Published in ROCK MAGAZINE
A political star has been born.
You won’t see any star rising in the East. You’ll find it in the West (“The West is the Best”). He is James Douglas Morrison, who has a political unknown until September 20, 1970.
On that date, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity by a three-man, three-women jury in Dade Criminal Court, Miami Beach, Florida. Despite the fact that Morrison had been found innocent of lewd and lascivious behavior, a felony carrying a three-year maximum sentence, and drunkenness, the national press stressed the guilty charges, both misdemeanors.
When the time comes for sentencing on October 23, 1970, Judge Murray Goodman will give Morrison the maximum penalties-six months and $200 fine for the exposure, two months and $25 for the profanity. Morrison’s attorneys have already started the appeal proceedings. Meanwhile, he is free on $50,000 surety bond. When sentence was passed on Sunday, Judge Goodman originally asked for the money in cash but relented when Morrison’s attorneys objected.
Technically, Morrison never did spend time in jail, but he was fingerprinted and processed. Then the bail bondsman showed up and Jim left for a conference with his attorneys.
To refresh your memory, this farce began August 10th. For forty days, the state of Florida tried to prove its charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In that time, they were not able to produce one moving or still picture of Morrison exposing himself. The sixty-five-minute tape the produced showed no evidence of a violent crowd reaction such as you might expect if a rock idol exposed himself in front of 12,000 people. Of their twenty-odd witnesses, almost half said they saw no exposure while testifying on other matters. Except for civilians, the prosecution’s best witnesses were either cops or employees of that State Attorney’s office.
The defense case seemed much more solid. Each of the Doors testified. Under cross examination, organist Ray Manzarek was asked if he intended to leave The Doors because their name had been dragged through the mud. Manzarek replied, “We’ve all had many offers to leave. We’re all staying. The Doors are something we believe in.” Morrison was on the stand for four hours and, according to Miami newsmen, was articulate, soft-spoken and convincing. The defense produced a dozen witnesses, all of whom saw nothing resembling exposure and all of whom were within one hundred feet of the stage at all times.
The shocker of the whole trial came on the last day, Saturday. The defense asked to introduce as evidence the sworn statements of 28 more witnesses who saw no exposure. The judge excused the jury and said, “Gentlemen, you’ve proven that Mr. Morrison didn’t expose himself. I’m not going to allow this evidence to save time.”
Then, the jury filed back in. The defense delivered its closing argument, a one hour and forty-five minute review of the prosecution case by Beverly Hills attorney Max Fink and an hour and fifteen-minute parable by Miami attorney Robert Josefsberg. Josefsberg took as his text “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” by Hans Christian Andersen. He showed how that fairy tale matched the prosecution case. At the end of his speech, there was applause in the courtroom. In contrast, prosecutor Terry McWilliams delivered a thirteen-minute closing argument almost apologetically. Then, Goodman delivered his charge to the jury and said nothing about the defense completely disproving the exposure charge. Tilt.
At 9 p.m. Saturday night, the jury was sequestered at a Miami hotel. After two and a half hours, they decided that Morrison was innocent of charges one and four-lewd behavior and drunkenness- and guilty on charge three- profanity. They were “hung” on count two (exposure). They recessed until Sunday morning at 10 a.m. and came back with their entire verdict at 10:45 a.m.
It gets a little complicated now, so read slowly. The charge of lewd and lascivious behavior covered three specific actions: feigning masturbation, feigning oral copulation and exposing the penis in a vulgar or obscene manner. Since the jury voted Morrison not guilty on this charge and guilty on the indecent exposure charge, we are led to assume that on the night of March 1, 1969, Jim Morrison did indeed expose his penis but didn’t do it in a vulgar or obscene manner. You figure it out; I can’t.