Miami Judge Ellen “Maximum” Morphonios - who prosecuted rock star Jim Morrison for allegedly exposing himself, took her pet chimp to the office and was known as Time Machine for her long jail sentences - has died aged 73.
“It’s just not like her to die,” said Anne Cates, a former assistant. “She was always a fighter.”
Morphonios, who died of stomach cancer, 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.
She sentenced one robber to 1,197 years in prison after he urinated on the courtroom floor. She made him leave without his trousers.
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.”
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.
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.