later, authorities would arrest Morrison for a felony charge of lewd behavior, and misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, profanity, and public drunkenness.
Morrison’s wildly-biased 1970 trial, ending September 20, would find him guilty of indecent exposure, and profanity, but not drunkenness or the most serious charge, lewd and lascivious behavior.
Morrison had been a total douche on the stage on March 1, but the trial he received was an even sadder state of affairs.
The March 1969 Show
The week before the show, Morrison had been watching a series of socially confrontational performances by a theater group called, The Living Theatre. Their shows were provocative, in-your-face performances, which would end (amongst other aspects) with the performers stripping naked, breaking the fourth wall or both.
Adding to the fuel, when the band arrived in Miami they had a fight with the promoters. The band had agreed to flat rate versus their normal percentage of the ticket sales. The promoters then ripped out the seats and oversold the house.
When the band objected, the promoters threatened to keep their equipment, which was already at the venue.
By the time Jim hit the stage, he was drunk. He taunted the audience, inspired no doubt by The Living Theatre shows, saying things like, “there are no rules, it’s your concert.” Then he proceeded to call the audience “slaves,” provoking them to do something about it.
Morrison encouraged them to get naked, which he started to do himself, removing his shirt. The scene devolved from there. The stage collapsed. The band left, and the show ended in chaos.
After the show, the police who were there to safeguard the event hung out with the band drinking beer. It seemed, at least at first, the events of the show were a non-issue.
Then the press took the issue to the next level. Newspapers and reports circulated about Morrison’s lewd behavior. Voices in those news outlets demanded justice.
The charges filed five days later, lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, public profanity, and public drunkenness, demanded Morrison return for a trial.
Meanwhile, the press and charges only stacked on the mystique of the show. Despite being a total train wreck, it was quickly becoming one of the most talked shows in rock and roll. The subsequent trial would cement that reputation.
When Morrison’s attorneys lobbied for a first Amendment defense, Judge Goodman advised them it was irrelevant. He wouldn’t hear arguments about the state of affairs in entertainment either, the likes of The Living Theatre or local productions of “Hair,” a raunchy musical
For Morrison’s fans, Goodman seemed to know the outcome of the trial before it began. The trial lasted eight days. Morrison testified along with the promoters, witnesses, and the usual suspects.
The prosecution could produce no proof of lewd acts. When the gavel fell on September 20th, Judge Goodwin found Morrison guilty of indecent exposure and profanity, but not of lewd and lascivious behavior.
Had he not posted bail for an appeal, Morrison would have spent six months in prison and paid $525 in fines. As it turned out, the band was about to tour Europe.
When Morrison left for Paris in March 1971, the appeal remained in a queue of other appeals.
Morrison died in Paris, the conviction standing until December 9, 2010. After years of pressure from Doors’ fans, the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, pardoned him.