by Janelle Preston
In telling the story of The Doors
one could begin with the following line: "Between 1965 and
1971 there existed a band comprised of four members who called
themselves "The Doors"--only three members would continue
on before finally disbanding in 1973." As we all know, the
band has never ceased to exist for millions of individuals. In
particular, those of you who subscribe to The Doors Collectors
Magazine are aware of how profound their impact is even in 1999.
However, there was a type of "ending" for the group
due to the death of James Douglas Morrison on July 3, 1971. In
actuality this "end" is traceable back to one pivotal
event. It occurred on March 1, 1969 on a hot night inside an
old seaplane hangar in Miami, Florida.
Quite simply, from that moment on the band's fate was in the
hands of the United States Government which was seemingly determined
to hinder any continuation of the band's regular livelihood.
What better time than prior to the group's first major national
tour? (Ray Manzarek, The Doors: A Tribute to Jim Morrison, Warner
Home Video, 1981). Overwhelming negative publicity forced the
cancellation of the tour and the leveling of three misdemeanors
and one felony charge ensured the government its day in court.
Whether you are a fan and/or an individual who finds misuse of
the law repugnant, the truth of the prosecution and persecution
that occurred as a result of this event is alarming. The misuse
of law, legal agencies, and the denial to Jim Morrison of arguably
defensible rights afforded all US citizens under the First, Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution is
If you want an in-depth reconstruction
of what occurred on that steamy night so long ago, any of the
following books provide details on what did and did not happen:
Light My Fire, Ray Manzarek, 1998; Break On Through, James Riordan
& Jerry Prochnicky, 1991; Riders On The Storm, John Densmore,
1990; and No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jerry Hopkins and Danny
Briefly outlined, that night found three Doors arriving to perform
before "Fifteen thousand people
shoehorned into a
hangar that safely held ten thousand." (Light My Fire, p.
311) They then awaited the arrival of Jim who had been delayed,
missing his original flight out of Los Angeles due to an argument
with his girl friend, Pamela Courson. While awaiting the next
flight out and between departure of connecting flights, he passed
the time in the airport bars. During the "waiting period,"
he proceeded to become what can only be described as "intoxicated."
The audiotape of the concert reveals a clearly "looped"
Jim. (The DCM, The Doors: Live Shows Vol. 15). He is heard singing
snippets of songs and then breaking off and rapping with the
audience about such things as "changing the world,"
"love," "being free," etc. Differing reasons
have been given for why Jim proceeded to remove his shirt. These
range from: his desire to reenact a sequence from The Living
Theatre's performance piece entitled "Paradise Now",
his being drenched by a bottle of champagne, and/or to his own
personal reasons which he never shared. In any event, he did
begin to 'disrobe.' After taunting the audience with 'hints'
that he intended to reveal his penis, Jim began to move his shirt
back and forth covering and uncovering his crotch. As Ray states:
"I think what happened in Miami was a mass hallucination.
I think the people saw snakes. I think no snake presented itself,
no snake was seen. But they saw it, man. In their minds' eyes,
in their hallucinations, Jim Morrison did what people alleged
that he did." (Ray Manzarek, The Doors: A Tribute to Jim
Morrison, Warner Home Video, 1981) Whether one did or did not
see this enticing body part will, most likely, be debated ad
infinitum. But quite frankly (and sadly since it was so inflammatory),
based on legal arguments alone, this "fact" has absolutely
nothing to do with whether or not Mr. Morrison's conviction was
legal. Addressing the illegality issue and what we can do now,
almost 30 years later, is the purpose of this article.
In order to get an idea of how
and why this injustice could have occurred; it is necessary to
understand the time period in which it took place. During the
volatile sixties the youth of America decided that they would
not sit idly by while officials sacrificed them on the altar
of war. As demonstrations increased in size and frequency, Middle
America's families were being torn apart. Parents feared their
own children's vehement expression of their beliefs. They often
agreed with the logic but had blindly followed the government
for so long that they found themselves confused. It was time
to search for the easy answer to what, or who, was corrupting
Rock 'n' roll was considered the root of all evil, so it became
easy to search for the real "criminals" within the
music. The "Flower Children" as a group were thought
to be fairly harmless. The presumption was that they would merely
smoke their dope, have their promiscuous sexual encounters and
preach love and understanding but basically not get in the way.
There were some college graduates included in this group but
there appeared to be no offensive leaders of consequence. The
prevailing thought was "Why worry about them?"
However, there was a band, which didn't quite conform to this
idyllic vision of life. Instead, their music was exceedingly
complex, difficult to understand and some of the lyrics were
disturbing. They were lauded in magazines that dealt with the
music scene, yet they had the audacity to appear in such widely
read, mainstream publications as Vogue and Life. Irritatingly
they were literate and thus not easily ignored. Furthermore,
they proclaimed their displeasure with the Vietnam War not only
through their music but in a graphic video that experienced censorship.
This was a group that continued to gain in popularity, was earning
gold records, and began crossing the boundaries of social and
moral acceptability. Finally, someone to blame!
The first clash occurred in New
Haven, CT, where the police failed miserably in their attempts
to demean the group. Unwisely, they had also arrested several
members of the press who provided extensive coverage of the incident.
As the group gained popularity with America's youth the self-proclaimed
"Lizard King" made their elders squirm. And their concerts
increased in size proportionate to their publicity. Meanwhile,
the newly-elected President who had "targeted" the
youth prior to his election also happened to reside in a winter
White House in Florida. By March 1969, The Doors' very existence
must have irked the government and Jim Morrison's actions on
that Miami night began the exciting prospect of silencing, once
and for all, this irritating group.
Amazingly, for such a community-defiling event, the felony and
misdemeanor charges were not leveled until "four days after
his chaotic appearance before 12,000 young rock music fans at
the city's Dinner Key Auditorium." (Miami Herald, March
5, 1969). Yet while the concert was being publicized as highly
"traumatic" to those in attendance, no one was sufficiently
upset to file the necessary charges. But luck was on the side
of the "law," or one should say those individuals posing
as the "law." There was a 22-year-old clerk who just
so happened to work for the state attorney's office and he agreed
to sign off on the complaint (No One Here Gets Out Alive, p.
The newspaper articles that followed
the event were misleading, plentiful and inflammatory. In reference
to the subsequently cancelled Jacksonville, FL, engagement....
"Dade and Miami lawmen lost an opportunity to arrest Morrison."
(Miami Herald, March 3, 1969). It neglected to mention that there
had been every opportunity to make an arrest the night of the
performance since the "exhibition went on before 31 off-duty
City of Miami Policemen" (US Dept. of Justice, internal
memo, March 4, 1969). The article by Larry Mahoney (Miami Herald,
March 3, 1969) did a marvelous job of terrifying one and all
with lines such as "Many college and high school students
border on worshipping the kind of music produced by The Doors."
While this may be laughable today, in l969 it was just what had
been feared. Yes, indeed, it was those "Doors" who
were corrupting the children. One amusing line, written in all
seriousness, was in praise of Ken Collier, part owner of Thee
Image and sponsor of the concert. He was commended for being
"brave enough" to actually rush to "unplug the
lead guitar ("It was mesmerizing the audience."). Simply
put, Robby Krieger appeared to be leading the innocents to "doom."
CHARGES ARE FILED
To further clarify the plan to
level "trumped up charges," the Acting Police Chief
stated, "I've issued orders that as soon as we can find
a policeman who witnessed it that we will take out a warrant
for him." (Miami Herald, March 3, 1969). Of course, no policeman
was found thus the 22-year-old clerk's services were employed!
No time was wasted as there was an FBI memo "disseminated
to the US Attorney, US Secret Service, 111th MI (Military Intelligence)
Group in Miami and the 111th MI Group in Orlando as of March
4th. It appears that the FBI had concluded that one James Douglas
Morrison posed a serious security threat to the United States!
The quest to obtain charges began immediately as the FBI internal
memo of March 4th, 1969 notes: "Captain (blanked out under
FOIA) said that he has interviewed a number of the officers and
has sufficient information to obtain a warrant for MORRISON's
arrest on a misdemeanor charge. Captain (blanked out under FOIA)
said that he is continuing his investigation and will discuss
the matter with the Florida State Attorney's Office in the hopes
of obtaining a felony charge against MORRISON. On March 5th,
1969 charges were leveled (Florida Penal Statues, Sections 798.02;
800.03; 847.04; and 856.01).
However, now that Florida had been provided with charges to level
against Jim Morrison there was a need to obtain the "body."
Governor Kirk found himself dependent upon the FBI to "deliver
the goods" and must have been extremely thankful that President
Nixon was such a frequent visitor to his winter White House.
On March 28th, 1969 the FBI provided a means for extradition
and a manner to begin the trial by filing the charge of "Unlawful
Flight to Avoid Prosecution"(US Dept. of Justice, internal
memo, April 14, 1969). There had been no illegal flight as at
the time the group left Florida on March 2nd no charges had been
filed. Obviously the charge would not have held up in a court
of law but that didn't concern the FBI. Upon Morrison's surrender
to authorities, the charges were summarily dropped. They had
illegally accomplished their goal.
Obviously, The Doors were not going to enter any State that would
merely arrest one of their members immediately and without the
actual "body" no trial could commence. An extradition
order was filed and presented for signature to Governor Reagan.
Max Fink, Morrison's attorney fought extradition as best he could
by petitioning the State of California on the grounds that the
statutes cited by Florida were vague, ambiguous and thus void
and that a fair and impartial trial in the State of Florida could
not be obtained. One fact not mentioned in the "Points and
Authorities" arguing against the extradition was that the
statutes applied in this case dated back to 1906, 1909 &
The jury pool could hardly be
considered untainted. Ever since March 1 there had been a constant
barrage of newspaper articles and public outcry. There was also
the ludicrous enactment of the new city ordinance which now required
entertainers to submit personal histories which included any
records of arrest for each individual within any group wishing
to perform in the City of Miami. Although a "fair and impartial
trial" could not occur, Governor Reagan signed the documents
and sealed Mr. Morrison's fate. Not bad for what was testified
in the trial as a 6-8 second exposure (one wonders whether someone
brought a timer to the concert for just this purpose!).
The trial was an example of the judicial misuse of power at its
worst, or best, depending on which side you happened to be on.
The jurors were not peers since the reported youngest was 42
years old (Break on Through, p. 396). In the end, although the
defense was allowed to question potential jurors about community
standard issues, once the trial was well underway and there was
no turning back Judge Goodman decided to rule against the Defense's
request to take the jurors to see productions such as Hair and
Woodstock. No "community standards" defense was allowed
(Docket Card, State of Florida vs. James Morrison). When the
sole surviving co-defense attorney Bob Josefsberg, was contacted
in May of 1998 for his viewpoint on the feasibility of a reversal
of the conviction in this case he stated, unequivocally to this
individual, that he felt that the conviction could be overturned
on the "community standards" issue alone.
This case was based on evidence, which resulted in nothing more
than a "he said/she said" debate. Amazingly, the one
charge which seemed fairly supportable by the tapes of the performance,
that of "drunkenness," was one of the two charges that
received "not guilty" rulings. The trial began on August
10, 1970 with the verdict being handed down on September 20,
1970 (Break on Through, Pg. 392 & Pg. 413). The trial lasted
all of 15 days. Alternating days were used in order that the
duration of the trial was sufficient for Judge Goodman to obtain
the necessary exposure to ensure his election to the post to
which he had been appointed.
The sentencing was as expected.
The "maximum prison sentence
would be for three years,
150 days in Raiford" (US Dept. of Justice, internal memo,
March 6, 1969). For the two charges on which Morrison was convicted
he received a sentence of 6 months and 60 days with a fine of
$500. Interestingly, of the two statutes under which Mr. Morrison
was convicted only the "exposure of sexual organs"
(800.03) remains on the books with the other statute having been
overturned by laws in 1983 (Westlaw Research Library, Florida
Simply put, this case is full of misleading "facts."
One of these "facts" is that in 1968 it is stated that
"J Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI,.. after the New Haven
"(Break On Through, Pg. 209) began a file on Mr.
Morrison which has always been obtainable under the "Freedom
of Information Act" (FOIA). The file has been represented
as the "total file." Curiously, although New Haven,
CT, was the reason for the FBI's need for a file on Jim Morrison
the records do not evidence investigation of any of the events
that transpired during the infamous event. Additionally, the
FBI files contain numerous errors and humorous incorrect statements
such as the failure to mention the fact that Jim continued his
education obtaining a BA from UCLA; rather, he is listed in file
as "dropping out of school." (US Dept. of Justice,
internal memo, April 14, 1969).
RECENT RESEARCH DISCOVERIES
During the recent research the
fact that the file distributed was merely a portion of the total
file was discovered. Surprisingly only one FBI field office revealed
the truth: What one receives upon a request for a FBI file from
Washington, DC is merely those documents held within that office.
The ONLY way one can obtain a complete file is to make a request
from each individual FBI local office throughout the United States.
Even some thirty years after the event, as was done in this case,
it was discovered that the file that Washington professed to
be the total file on Jim Morrison was incomplete. Not only was
a large portion of it still in existence (45 pages), albeit under
a completely different "number" in Florida, but also
letters from the FBI offices in Dallas, TX, and Los Angeles,
CA, revealed that files previously maintained by their offices
had since been destroyed. To date no one will address why a file,
which was professed to be a "total" file, was in truth
only a portion. Nor will anyone explain why the local offices
were allowed to destroy the files they possessed rather than
forwarding them to the main Washington, DC, office for inclusion
in the "file." Granted, if there had not been an extremely
diligent and cooperative agent in Florida who took the situation
of Mr. Morrison's records seriously this "oversight"
might never have been uncovered.
Another curiosity uncovered: It took almost six months to transcribe
the trial transcript (for a 15-day trial!) (Docket card, State
of Florida vs. James Morrison). When the Florida Bar Association
was contacted regarding the "average time" for transcription
we were assured that the maximum amount of time required was
two months. Although a notice of appeal was filed, no formal
appeal documents were ever filed on this case due to the lack
of a transcript. Additionally, any formal appeal was concluded
when a request to do so was filed on February 29, 1972 (Docket
Card, State of Florida vs. James Morrison).
Densmore, John. Riders On The
Storm. New York: Dell Publishing, 1990.
Hopkins, Jerry, and Sugerman, Danny. New York: No One Here Gets
Out Alive. Warner Books, 1980.
Manzarek, Ray. Light My Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam & Songs,
1998. Riordan, James, and Prochnicky, Jerry. New York: Break
On Through. William Morrow & Co., 1991.
Seymore, Bob. The End. London: Omnibus Press, 1990.
Shaw, Greg. The Doors On The Road. New York: Omnibus Press, 1997.
Tobler, John, and Doe, Andrew. The Doors. Bobcat Books, 1984.
Abigail E. Cynamon, Esq. Staff
Attorney, Administrative Office of the Courts, Eleventh Judicial
Florida, Dade County Courthouse, June 22, 1998.
Bar and Progress Docket, Criminal Court of Florida, Dade County
of Florida, Case #69-2355, State of Florida
vs. James Morrison.
Case File(s) #62-5951 & 66-2586, James Douglas Morrison.
United States Department of Justice, Federal
Bureau of Investigation.
Florida Penal Statues, Sections 798.02; 800.03; 847.04; and 856.01.
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Points and Authorities and
Declaration of Sanford B. Schulhofer, Jr., Filed
November 5, 1969, Superior Court of the State of California for
the County of Los Angeles.
The Doors: A Tribute to Jim Morrison. Hollywood Heartbeat Productions/Alchemical
Music Co., 1988 Warner
Home Video Inc.
The DCM, The Doors: Live Shows, Vol. 15, Dinner Key Auditorium,
Miami FL, 3-1-69
So those are some of the details of the infamous Miami incident
and the constitutional issues as to why this was an illegal conviction!
After reading the above, I am sure that you are as upset as we
are by the fact that Florida and the US government used this
incident as a means to silence a group which they felt was becoming
too influential. Since political means were employed to the Government's
"benefit" we are going to "play their game."
Following this is a petition, which will be submitted to the
Governor of Florida.
If you feel that The Doors were unfairly silenced please read
and sign this petition. Additionally, complete and mail the letters
to your representatives, Governor and the Governor of Florida
informing them of your feelings in this matter. Add your voice
and tell your friends of the issue. Ask them to read the article,
and add their signatures. This is a "grass roots" movement,
which is being used to force the government to hear us! It is
time that those who should have had a voice originally are now
heard. With your support, we will be able to bring this travesty
of justice to the attention of the media, government officials
and to finally reverse this decision.
If you have The Doors Box Set you can listen to the Miami recording
and decide for yourself whether anyone should have been prosecuted.
Listen to audience reaction and compare that with the reported
testimony of the trial (No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jerry Hopkins
and Danny Sugerman & The DCM, The Doors Testimony). The charges
leveled in this case were unconstitutional. Additionally, extradition
was based on allegations, which were withdrawn by the FBI, as
they were not supportable by facts.
Take the time to mail these letters. We feel that there are many
public officials who will join our cause once they hear from
Please join -add your voice to this cause!
You can obtain the addresses
of these officials by accessing the information, which is listed
in the front of your local phone book, or by visiting the following
locations on the Internet:
To contact Florida's Governor Charlie Crist, please email him through this page
Please see the previous page to download the form letters you are asked to please send to your Representative, your Senator, and Governor Jeb Bush. The petition is also enclosed in these zip files which we need signed by as many responsible parties as you know! In the near future, this petition will also reside on our webpage and we will be requesting support from other "First Amendment" rights and other political activist groups. This is a cause that we will not ignore.
In the mean time, please send petitions to:
Miami Petitions c/o
PO Box 1441
Orem, UT 84059-1441
Click here to return to the main Miami page