‘Hurricane’ Carter Was Wrongly Convicted, But He Wasn’t Innocent

by Rachel Baker on April 22, 2014

This week, Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter passed away. The next day was filled with RIPs and the waxing on of what a truly great man he was. I would bet most of these people watched the movie, Hurricane, with Denzel Washington about Carter’s time in jail and being wrongly convicted and one boy’s quest to get him out. Let’s be clear, movies are brimming with fictional elements to make the movie more enjoyable. Rarely, will we find a movie to be exact and true to historical events.

That said, Michael Moynihan at the Daily Beast has written a piece about Carter being wrongly convicted while being clear that he wasn’t innocent’ and pointing out the distinction in the judicial wording on this point.

I have no doubt that Paterson, N.J., was stuffed to the gills with racists in 1966, but I still have suspicions that Hurricane’s versions of events and the ubiquitous media claim that he was “wrongly” convicted isn’t exactly true.

To be clear, Denzel Washington’s film version of Carter’s life is so fanciful that a contemporaneous New York Times account catalogued the “contorted” history, the “major fabrication” of certain events, and the elision of various uncomfortable details surrounding the case. Vaunted lefty journalist Jack Newfield complained that “I knew Rubin Carter, attended his fights, covered his retrial, and I didn’t see much reality on the screen,” while also stressing that the judge who vacated Carter and Artis’s two convictions did “not say they were innocent, only that their rights were trampled on.” In 2000, another New York Times writer reminded readers that “Mr. Carter was never exonerated; he was released in 1985 when a federal judge ruled there had been procedural errors during the second trial, and prosecutors decided not to try him a third time.”

This distinction is important—and is one that rightfully liberated Carter from prison—but it created a “wrongful” conviction of procedure, not of evidence. Cal Deal, who covered the trial for the Herald News, a local paper serving Paterson, New Jersey, has amassed a vast online archive detailing the case against Carter, concluding that the two juries got it right.

Read the whole article here:

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