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article imageFormer boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

By Scott Tuttle     Apr 20, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - Former boxer and advocate for the wrongly accused, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter died Sunday in Toronto after losing a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 76.
Though once a formidable middleweight fighter, he will be remembered by most as the man who was falsely convicted of a triple murder and served 20 years in prison before finally being released in 1985.
Carter's struggle for freedom became immortalized by his own autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, which was written in 1976, an eight-minute Bob Dylan song called The Hurricane based on the court case, and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington.
The story begins in 1966 when two armed assailants went into the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, N.J. and began shooting. The bartender and a male patron were instantly killed, while a female patron died a month later of her wounds. Witnesses claimed they saw two black men get into a white car and drive away after hearing the shots, and a survivor in the bar also claimed he saw two black men, but was not able to identify either as Carter.
Around that same time, Carter was riding around in a white Dodge with his friend John Artis when the police stopped them.
Initially, no witnesses were able to identify Carter and Artis as the assailants, and one even said definitively that they, in fact, were not the same people. No fingerprints were taken and the police at that time lacked the equipment to check Carter and Artis' hands for gun powder residue. Due to lack of evidence, the two were released.
Months later, Alfred Bello, a witness attempting to burglarize a nearby factory during the murders, claimed he had an accomplice: one Arthur Dexter Bradley, who was able to identify Artis and Carter as the murderers. Both men were taken back into custody and indicted.
During their 1967 trial, the main evidence presented against Artis and Carter was the testimonies of Bello and Bradley. The jury, which consisted of all white members, convicted Artis and Carter, and they were sentenced to life in prison.
In 1974, Bello and Bradley recanted their previous identification of Artis and Carter allowing for a retrial in 1976. However, by the time of the retrial, Bello recanted once again and resumed his testimony identifying Artis and Carter as the killers. Those who gave alibis to Artis and Carter in the previous trial testified that the defense encouraged them to lie, which also hurt the two men's chances. They were convicted once again and returned to prison.
With the aid of many community members who supported Carter and maintained his innocence, Carter's attorneys learned that documents on Bello's lie detector tests during his recant that would have brought question to the validity of his testimony were not disclosed by the prosecution as required by the law. Thus, his defense filed a writ of habeas corpus petition which would set Carter free for constitutional rights violations on the court's part. Artis had already been paroled by that time.
Finally on November 7, 1985, at the age of 48, Carter was released from prison for good.
He later moved to Toronto where he worked with an organization called the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted until his resignation in 2004.
Despite his resignation, Carter continued to fight for the wrongly accused until the day he died. In February 2014, Carter wrote a letter to New York District Attorney Ken Thompson asking him to review the case of David McCallum who had been in prison for 28 years. In his letter, Carter made it his "dying wish" that McCallum be granted a full hearing with the Brooklyn conviction integrity unit.
In the words of Bob Dylan, perhaps "one time he could have been the champion of the world," but instead he became a champion for the wrongly accused. Just the same, for those he helped and for all who supported him, he will always be their champion.
More about rubin carter, the hurricane, Bob dylan, Denzel washington, Boxing
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