New Jersey prosecutors announced Friday that they will not seek a third murder trial against Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, ending the former boxer’s 22-year campaign for freedom that became a popular celebrity cause.
The passage of time, problems finding witnesses, court decisions discrediting previous testimony and the burden posed by a third prosecution were cited in legal motions seeking dismissal of the indictment against Carter and his alleged accomplice, John Artis.
Cites Intense Scrutiny
Acting Passaic County prosecutor John Goceljak, in papers filed in Paterson, also said another reason supporting dismissal was the intense scrutiny given the case.
“It has received the attention of more courts and proceedings than probably any other case in the history of this state and possibly any other state,” the court papers said.
Spent 19 Years in Prison
In addition, Goceljak noted that Carter had served 19 years of a life prison term before a federal judge ordered his release, and that Artis has been paroled on the murder conviction. Artis is serving a six-year term on an unrelated drug conviction.
A federal judge’s finding that their latest conviction was racially tainted would likely exclude testimony about the motive for the killings, Goceljak said.
A judge must sign the prosecutor’s motion to finalize dismissal of the indictment, and attorney Myron Beldock, in a statement on behalf of Carter and Artis, said he hoped for quick consideration by the court.
The case began on June 17, 1966, when two black gunmen entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson and killed the bartender and two patrons. Hours earlier, a black Paterson bartender had been shot to death by a white man.
Carter and Artis were arrested three months later and convicted by an all-white jury in May, 1967.
Carter’s cause was taken up in the 1970s by celebrities such as Bob Dylan, who wrote and sang “The Ballad of Hurricane,” actress Ellen Burstyn, boxer Muhammad Ali and singer Joan Baez.
Carter, now 50, has been living in seclusion since being freed in November, 1985, by U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin. His whereabouts could not be determined Friday, and Beldock refused to give out Carter’s phone number.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 11 had let stand Sarokin’s finding that Carter’s conviction was tainted because prosecutors withheld information from the defense.
Sarokin said the convictions were based on “an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”