Rubin Carter was an American middleweight boxer, who is best known not because of his sports career but because of his murder conviction in 1967 and exoneration in 1985. Carter, born in Clifton, New Jersey on May 6, 1937, the fourth of seven children. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday, he was sentenced to a juvenile reformatory for assault and robbery. Carter was a 5-foot 8-inch, 160-pound boxer who got his start fighting after he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After leaving the army, he fought in the amateur circuit, knocking out thirty-six opponents and eventually working his way into the professional ranks in 1961. Because of his rapid boxing style, he was given the nickname "the Hurricane."
Carter"s middleweight title shot came in 1964 when he faced defending champion Joey Giardello in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The fight went fifteen rounds, and Carter lost on a split decision. Carter continued boxing and was training for his second title bout with the new champ, Dick Tiger, when he and his friend, John Artis, were arrested in 1966 and charged with murdering three white people during a robbery in Paterson, New Jersey. Although the two key prosecution witnesses were felons who had been recently released from prison, an all-white jury convicted Carter and Artis on May 27, 1967.
Nearly eight years later, in 1975, after the two key witnesses recanted their testimony, blaming the police for pressuring them into testifying, and new information surfaced about the robbery. Carter and Artis appealed their convictions. A new trial was granted, but on December 22, 1976, both Carter and Artis were once again convicted of murder.
Despite being twice convicted, Carter continued to claim his innocence and work for his release. With the help of new attorneys, in 1985, he petitioned to have his conviction overturned. U.S. District Court Judge Haddon Lee Sarokin granted his petition, stating that the two previous convictions, “were based upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”