Comedian Lenny Bruce was posthumously pardoned yesterday by Gov. George E. Pataki, 39 years after being convicted of obscenity for using bad words in a nightclub act, the New York Times reports. Pataki called the pardon “a declaration of New York’s commitment to upholding the First Amendment.”
Fighting a four-month sentence over a 1964 performance, the conviction made it almost impossible for him to get work; he was declared bankrupt and died of a morphine overdose on Aug. 3, 1966 at the age of 40. The Times says that Bruce’s disputed utterances cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
“You see, there is a God,” said Ronald K. L. Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., and a biographer of Bruce. Said Robert Corn-Revere, a Washington lawyer who wrote the main legal brief arguing for the pardon, “There is only one reason for Governor Pataki to do this: for the principle of the thing.”