No More Fights For Wrongly Convicted Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, Dead at 76

It’s weird to remember that prior to becoming a detached squinty enigma, Bob Dylan spearheaded a passionate campaign to free boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was wrongly convicted of murder and served 19 years for a crime he didn’t commit. After a battle with prostate cancer, Carter died yesterday at age 76.

Carter, who was African-American, was initially convicted in 1966 for the murder of two white men and a white woman, even though he had an alibi and it would be extremely charitable to describe the evidence against him as thin. But he was black, and they were white, so QED ipso facto. Carter’s plight came to national attention in 1976, when Dylan wrote “Hurricane,” which he played during nearly every show on the Rolling Thunder tour.

“Hurricane” was Dylan spitting blood and fire at the page, and likely one of the last times Dylan did so.

All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy n***er
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed

When you added that rage to Scarlet Rivera’s soaring violin, you got a searing indictment of the system that would create this pig-circus.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/53933900?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=c9485a

The attention got Carter a new trial in late 1976, but it resulted in another conviction, and all the stars that had latched on to both Hurricane the song and Hurricane the person just sort of drifted away. Finally in 1985, 19 years after his conviction, Carter was freed when his case went to federal court for the first time and the judge held that the prosecutors had committed serious misconduct by immediately defaulting to a sort of “racial revenge” theory rather than looking at pesky things like evidence.

In 1999, Denzel Washington played Carter in The Hurricane, a movie that was widely seen as inspirational but also one that glossed over some of the real deal heroes, like public defender’s office investigator Fred Hogan, that worked tirelessly to free Carter.

After his release from prison, Carter went on to found Innocence International and focus on how the criminal justice system is just one big pile of inequality, a fact that sadly doesn’t seem to have changed much.

Bob Dylan went on to sell Cadillacs.

[NYT/New York Daily News/Bob Dylan]

You may also like...

  • AncienReggie

    Unfair opening line. Bob Dylan was a detached, squinty enigma long before he wrote Hurricane.

    • Mahousu

      Today, we are all detached, squinty enigmas.

  • SullivanSt

    To see him obviously framedCouldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
    Where justice is a game

    Sadly while the framings are now usually less obvious, at least when it comes to high-profile cases, the “game” part is still every bit as applicable as it was over 40 years ago.

  • Robert Slack

    Hurricane Carter may have been “wrongly convicted” inasmuch as his trials were thrown out on technicalities, but in fact there is plenty of evidence that he was guilty and he committed a string of muggings and robberies before this more celebrated crime.