Jim Morrison On Trial
This photo of Jim Morrison was taken in the summer of 1970 at the Dade County Courthouse in Miami, Florida. Jim was on trial for "exposing himself" during a concert at Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove a year and a half earlier.
I attended a few days of the trial. Contrary to what you'd expect, the courthouse was not very crowded, and Jim was very accessible. In fact, I was able to speak with him a couple of times during the breaks -- he would wander off and sit by himself on a bench in the hallway and I sat down next to him. I wish I could remember more of the discussion, but all I recall is that I asked Jim which current bands he liked and he said, "I'm really into Pink Floyd."
I'm not sure if this particular shot was taken by me or my friend Scott Marks. My greatest regret, all these years later, is that we didn't take any pictures of ourselves with Jim. We were 16 years old, and asking him to pose with us would not have been cool -- the sort of thing our mothers might have done if they'd run into Frank Sinatra. Had we known that Jim would be dead in a year and become a cultural icon, we probably would have done it.
A 1970 article from Rock magazine describes the trial (and the online version is illustrated with this photo). This link contains details on the Dinner Key concert, the trial and an effort to expunge the conviction of Jim Morrison.
From The Doors Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List, Version 2.6 (Authors: Dave Thompson and Victoria Ridley) --
Q: What happened in Miami, Florida in 1969?
A: The Doors were scheduled to play a concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium on March 1, 1969. The Doors manager, Bill Siddons had made a deal with the Miami promoter, Ken Collier to accept a flat fee of $25,000 instead of sixty percent of the gross receipts. Collier then sold between eight to nine thousand tickets at more than the agreed price. Collier also removed seats to allow more people into the auditorium. An auditorium designed to hold seven thousand people was now packed tight with about thirteen thousand.
Jim Morrison missed his scheduled flight into Miami and spent the time waiting for the next flight, drinking in the airport lounge. Once he boarded the plane he continued drinking. During a stopover in New Orleans he missed his flight again and consumed even more drinks waiting for the next flight. By the time he reached Miami he was extremely drunk. Once he took the stage he was almost falling down drunk. He was abusive towards the audience, he would start a song only to stop it after a few lines, he would bum even more drinks from members of the audience. At some point in the concert he then asked the audience, "Do you wanna see my cock?" He allegedly then exposed himself for a brief instant and continued on with the show.
The next day the Doors started a planned vacation. While out of the country, the press in Miami had a field day with the alleged exposure incident. Pressure was put on local officials to do something about it. On March 5 1969, Bob Jennings from the state attorney's office acted as complainant. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Jim Morrison on one felony count of lewd and lascivious behaviour and three misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure, open profanity and drunkenness.
Jim turned himself in to the FBI in Los Angeles on April 4, 1969. On November 9, 1969 he entered a not guilty plea in Miami. The trial did not start until August 12, 1970. Max Fink was Jim's defense lawyer, the prosecuter was Terrence McWilliams and Judge Murray Goodman presided over the case. Much evidence was heard from witnesses for both sides. Most of it was contradictory. On September 20, 1970 the jury found Jim Morrison guilty on the misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and profanity. He was found not guilty on the felony charge and the misdemeanor for drunkenness. He was released on a $50,000 bond and returned to Miami on October 30, 1970 for sentencing.
Judge Goodman sentenced Jim to six months of hard labor and a $500 fine for public exposure and sixty days of hard labor for profanity. The sentences would run concurrently. He would be eligible for release after two months and would be on probation for two years and four months. His lawyer filed an immediate appeal. Until the appeal could be heard, Jim would be free on the $50,000 bond.
Jim Morrison was to die in Paris, France July 3, 1971 before his legal problems could be resolved.
Excerpts from Jim Morrison's Trial Testimony
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License by David Sobel.