Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who became a symbol of racism in the U.S. justice system following convictions on charges of murder, died Sunday at 76 after battling prostate cancer. Carter was convicted twice of the same murders, in 1967 and 1976, both which were later overturned.
Carter was released in 1985 after a federal court reversed his conviction on the grounds that his constitutional rights had been violated. Carter and an associate, John Artis, who were both black, had been convicted in the 1966 murders of three white men in New Jersey based on the testimony of two witnesses who later recanted. Prosecutors alleged that the murders were acts of “racial revenge” committed in retaliation for the killing of Leroy Holloway, the stepfather of one of Artis and Carter’s friends, earlier that night. Carter, an Army veteran who spent time in prison shortly after leaving the armed forces, earned the nickname “Hurricane” for his skill as a middleweight boxer.
Carter’s case was popularized by a song written by folk singer Bob Dylan, and actor Denzel Washington earned an Academy Award nomination for portraying him in the 1999 film Hurricane. Following his release, Carter became an activist focusing on inequities in the criminal justice system.