Diary of a Doors Drama
W E E K T E N
Monday, August 30, 2004 I returned to court today for the closing arguments. I had expected this to be finished by the time I got back from my trip, but was surprised to learn otherwise. Judge Alarcon was scheduled to be on vacation this week, expecting this trial to have been completed by now ... so his court calendar was clear of the usual morning hearings which were scheduled prior to the daily trial session. Therefore, this week's proceedings are able to start at 8:30 instead.
One juror was late, however, so court could not get going at 8:30. In the meantime, Judge Alarcon entered the courtroom at 9:05 and the attorneys argued some issues about the instructions that he'll give to the jurors. When the jurors were brought in at 9:40, the courtroom was practically full. John & Leslie, Andy Morrison, Courson grandchildren Emily and James, and John's ex-wife Debbie, were among those in the seats.
Judge Alarcon immediately began reading his instructions to the jury, which lasted for 15 minutes. Some of his points covered law regarding claims for damages and legality of contracts.
Mr. Jerry Mandel, plaintiff counsel representing John and the Courson family, started his closing remarks at 9:55. He began by summarizing that the trial had spanned nine weeks, 30 witnesses, hundreds of exhibits, and referred to the puzzle box that he used in his opening statement. He explained to the jury that "beyond a reasonable doubt" does not apply in a civil case ... instead, the decision of the jury should be based on a "preponderance of evidence."
Mr. Mandel contended that 14 of the 25 witnesses for the plaintiffs have no "axe to grind" and no economic interest in the outcome of the trial. As Morrison granddaughter Tristin arrived at 10:30, he was making claims about the tactics and methods used by the defendants and their defense team. Mr. Mandel said this case is no grudge match, and that the Morrisons and Coursons are in this case because they feel it is the right thing to do.
Mr. Mandel encouraged the jurors to identify the partnerships: who are the partners, and what are their rules of governance. He reviewed the commercial offers that were considered and turned down over the years, variously by all three of the band members. Following the morning break fro 10:50 to 11:05, Mr. Mandel defended John's right to exercise his first amendment rights when he wrote the article for The Nation.
Ray Manzarek was the final witness last week, and Mr. Mandel focused on attacking his credibility. Excerpts from The Doors Collection commentary track, from Myth and Reality, and from Ray's deposition were re-played for the jury. Mr. Mandel started a review of the key exhibits that he wants the jurors to pay special attention to.
Lunch break was from noon to 1:35, followed by more review of exhibits. Next, Mr. Mandel produced a list of the 30 witnesses who had been called during the trial and re-capped his impressions of the testimony of each. He identified the witnesses that, as he earlier indicated, had no axe to grind and nothing to gain as a result of their testimony or the outcome of this trial. Those identified were: Bob Greene; Abe Somer; Jerry Swartz; Todd Gray; Steve Bassett; Rob Skinner; Michael Grace; Tommy Gear; Stewart Copeland; Anthony DeCurtis; Jaime Alvarez; Eric Kohler; Clear Channel/Bill Young; and Danny Sugerman. The review of the witnesses continued on both sides of the afternoon break from 2:45 to 3:00.
Mr. Mandel finished his closing arguments at 3:35 and was followed by Jeffrey Forer, counsel for the Morrison family. After telling the jury that this had been his first jury trial after doing 22 years of tax and probate law, he played the start of the Dance On Fire video and the entire track of Break On Through from The Doors Collection, to illustrate the chaos and audience reactions depicted in that video.
Mr. Forer reviewed some documents that had been entered into evidence including a Feast Of Friends document that involved Rich Linnell, who was pointed out in the courtroom.
Court was adjourned at 4:30, and Judge Alarcon reminded the jurors that court would resume at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004 When Judge Alarcon entered the courtroom this morning, John & Leslie, Andy Morrison, Courson grandchildren James and Emily, and Tom Vitorino were all in attendance. The jurors were brought in at 9:05, and Mr. Jeffrey Forer, counsel for the Morrison plaintiffs, resumed his closing arguments with review of key documents that are entered as exhibits.
When Mr. Forer began to produce and discuss documents related to the assets of the probated estates of both Jim and Pam, which had not been previously introduced, the defense objected and a sidebar followed. The jurors were sent into the jury deliberation room next door for ten minutes while this matter was discussed. Ian arrived at 9:30, followed by Robby ten minutes later.
Mr. Forer reviewed the probate documents, other documents regarding the dissolution of The Doors Productions partnership, and an exhibit about the ownership of Jim Morrison's name and likeness by the Morrisons and Coursons as spelled out in the probate documents.
Tom Vitorino's character was questioned, admats and one of the D21C t-shirt designs were reviewed, and then the morning break was called at 10:15. By the end of the morning break at 10:35, Morrison granddaughter Tristin had arrived.
Mr. Forer resumed his presentation at 10:40 with attention now on Ian's 'transformation.' Clips were played of Ian's "Back Door Man" performance from VH-1 Storytellers, followed by "Love Removal Machine" from The Cult's live DVD from Olympic Auditorium a year later, and finally "Cars Hiss By My Window" from the L.A. Woman Live DVD. Next up was the "evolving" image from the home page of this website, and then four photos of Ian performing onstage and in rehearsal. These were intended to represent to the jurors how the Morrison and Courson families have been harmed and offended.
D21C business manager Alan Goldman got the attention next, as the jurors were encouraged to "follow the money" as Mr. Forer reviewed some of the accounting statements previously provided to the court during Mr. Goldman's testimony. Mr. Forer read from some of the judge's instructions regarding awards and claims, and then provided some alternative estimates of band incomes and expenses.
Following a brief sidebar, Mr. Forer related a chronology of events and finished his closing arguments with a clip of Ray commenting on Jim's poetry from the L.A. Woman Live DVD. Court was recessed for lunch at 12:05.
When the afternoon session began at 1:35, counsel for the defense Mr. William Briggs began his closing arguments. He began by placing a mysterious white box on the ledge near the witness box, and said it would be opened at the end of his arguments. Mr. Briggs referenced John's hatred of Ray as the reason John has kept the jurors in the courtroom for ten weeks.
He claimed that the linchpin of this case is who owns the name The Doors and who owns the logo ... and that the answer is no one. In reply to Mr. Forer's remarks about the legal costs that have accumulated as a result of this case, Mr. Briggs reminded the jurors who brought the lawsuit in the first place, and that it was the plaintiffs' side that has dragged out the case for more than six weeks before they rested.
Mr. Briggs' remarks referred to a previous motion by the court which allowed the band to continue to tour as The Doors of the 21st Century. After objections from the plaintiffs, a sidebar was held, followed by Judge Alarcon explaining that decision to the jurors: it had been an interim ruling, and he emphasized that his ruling is not to be considered by the jury when they deliberate the case.
Regarding the amounts of monetary awards being sought by all parties, Mr. Briggs explained the reduced countersuit against John, saying they do not want to bankrupt or destroy him. He said that the Estate of Jim Morrison did not sue Doors Touring Inc., and therefore are not entitled to an award; the $3.3 million being sought is for John, alone. With that being far in excess of the profits realized by D21C, Mr. Briggs then questioned, who was terrorizing who? Since John did not ask for, or expect to be, paid for his non-participation in the Harley Davidson shows, why would he feel entitled to earnings from the touring and performances over the last two years by The Doors of the 21st Century?
Video clips of several performances were played for the jurors. Mr. Briggs asserted that the purpose of a partnership is to make money, and that the 1969 partnership dissolved by its own terms when Jim died. The "business of The Doors" from 1971 until today has been primarily to grant sync licenses and collect royalties. The activities of creating box sets and various merchandising are done by Elektra Records and by licensees, not by the band members.
Regarding use of songs for commercials, Danny stated in his deposition that a commercial had been approved for Japan, as well as the recent use of "Peace Frog" for the X-Games ... that one was agreed to by John because "it was cool, his son liked it." These two are in addition to the well-documented Buick Opel and Pirelli Tire commercials.
Mr. Briggs said that John would not have been sued over the commercials if he had proffered reasons other than for his own personal, social, and political agendas, which he elevated above loyalty to Ray and to Robby. John is being sued because he told Danny that he should let the catalog die, maybe The Doors should stop selling, and that Danny had made him enough money.
In response to John's claims that he is the protector of Jim's legacy, Mr. Briggs reminded the jurors that in his own book, John repeatedly trashed Jim and constantly considered quitting the band. Several examples of representative passages from John's book were projected for the jury to see again. After John repeatedly quit and said he wanted nothing more to do with the band, he then toured his book as a one-man show, getting the biggest laughs when he was mocking Jim. Mr. Briggs questioned John's integrity when he said that we got what we deserved on 9/11, and when he stated in The Nation that the banks are the centers of worship in our towns.
Ian left during the afternoon recess between 3:00 and 3:30. Mr. Briggs continued discussing John's own testimony about The Nation article. Mr. Briggs said that John was being sued because he deliberately sabotaged industry interest in licensing Doors music for commercial opportunities, which John admitted to when he was on the stand.
Instead of specific award dollars being sought, the defendants are asking for the jury's judgment. Mr. Briggs said they do not want to terrorize John; they want him to stop. Where is the "one for all, all for one"? The defendants want the jury to tell John that one man cannot stop this, and cannot put his own social agenda above all else. They are not trying to hurt or financially ruin John, but do want the signal to be sent to him.
Regarding the ownership of The Doors name and logo, Mr. Briggs reviewed the testimony of trademark attorney Michael Grace. Mr. Grace concluded that based on the agreement of one-quarter ownership, they are all tenants-in-common with unlimited rights to the name. The plaintiffs never showed where the partnership owned the name of The Doors, nor where it was transferred in any document to the partnership, or assigned, or licensed.
The review of additional testimony by Mr. Grace reminded the jurors that intellectual property or trademark, left dormant or unused for three years, leads to the presumption of abandonment. Abandonment means that one can no longer exclude others from using the name, and therefore, the plaintiffs' claims that the defendants stole the name are unfounded.
Today's court session ended at 4:00 at a juror's request. Because of a juror conflict, tomorrow's session will not begin until 11:00 for the jury, although the attorneys will be there earlier to continue hammering out their issues regarding jury instructions.
Court will be dark on Friday at a juror's request, and Monday is Labor Day holiday, so the court will have a 4-day holiday weekend.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004 Today's court session was scheduled to begin at 11:00 for the jurors. When I arrived about 10:30, the attorneys were working on their closing arguments and the jury instructions. Judge Alarcon entered the courtroom at 11:15 and heard some attorney discussions on those matters. John & Leslie and Tom Vitorino were in the courtroom when the jurors were brought in at 11:20.
Defense counsel Mr. Briggs resumed his closing arguments, picking up where he left off yesterday on the subject of abandonment: he said abandonment does not mean the name cannot be used, it means that others cannot be prevented from using it. He cited the proliferation of tribute bands as an example. Mr. Briggs referred to earlier testimony regarding the Sony licensing agreement when the band had applied for trademark in numerous classes, but not in the class for live performances because that activity had been abandoned. He continued that the abandonment was supported by the proliferation of tribute bands who were not legally pursued; Ray's quitting the band in 1973; Gary Stiffelman's letter to Elektra when Ray quit the band; Doors Production Company dissolution; Robby's and John's formation of the Butts Band; John's own testimony on July 7th about Ray's departure (it felt like the doors were being closed); 27 years of non-use; and Danny Sugerman's deposition statement that they all wanted to put The Doors behind them.
Robby arrived at 11:35 as Mr. Briggs continued, recalling that the band did not go into the stream of commerce beyond repackaging and reissuing. When Robby and Ray did the Harley Davidson shows - with John's blessing - they were met with enthusiasm and wanted to continue. The fans in the audiences loved the performances despite whatever critical reviews may have been written. After The Doors' first album, they also received many critical pans for the follow-up albums and for many performances ... but still, the fans loved them.
Mr. Briggs re-capped that after the Harley Davidson shows, House of Blues shows, and a trade publication story, John then asked for a name modifier, and the band complied. John said it was okay when Robby told him they would call themselves The Doors of the 21st Century, and John did not tell them it could only be for a little while.
John's testimony on reasons for not wanting to play for Harley Davidson were reviewed, as well as different reasons that were provided during testimony of Mr. Lou Reisman. In the meantime, John was playing with his own Tribaljazz band.
Mr. Briggs asked the jurors to consider who owns the name when they begin their deliberations. Trademark attorney Michael Grace said no one does, so the jury should find against John and the estate.
He asked the jurors to think about: why they would want to stop the original members of The Doors from touring, and from calling themselves who they are?
Regarding the logo, Mr. Briggs reiterated that the logo was created by Bill Harvey of Elektra Records. Neither he nor Elektra were paid for it, and Elektra owns the artwork. It was never assigned, licensed, transferred, or given to The Doors, and they never voted unanimously to adopt it. There is no "pink slip" for the logo. While the name "The Doors" is owned as tenants-in-common, there is no interest ownership in the logo. The lettering is a font, anyone can use it, and John did so on his own book cover. When The Doors trademark was registered, it was the name only and did not include the stylized lettering of the font. No one sued John for using that font on his book cover.
Both the original and the D21C logos were projected, and a letter-by-letter comparison of the differences was reviewed. Mr. Briggs pointed out that there had been no witnesses brought into court to testify as to their confusion about the Universal Amphitheater ad. There was no evidence presented that the partnership owns the logo. The act of dissolving a partnership does not require the same steps as those to dissolve a corporation. He concluded that this case could have been tried in two weeks, if the plaintiffs' attorneys had gone directly to the heart of the case.
Regarding unanimity and veto power: the name is owned by tenants-in-common; the logo is owned by Elektra; and unanimity and veto have nothing to do with John's decisions to veto the commercials. Mr. Briggs said that veto power was never mentioned in John's book, and suggested that if that really did exist, it might have been used when both John and Robby left the stage at the University of Michigan.
Mr. Briggs stated that another myth is the "one for all, all for one" claim. He read a quote from John's book about the phone call John got from Jim in Paris, in which he revealed he did not want Jim to come back, and that the three of them had already begun working on music without Jim.
This morning's late court start resulted in a later and shorter scheduled lunch break, which began at 12:35. When court resumed and the jurors returned at 1:50, Ian Astbury and Courson grandchildren James and Emily joined the audience. Mr. Briggs resumed by pointing out that the three surviving Doors never voted to make Pam a partner.
Mr. Briggs accused the estate's case of being frivolous and a miscarriage of justice to deride Ian as a 'Jiminator' (later amended to 'Jimitator'.) Ian cannot be sued for "imitating Jim." There are no instructions from the judge against Ian performing as Jim because it's not against the law to do so.
Regarding the use of the "young lion" photo, Mr. Briggs pointed out that Mr. Forer never asked who actually owns that photo. That's because the photo is owned by Joel Brodsky and it was taken for Elektra. When John used a Brodsky photo for the cover of his book, he sought permission from Mr. Brodsky to use the image, not from the estate. The estate did not go after John for using that photo because: Brodsky owns it.
Mr. Briggs reviewed that Jim left his estate to Pam, not to his parents, and reminded the jurors that the Admiral admitted that he never went to a show. He said that Admiral Morrison has not been involved, and that matters have been left up to their attorney, Lou Reisman, to handle.
Mr. Briggs wrapped up his closing arguments by referring to Myth or Reality, saying that the plaintiffs have tried to pass off myths regarding the partnerships, the logo, the name, and that John was in court for principle --- and said the case comes down to who will continue the legacy of The Doors? Two of the original surviving members want to continue to perform. They are who the fans now see as The Doors, along with Ian Astbury. The clip of the "Soul Kitchen" finale from the L.A. Woman Live DVD with the delighted fans dancing onstage with the band, was played to end Mr. Briggs' presentation at 2:20.
Mr. Mandel began his second round of closing arguments by telling the jury that the fans dancing onstage were staged. He then provided a Latin lesson by writing ipsa dixit on the board, defining it as "it's so because I say it's so." (note: I believe it should have been written as ipse dixit ... but then, I'm a stickler for spelling accuracy).
Mr. Mandel said that this case is not about the name, The Doors. It's about a contract with John. Mr. Mandel said that although the defense claims that the 1966, 1969, and 1971 partnerships are all over, Ray and Robby are counter-suing John for breach of partnership responsibilities. Mr. Mandel said they do not want damages: they want what belongs to them, what belongs to the partnership. He went on to discuss the testimony of trademark attorney Mike Grace in a different light, and finished at 2:40 with Mr. Forer taking his place.
Mr. Forer began by recalling Ray's use of the courtroom dictionary to look up the definition of none, meaning no one, and referenced the Sony Signatures merchandising deal. Mr. Forer questioned why the attorneys Reisman, Hurwitz, and Stiffelman, would spend money to shut down theatrical acts, when they were questioned about the tribute bands.
When he was asked about the band performing again, Danny Sugerman's deposition said that the door was left open. Mr. Stiffelman wrote letters to correct reviews because there was confusion. Mr. Forer asked the jurors to consider a series of exhibits, which are Elektra documents that were signed by everyone.
Mr. Forer called it a mockery of justice that Mr. Briggs claims the estates are not full voting partners. He said that voting is not the issue, but that they are partners: they get income, and they pay costs. Mr. Forer said that he had played Ian's performance from VH-1 Storytellers because Ian was not imitating Jim then. He said that Jim's will has nothing to do with this ... that in his career, he never lets the money go to the parents in a will, because they are not supposed to outlive the children.
Mr. Forer finished at 3:00. The jurors were sent out for the afternoon break, and the attorneys argued to Judge Alarcon about Mr. Briggs' request to be allowed to do a rebuttal on the cross-complaint. The judge ruled in favor, and when the jurors were returned at 3:40, Mr. Briggs began his ten minutes of rebuttal.
He said that when Ray was in his sickbed, he wrote a letter of apology to John and offered to change things. In reply, he received a copy of his book, returned to him in ashes. Mr. Briggs said that yesterday the "mystery box" did have the ashes, but that instead, they had to be disposed of. He said that when they review the Sony Signatures agreement, the jurors will note that it was signed by individuals, along with their social security numbers ... and not as a partnership.
Mr. Briggs said that the plaintiffs are suing Ian because he has long hair, because of his likeness. No one has ever been sued for looking like someone else, the estates have no case against Ian, and they know it.
Regarding the testimony that Elektra pumped one million dollars into The Doors catalog, there was no evidence that it ever really happened. Pam's name was not used in the 2001 Fictitious Business Name document because she was not part of the partnership.
Mr. Briggs had asked John during his testimony about Robby and Ray "stealing the name." John testified that he agreed they could use it, "until they abused the right." Who owns the name, The Doors? The name is owned as tenants-in-common, and Elektra owns the logo.
Mr. Briggs finished at 3:45, and Judge Alarcon immediately began reading jury instructions for the next ten minutes. The jurors were excused at 3:55 and reminded to return tomorrow morning at 8:30. They will be given the balance of the jury instructions and then the case will be turned over to them for deliberation.
(what, so soon?)
WEEK NINE august 23 - august 27, 2004 - overview, but no personal trial coverage
WEEK EIGHT august 16 - august 20, 2004 - John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, Ida Miller - balance of week's coverage is incomplete
WEEK SEVEN august 9 - august 13, 2004 - Tom Vitorino, Nicholas Clainos, Ian Astbury, Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek
WEEK SIX august 2 - august 5, 2004 - Alan Goldman, Mr. Skinner deposition, Del Furano, Jay Coleman, Nicholas Clainos
WEEK FIVE july 26 - july 30, 2004 - Gary Stiffelman, Stewart Copeland, Anthony DeCurtis, Jaime Alvarez, Eric Kohler, Tom Vitorino deposition, Dr. John Anderson, Alan Goldman
WEEK FOUR july 19 - july 23, 2004 - Todd Gray, Ray deposition, Steven Bassett deposition, Mr. Skinner deposition, Tom Vitorino deposition, Mark Hurwitz, Rear Admiral Morrison, Michael Grace, Tommy Gear
WEEK THREE july 12 - july 16, 2004 - Ian deposition, Robert Greene, Abe Somer, Nigel Williamson, Robby deposition, David Kirby, Jerry Swartz
WEEK TWO july 6 - july 9, 2004 - jury finalization, John testimony, Ian deposition
WEEK ONE June 29 - July 2, 2004 - jury selection
Related media stories:
July 3, 2004 -- Times UK by Nigel Williamson: "And The Brand Played On"
return to Ida's LA Woman Confidential home page
for more Doors news and reviews