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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: pardons

Florida pardons Doors’ Jim Morrison

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Forty years after Jim Morrison was convicted of exposing himself at a wild Miami concert, this is the end: Florida’s Clemency Board, egged on by departing Gov. Charlie Crist, pardoned The Doors’ long-dead singer Thursday.

Some people who were at the Miami show March 1, 1969, insist even today that he exposed himself, though others in the audience and Morrison’s bandmates contend he was just teasing the crowd and only pretended to do the deed. Crist, (below, left) tuned in to the controversy by a Doors fan, said there was enough doubt about what happened at the Dinner Key Auditorium to justify a pardon.

The board, which consists of Crist and a three-member Cabinet, voted unanimously to pardon Morrison on indecent exposure and profanity charges as they granted several other pardons Thursday. At the hearing, the governor called the convictions a “blot” on the record of an accomplished artist for “something he may or may not have done.”

  He said Morrison died before he was afforded the chance to present his appeal, so Crist was doing that for him. Board members pointed out several times that they couldn’t retry the case but that the pardon forgave Morrison and negated his sentence.

  “In this case the guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours,” Crist said.

Morrison had received a six-month jail sentence — never served — and a $500 fine for the 1970 convictions, which carried consequences for the band. Ray Manzarek, The Doors’ keyboard player, said Miami was supposed to be the start of a 20-city tour, but every venue canceled after Morrison’s arrest.

“We had the mandate of heaven, and I think at that moment, he lost the mandate of heaven,” Manzarek said. “In the recording studio, the magic stayed, but I think at that moment in Miami, the live performance magic left for a little while and then came back intermittently.”

Morrison’s appeals were never resolved. He was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971 at age 27. No official cause of death was ever issued — his manager said he died of “natural causes.”

Manzarek and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger supported the pardon because they say Morrison never exposed himself, though they agreed Florida’s move will have little effect on Morrison’s wild, outsized, drug-addled rock ‘n’ roll image.

“Jim’s legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic American poet. I don’t think that the Miami episode has altered his image one iota,” Manzarek said.

The pardon isn’t enough for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, who says she married Morrison in a ceremony that was never made official. She wanted the convictions expunged and called the pardon “a complete cheap, cynical, political ploy.”

“I have a real problem with the semantics of a pardon. The pardon says that all his suffering and all that he went through during the trial, everything both of us went through, was negated,” she said.

Kennealy Morrison says she exchanged vows with Morrison in a Celtic pagan ceremony. Morrison left his entire estate to another woman, Pamela Courson, a longtime girlfriend who was with him when he died. Courson died in 1974.

Kennealy Morrison said Morrison’s convictions led to his demise, and that of the band. She said he felt like he “had been made a scapegoat of the counterculture movement.”

“He cared about it. It affected him deeply. In fact, I think it was one of the contributory causes of his death, actually. It certainly destroyed The Doors, pretty much. They didn’t perform so much as a group after Miami, after the verdict came through,” she said.

Manzarek and Krieger said Morrison’s main interest in appealing the case was avoiding jail time.

“He wouldn’t give a (expletive)” about a pardon, Krieger said. “He would think it was old news.”

Here’s what most people who were at the concert agree on: The Doors went on stage late. The auditorium was oversold and wasn’t air conditioned. Morrison was drunk and stopped in the middle of songs with an anti-authority, profanity-riddled rant.

A live lamb was brought on stage at one point, and Morrison also grabbed a police officer’s hat and threw it in the crowd. The singer took off his shirt and fiddled with his belt, and fans poured onto the stage.

“There were 100 photos offered in evidence at the trial, photos of everything — Jim with the lamb, Jim with the hat, on the stage collapsing, riot in the audience. Not one photo of Jim’s magnificent member,” said Manzarek.

“It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis,” he said.

Krieger added: “Nobody would like to have that charge hanging over their head even if they are dead. I’m sure his family would be happy to see that go, especially since it never happened.”

While Morrison denied exposing himself, he defended the use of nudity in theater even after his arrest. And he never toned down his lifestyle.

The fact that Morrison didn’t change his life is exactly why he shouldn’t have been pardoned, said retired Miami police sergeant Angel Lago, who came to Tallahassee to speak against the pardon. While he wasn’t on the police force at the time of the concert, he said a friend testified at the trial that Morrison exposed himself. He firmly said his friend wouldn’t have lied under oath.

“The man is not worthy of this. I don’t care if he was a poet, I don’t care if he walked on water,” Largo told reporters during a break in the meeting.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, began considering a pardon for Morrison in 2007 after fan David Diamond of Dayton, Ohio, contacted him, and began pursuing it after he lost a bid for U.S. Senate last month. He steps down as governor next month.

Federal crack cocaine laws under fire

A woman spending 27 years in federal prison on a crack cocaine conviction is the first person to seek a pardon from President Obama.

Federal law punishes crack cocaine convictions much more severely than powder cocaine, and Obama has asked Congress to change that. The Sentencing Commission has recommended the current 100:1 sentencing ratio be replaced with a 20:1 ratio.

The law was instituted in 1986, “when authorities feared crack was becoming an epidemic, (but the arguments) were based on faulty assumptions – including that crack users were far more violent and dangerous to the community than powdered-cocaine users,” according to this Associated Press article from April.

The disparity between federal crack laws and federal powder cocaine laws can be seen in the case of Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard, the man who caused a stir last November when a U.S. magistrate judge gave him permission to leave jail for Thanksgiving dinner, under the condition his family pay for armed guards. (As you can read here, Kinard’s family rejected the offer.)

Kinard (right) was convicted of possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine after buying it from an undercover detective. Kinard maintains in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane that he intended to buy powder cocaine, but police provided crack instead.

Police reports included in the federal court file show a confidential informant told police in summer 2008 that he could buy crack from Kinard. When the informant wasn’t able to do so, he told police he could sell powder cocaine to Kinard, and police had him arrange a sale for nine ounces of powder cocaine.

But Kinard never showed up for the buy, and when he called six weeks later, he ended up getting crack, not powder.

One report show the informant told police Kinard wanted “one ounce of cocaine.” In a different report, the detective says Kinard requested crack cocaine.

Had Kinard gotten powder, there would have been no mandatory minimum prison sentence.

“As stated above, from the detective’s own words it appears that he unilaterally made the decision to switch the controlled substance from powder to crack cocaine prior to the controlled buy. This not only served to increase Mr. Kinard’s sentence; it invoked a mandatory minimum,” according to the sentencing memorandum prepared by defense lawyer Kim Deater. “Mr. Kinard again reiterates that he is not innocent and he has pleaded guilty to the charge, however, the detective’s actions evidence reason for concern.”

Kinard is serving 80 months in federal prison. “He is motivated to live a clean and sober life because his addiction has been the root cause of his separation from his family,” according to the memo.

His sentence is barely anything compared to a sentence imposed on Hamedah Hasan, formerly known as Stephanie Lomax, the woman seeking a presidential pardon.

Read the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Board opposes pardon in ‘91 killing

Here’s a report from Jim Camden:

OLYMPIA – A former Newport, Wash., man should not be pardoned for helping kill his former son-in-law, a state board has recommended.

The Clemency and Pardons Board recommended unanimously last week that Gov. Chris Gregoire not grant a pardon and early release to Morris “Mel” Goldberg, who is serving almost 27 years for his part in the 1991 slaying of Peter Zeihen.

The final decision, which a spokeswoman said may take months, is up to Gregoire.

“The governor has never, to this date, approved a petition for clemency against the recommendation of the board,” said Melynda Campbell, of the governor’s office.

Goldberg, 78, (right) was convicted in 2000 of driving a getaway car after his ex-wife Joann Peterson killed Zeihen with a shotgun blast to the head. Zeihen was in his car in the driveway of his Spokane Valley home.

At his trial, Goldberg claimed the couple killed Zeihen because their granddaughter was being sexually abused and Zeihen might have received custody of her in an upcoming divorce proceeding. That allegation was investigated by police and never substantiated.

At his sentencing, Goldberg questioned the court’s authority over him and offered an Old Testament justification for the slaying.

Originally sentenced to life in prison, Goldberg’s term was reduced to 320 months after a successful appeal to the state Supreme Court. Earlier this year he filed a petition for a pardon, saying he is suffering from an array of medical conditions, including diabetes.

“I am self-reformed and rehabilitated,” he wrote in his petition. “I’m also 78 years old with increasing physical problems with their attendant additional cost to maintain.”

When he was sentenced, Goldberg told police he would assisted in the murder again if presented the chance.

“As part of his rambling anti-government address to the court, Goldberg said his conscience drove him to assist his former wife in stalking and then killing Peter Zeihen on Nov. 18, 1991,” according to this story.

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