Gov. Charlie Crist says he has made up his mind and will pursue a posthumous pardon of rock icon Jim Morrison of the Doors, who was convicted of exposing himself during a Miami concert in 1969.
Crist said he began looking into the case a couple of years ago after he was asked about it by a reporter.
"The more I looked into it, the more I felt the right thing to do would be to try to bring about a pardon," Crist said Tuesday in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "And I've reached that conclusion now, that's what I'm going to do."
A jury in 1970 convicted Morrison of indecent exposure and open profanity, though he was cleared of a felony count of lewd and lascivious behavior and public drunkenness. He was sentenced to six months in jail, but died two years later in Paris while the case was under appeal.
Whether Morrison ever actually exposed himself during the concert, however, has been a matter of intense speculation and debate over the years.
Crist said he wasn't convinced after reviewing the case that Morrison did "what he was charged with here."
Although there are many photographs of the concert, none showed Morrison exposing himself. And there was no video or other tangible evidence, Crist said. "We really don't know if the alleged act occurred," Crist said.
A half-dozen prosecution witnesses, including police working the concert, said they saw what they saw, but plenty of defense witnesses said they saw nothing.
"He was a young guy who maybe, or maybe not, made a mistake," Crist said. "It strikes me that everyone deserves a second chance. You have to have the capacity for forgiveness."
"Having been attorney general, it's hard for me to forget the words of (his predecessor) Bob Butterworth, 'It's important to prosecute the guilty, but maybe even more important to exonerate the innocent.' "
Perhaps, Crist said, the jury felt that "making a point was more important than being right."
Crist called Morrison an iconic figure in music history and a tremendous talent.
He recited poetry at Beaux Arts, a gallery and coffee house that was in Pinellas Park, and was a student at what was then St. Petersburg Junior College before transferring to Florida State University.
A group of ardent Doors fans has been working for more than 12 years to convince a Florida governor to consider a pardon.
"I'm just ecstatic," said Kerry Humpherys, a Doors memorabilia dealer who helped collect more than 15,000 signatures via an online petition that was ignored by the two previous Florida governors.
Humpherys is a "second generation" Doors fan — he was 6 years old when Morrison died — but says Morrison's philosophy of pushing limits was a major influence on his life.
"It sounds corny, but Jim Morrison changed my life," Humpherys said.
He took up the cause to pardon Morrison because it seemed such a clear miscarriage of justice, Humpherys said.
"He so obviously got caught up in the system," he said. "I don't think it really happened how they described. It's only right that his name is cleared."
The current Clemency Board has one meeting left, Dec. 9 in Tallahassee. It takes just one member vote to put Morrison's case on the agenda, and then the votes of two members plus the governor to approve a pardon.
After Crist announced last week that he was mulling the idea of a pardon, the other Clemency Board members weighed in with similar sentiments.
Said Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson: "If the estate would give us the rights to Light My Fire for our prescribed burning program, that would be great. But for someone who is certainly not going to do anything — you know, he's passed away, it's something that happened in 1969 — then sure, I'd be willing to, just for the family, to do that."
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum also said they be open to reconsidering the case.