Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

You may remember my recent post about the possibility of the State of Florida pardoning Jim Morrison for his indecent exposure conviction. Well, Florida officially pardoned Jim Morrison today. This is great news.

Here are Governor Crist’s comments on the topic, courtesy of the New York Times Arts Beat Blog.

Remarks by
to the Florida Board of Executive Clemency
Tallahassee, Florida

December 9, 2010

James Douglas Morrison – we know him as Jim Morrison – appealed the judgment and sentence he received after being convicted 40 years ago of two misdemeanors. However, he died before his appeal could be heard.

Because he us unable to state his case for clemency before this board today, I offer to do so for him.

The charges against Mr. Morrison stemmed from his alleged actions at a now-famous 1969 musical performance by The Doors in Miami. During the trial, the prosecution attempted to prove that Mr. Morrison indecently exposed himself, simulated indecent acts, and uttered profanities.

Mr. Morrison admitted to using some of the alleged profanity; however, he denied the other charges.

During the trial, some witnesses testified they saw the alleged acts for which he was charged; however, many others testified they observed the entire concert and never saw them. In fact, so many witnesses corroborated Mr. Morrison’s testimony that the judge eventually stopped the defense from presenting any more – because their collective testimony became, what is known in legal terms as, “cumulative testimony.”

Nevertheless, a jury convicted Mr. Morrison. The judge then sentenced him to six months of hard labor.

Much controversy surrounds this conviction, and not only because many witnesses testified they did not see Mr. Morrison expose himself.

Controversy also exists because Mr. Morrison was not arrested until four days after the concert. A case was brought against him only after newspaper articles recounted the alleged events at the concert, based on a complaint filed by an employee of the state attorney’s office who attended the concert.

In addition, Mr. Morrison may have been improperly prevented from presenting evidence of “community standards” of other rock performances of the era. Such testimony would have offered cultural context for the allegations against him.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Morrison himself did not exercise his right to remain silent. Instead, he forcefully denied the charge that he exposed himself on stage.

Mr. Morrison appealed his judgment and sentence; however, he died before the appeal was heard. His death prevented him from exercising his right to a direct appeal, a right given to every American by the United States Constitution. If his appeal had been heard, a reviewing court could have resolved the controversies surrounding his conviction.

In addition, at the time of Morrison’s death, a convicted defendant who died before his appeal was heard was entitled to have the conviction dismissed so that he was again presumed innocent. This doctrine, known as “abatement ab initio,” wiped the slate clean – as though the conviction had never taken place. A pardon corrects the fact that Mr. Morrison is now unable to take advantage of the presumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of the American criminal justice system.

The words of an appellate judge, penned a decade before Mr. Morrison’s trial, provide insight into the question before us today: When death prevents the accused from appealing his judgment, the conviction is “a nullity” and “[j]urisdiction to determine the issue of guilt or innocence is now assumed by the ultimate arbiter of human affairs.”

In this case, guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours. That is why I ask my colleagues today to pardon Jim Morrison.

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I have major doubts, but I feel like I’m moving into an area where I want to start seriously considering religion, and specifically Christianity.  I talked about it at length in my last post, so go back and read it if you haven’t already.

Anyway, I’m possibly prepared to accept Christianity in a sort of provisional sense, as the most meaningful mechanism by which I can access the Divine Mystery of Unknowable Universal Truth and Miscellaneous Etcetera.

I even feel like I can turn to the Bible as something spiritually meaningful and religiously relevant.  I would do so with the caveat that the Bible is the record of one nation’s interactions with the Divine, but that it is heavily filtered through their cultural lens and their milieu.  Moreso than many other scriptures, the Bible is open in my opinion to this kind of interpretation.  People wrote the Bible, after all, and they were people who lived in a certain time and place, with certain limitations.  It aims toward ultimate truth even if it is not itself The ultimate truth.

As far as Jesus and his life, mission, and divinity go, I’m prepared to accept it conceptually without worrying whether it is literal fact or not.  I can accept Christianity as a spiritual scaffold without needing to muck around with apologetics and debate.

However, the biggest problem for me, the stumbling block, is Judaism.

Unlike the rest of the Bible, the Law of Moses is supposed to have been directly dictated by God and written down the way He said it.  Even the words of Jesus by comparison are removed enough from their original source to be a little bit shrouded in the mists of time, history, and myth.  But the Law is a full document straight from God’s mouth to the stone tablets, and I think the Law sucks.

Not in the Paul “the law killeth” sense.  I mean that the Law is simply not the kind of thing that could be given by any kind of God I could imagine, and unlike the rest of the stories in the Old Testament which may or may not be just stories, it’s kind of hard to say that the law is just a mythic interpretation of something.

It advocates death by stoning for all kinds of petty stuff.  It condones slavery.  It’s crap.  And the way I see it, it’s not the kind of thing that is Mythic at all.  Either God dictated it to Moses or Moses made it all up.  It doesn;t come down to us shrouded by oral tradition.  And the entire Old Testament from then on is fairly rooted in it.  So what’s the deal?  It’s kind of hard to separate Christianity from the Law.

I’m not talking about the no-brainers like “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  I’m talking about stuff like where if a man rapes a girl he just has to pay some money and get married.  I’m talking about where it says to kill your family if they believe differently than you.   I’m talking about the divine mandate to commit genocide.  Or how you’re supposed ot kill your children if they don’t obey you.

You want to see me deny the existence of God?  Convince me that the only possible God is the one that made those rules.  I just don’t buy it.  And that’s a problem, because it means there’s a whole section of the Bible that I can’t simply deal with in my wishy-washy liberal way, and that means I don’t know what to do other than junk the whole thing, other than as a piece of literature.

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