Gov. Charlie Crist, whose own political career may or may not be coming to an end on Jan. 4, will get a last splash of national and international publicity on Thursday when the state clemency board votes on whether to grant a pardon to James Morrison, a.k.a Jim Morrison, the lead singer for The Doors, for his conviction stemming from his notorious concert in Miami in 1969.
Morrison's case will be no. 40 on the clemency agenda under the heading of "undetermined recommendations."
Fans of the dead rock star had been asking Crist to take action during his entire time in office. But the governor never gave a definitive answer on whether or not he thought Morrison deserved a pardon until recently.
Crist can't give out a pardon on his own, but he has the two other votes on the clemency board he needs to grant it. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who a year ago said she did not know who Morrison is, said on Wednesday that she had spent the afternoon reviewing the case file and listening to his music and would go along with it.
Does the pardon have some political risk if Sink and Crist choose to run for office later? Maybe. The governor's office on Wednesday that Crist's office has received almost 200 inquiries about the case. Through e-mails, letters and phone calls there were 120 people in support of the pardon and 77 opposed. The ACLU has weighed in and complained that Crist is taking time to deal with Morrison while there remain problems with the restoration of civil rights for those who are still living.
Stan Newsom, for example, wrote Crist and said: "I am a big fan of The Doors, but for the life of me I can't understand why you would consider wasting the governments money to even entertain this idea. It will have no impact on Mr. Morrison and will cost money for you to take any actions to grant such a pardon. A ridiculous idea, please quit spending the taxpayers money for this trivial stuff.
Ruth Nixon, who called herself a registered voter from Apopka, wrote Crist and said: "He was a great singer and a proud Floridian. His fans would like to see his name cleared." Roxy Feldman called a pardon "the right thing to do" and noted that she was a Democrat who had voted for Crist as governor and for U.S. Senate.
Michele Epstein from New York City wrote Crist and said the fact that Morrison in 1970 he was cleared on drunkenness and lascivious behavior charges yet convicted of indecent exposure of profanity was "incomprehensible and bizarre." She wrote that "logically he should either been convicted of all four, or none of the charges. Furthermore the fact that not a single photograph, taken by many individuals at that Miami concert, shows Morrison exposing himself, clearly indicates a miscarriage of justice...I have read a great deal about that event and the subsequent trial and cannot believe that none of your predecessors has seen fit to exonerate one of your most gifted and famous "sons."
Denis Quilligan, who called himself a "retired law enforcement officer" who worked for both the St. Petersburg Police Department and then the State Attorney's Office, was adamant that the pardon should not be granted.
"Jim Morrison was fairly tried and convicted in Dade County in 1970 and that conviction should remain on his record,'' wrote Qulligan. "Your pardoning him would be an affront to the judicial system and law enforcement generally. You have a earned a great deal of respect during your term as Governor. Please, please, let that conviction stand!"
"Although I was not yet born when this occurred, the music of the Doors and Mr. Morrison have been a great part of my life. As a professional touring musician in my youth and the 38-year-old dad in sales I am today, the mystique of Jim Morrison lived on and off stage and I am sure many would agree with me in saying his pain made him a genius, like many tormented artists before him. It is my opinion that to right this wrong at this point would somehow erase the most important crossroads of his life. The rebel in that skin has transcended time and generations and has been passed on in his soul and his words. I would like to ask you to reconsider this issue and NOT grant this pardon."
(Photo courtesy of the Museum of Florida History)