Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former middleweight boxer who spent nearly 20 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of a 1966 triple murder, died Sunday morning at his home in Toronto.
Complications from prostate cancer have been reported as the cause of death for the 76 year old Carter.
Carter’s long-time friend John Artis was with him when he passed, having been his caretaker for the last three years. Carter and Artis were both arrested for a triple-homicide on July 17th, 1966 at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey. A man by the name of Alfred Bello, who later confessed to stealing $60 from the register at the Lafayette, provided police with the description of two black men and a white car that lead to the arrest of Carter and Artis, despite a survivor of the shooting claiming that neither Carter or Artis were the gunmen.
Carter, along with Artis, was convicted of the murders in 1967. Later evidence that Bello may have struck questionable deals with prosecutors in return for his testimony lead to a second trial in 1976, where Carter was convicted again.
Artis was paroled in 1981.
Rubin Carter remained in prison, continuing appeals. In 1985, Carter, then 48, was freed without bail when Judge Haddon Lee Sarokin granted a writ of habeus corpus, writing that the “convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure”.
Carter later told CNN:
“Hatred and bitterness and anger only consume the vessel that contains them. It doesn’t hurt another soul. If I were to allow myself to continue to feel that anger and the bitterness of being a victim, I would have never survived prison itself. Prison can deal with anger; prison can deal with hatred because prison is about all those things. So I had to overcome those things.”
“I wouldn’t give up,” Carter said in an interview with PBS in 2011. “No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn’t give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people… found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.”
Carter’s story was the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s 1976 song “Hurricane”, as well as the 1999 Denzel Washington film of the same name.
From 1993 until 2005, Rubin Carter served as executive director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to helping those wrongly convicted of crimes and working to prevent future instances of wrongful conviction.
In a piece written for New York Daily News earlier this year concerning David McCallum, who is believed to be wrongly incarcerated since 1985, Carter said the following:
If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised. In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years.
To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter lost 19 years of his life to a justice system in which minorities make up the majority of wrongful convictions, yet he came out a representation of the human spirit’s determination to remain unbroken.