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Rubin Carter (May 6, 1937 – April 20, 2014)

Born in Clifton, New Jersey, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was the fourth of seven children. He stabbed a man when he was 11 and sent to a juvenile reformatory. After he escaped in 1954, he joined the Army. After basic training, Carter was sent to Germany where he began boxing. He was discharged in 1956. He returned home and was quickly convicted of two muggings and sent to prison.

He was released from prison in September 1961. Here, Carter turned to professional boxing. Though he was shorter than the average middleweight, Carter had an aggressive style and punching power that resulted in numerous early knockouts. He became a crowd favorite and his style earned him the nickname “Hurricane.” Carter’s career record stand at 27 wins, 12 losses and one draw. He had 19 knockouts (8 KO and 11 TKOs). Carter received an honorary championship title belt from the World Boxing Council in 1993 and was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, his penchant for not following the law would also catch up to him. On June 17, 1966, two men entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey and began shooting. The bartender and a male customer died at the scene, while a female customer died in hospital a month later. Another male customer was able to survive the shooting. Though neither customer identified Carter or his friend John Artis as the shooters, a petty criminal named Alfred Bello and a female eyewitness were able to place Carter and Artis as running into a white car just after the shooting. When police searched the car, they found ammunition which matched that at the scene of the crime. Though they took no fingerprints from the bar nor tested the guns for gunshot residue, both Carter and Artis were tried and convicted — twice (in 1967 and 1976). The second conviction was overturned in 1985 and prosecutors had had enough and chose not to attempt a third.

Carter moved to Toronto (becoming a Canadian citizen) and became the executive director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. Carter died from prostate cancer on April 20, 2014 at age 76. Carter inspired singer Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane” in 1975 and the 1999 film starring Denzel Washington about his prison stint for murder.

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