Crime Song of the Week

May 3, 2017

Ruben “Hurricane” Carter was a famous professional boxer in the 1960s. He fought six times in 1963, winning four bouts and losing two. He was in the top 10 Middleweights when he surprised the boxing world by flooring past and future world champion Emile Griffith twice in the first round and scoring a technical knockout. That win resulted in Carter being ranked the number three contender for the world middleweight title. Carter won two more fights in 1964, before meeting Joey Giardello, the Middleweight champ. Carter fought well in the early rounds, landing a few solid rights to the head and staggering Giardello in the fourth, but failed to follow them up. After Giardello took command of the fight in the fifth round, The judges awarded Giardello a unanimous decision.

After that fight, Carter’s ranking began to decline. He fought nine times in 1965, winning five but losing three of four against contenders Luis Manuel Rodríguez, Dick Tiger, and Harry Scott. Dick Tiger floored Carter three times in their match. Carter would later say, “Tiger gave me the worst beating that I took in my life—inside or outside the ring.”

Carter’s career record in boxing was 27 wins, 12 losses, and one draw in 40 fights, with 19 total knockouts (8 KOs and 11 TKOs).

At the end of Carter’s boxing career, he was floored by a blow he did not see coming. On June 17, 1966, at approximately 2:30 a.m., two men entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill at East 18th Street at Lafayette Street in Paterson, New Jersey, and began shooting. The bartender, James Oliver, and a male customer, Fred Nauyoks, were killed instantly. A severely wounded female customer, Hazel Tanis, died almost a month later. A third customer, Willie Marins, survived the attack, despite a gunshot wound to the head that cost him the sight in one eye. During questioning, both Marins and Tanis told police that the shooters had been black males, though neither identified Carter. Petty criminal Alfred Bello, who had been near the Lafayette that night to burglarize a factory, was an eyewitness. Bello later testified that he was approaching the Lafayette when two black males—one carrying a shotgun, the other a pistol—came around the corner walking towards him. He ran from them, and they got into a white car that was double-parked near the Lafayette. Both Bello and another witness would describe a white car as the get away vehicle.

About 30 minutes after the murders, Patterson N. J, police stopped Ruben Carter and a man named John Artis driving a white car. Police took Carter and Artis to police headquarters and questioned them. The witnesses could not identify them as the killers, and they were released. Several months later, Bello disclosed to the police that he had an accomplice during the attempted burglary, Arthur Dexter Bradley. On further questioning, Bello and Bradley identified Carter as one of the two males they had seen carrying weapons outside the bar the night of the murders. Bello also identified Artis as the other. Based on this additional evidence, Carter and Artis were arrested and indicted for the murders. A jury would give both men life sentences for these crimes.

Carter would win a second trial after Bello and Bradley retracted their identifications. The defense learned that Bello was given a large amount of money for his cooperation. Despite these facts, Carter was again convicted. Three years later, Carter’s attorneys filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. In 1985, Judge Haddon Lee Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted the writ, noting that the prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure,” and set aside the convictions. Carter, 48 years old, was freed without bail in November 1985, after a failed appeal, New Jersey prosecutors dropped all charges. Ruben ” Hurricane” Carter moved to Canada and became a motivational speaker active in projects helping wrongfully convicted persons. He died in 2014. An interesting fact, John Artis, the man convicted with him in New Jersey, was released on parole during this time. In Carter’s last years, he and Artis remained friends and Artis would be his caretaker as he died of cancer.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the story and photo.

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