On Sunday, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died in Toronto at the age of 76-years-old. The former middleweight boxing contender turned activist after being wrongfully convicted to 9 years in prison after being accused of a triple murder in New Jersey. In 1985 a federal judge ruled that he and co-defendant John Artis did not receive fair trials and both were released.
Artis was with Carter when he died early Sunday morning at his Toronto home, where he lived since his release from prison. Carter is on record as saying prison allowed him to shed the illusions and anger that powered his youthful delinquency and realize that his next fight would be against injustice. He was the first executive director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted from 1993 to 2004.
"Hatred and bitterness and anger only consume the vessel that contains them. It doesn't hurt another soul," Carter told CNN. "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."
As a boxer, Hurricane was fast and powerful for his size. Ring Magazine declared him one of the top middleweight contenders in 1963 after he knocked out 11 of his first 15 professional opponents. But Carter’s career took a downward turn after losing his only title bout in 1964. He would lose seven of the 15 final matches of career before being incarcerated for a 1966 triple homicide at the Lafayette Bar and Grill.
Convicted and sentenced to three life terms the following year, the decision was overturned. But Carter was convicted again in 1976, a year after Bob Dylan co-wrote a song declaring his innocence. That conviction, too, was tossed out, and Carter walked out of prison in 1985. In 1988, a Passaic County prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the charges.
Denzel Washington starred in the 1999 Oscar-nominated film The Hurricane in which he won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Carter. "God bless Rubin Carter and his tireless fight to ensure justice for all," Washington said Sunday.
Hurricane’s tragic life story has been the subject of six books, including his own autobiography that was written while he was incarcerated. Carter’s death was due to complications from prostate cancer.