Miami Judge Ellen Morphonios Dies at 73
Dec. 23, 2002
MIAMI (AP) _ Judge Ellen ``Maximum'' Morphonios, who prosecuted rock star Jim Morrison for allegedly exposing himself, took her pet chimpanzee to the office and was known as ``Time Machine'' for her long sentences, has died at 73.
Morphonios died Sunday of stomach cancer.
``It's just not like her to die,'' said Anne Cates, a former assistant. ``She was always a fighter.''
She got her nickname ``Maximum'' for the 1,000-year sentences she gave robbers and rapists.
``Even the criminals had a lot of respect _ they nicknamed her `Time Machine' because they knew if they went before her and were found guilty, they were going to do a lot of time,'' said Lloyd Hough, a retired Miami-Dade County police detective.
Morphonios was known for her idiosyncrasies: decorating her chambers in lavender, moonlighting as talk-radio personality ``Lady Ellen,'' and taking Toto, her chimpanzee, to work.
Morphonios sentenced one robber to 1,197 years in prison after he urinated on the courtroom floor. She made him leave without his pants.
When another defendant's mother passed out on the floor, Morphonios continued with her business.
``Next defendant,'' she said. ``Step forward. Step over the body.''
Mensa, the organization for people with high IQs, says in a profile of notable members on its Web site that Morphonios was a former model who passed an exam that allowed her to enter law school without an undergraduate degree.
Before becoming a judge, she was the prosecutor in the case against Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, after he allegedly exposed himself before 10,000 people at a 1969 Miami concert.
He was convicted the next year of indecent exposure and use of profanity, but was acquitted of lewdness and public drunkenness. The guilty verdicts were appealed, but Morrison died in 1971 before the case was resolved.
She also presided over football player Eugene ``Mercury'' Morris' 1982 cocaine trafficking trial and sentenced the former Miami Dolphin great to 20 years. He served four before being granted a new trial, then pleaded no contest to a reduced charge. Morphonios sentenced him to time already served.
Morphonios first retired in 1991 amid Operation Court Broom, a judicial corruption investigation. She was investigated but never charged. Three colleagues were convicted.
In 1997 she returned as a part-time judge, but she retired months later after a state board questioned why she had not reported an alleged bribe attempt.
Morphonios is survived by two sons.