Former boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter has died at age 76. His promising boxing career was cut short in the 1960s when he was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder and jailed until his exoneration 19 years later.
Rubin Carter, whose story of wrongful imprisonment inspired Bob Dylan's 1975 song "Hurricane" and a 1999 movie starring Denzel Washington, died on Sunday in Toronto, according to longtime friend and caregiver John Artis. The former middleweight boxer reportedly died in his sleep and had been fighting prostate cancer for three years.
Carter was a star in the boxing world in the mid-1960s and once faced off against world champion Joey Giardello in a title match (pictured above, with Carter on the right). Carter lost by decision in the 1964 fight, but was still fighting in 1966 when he was arrested for a triple murder in New Jersey. Two white men and a white woman were shot at a bar in New Jersey by two black men.
Carter and Artis – both black – were convicted of the murders by an all-white jury. The statements of two key witnesses were eventually recanted in 1974, thrusting the case into the spotlight. A retrial in 1976 resulted in another conviction for Carter.
However, Carter was exonerated by US District Judge H. Lee Sarokin in 1985, who said at the time that Carter's conviction was "based on an appeal to racism rather than reason."
After his release, Carter moved to Canada and eventually became the head of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC). In a statement, the organization said it was saddened by the death of its former executive director.
"Rubin will be remembered by those at AIDWYC who were fortunate enough to have worked with him as a truly courageous man who fought tirelessly to free others who had suffered the same fate as he," the statement said.
Carter had a rough childhood that was plagued by minor brushes with the law. He joined the army in 1954, where he learned to box. After an honorable discharge, Carter drifted toward a life of crime before becoming a professional boxer.
He wrote an autobiography from prison in 1974 entitled "The Sixteenth Round."
Despite declining health in recent months, Carter still advocated for people wrongly convicted of their crimes. In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News in February, he argued for the release of David McCallum who was convicted of kidnapping and murder in 1985.
"I am now quite literally on my deathbed and am making my final wish to those with the legal authority to act," he said in the article. "My single regret in life is that David McCallum of Brooklyn... is still in prison."
mz/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)