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At the height of his career, boxer Rubin Carter was twice wrongly convicted of a triple murder and was imprisoned for nearly two decades.
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Rubin Carter was born on May 6, 1937, in Clifton, New Jersey. In 1966, at the height of his boxing career, Carter was twice wrongfully convicted of a triple murder and imprisoned for nearly two decades. During the mid-1970s, his case became a cause celébrè for a number of civil rights leaders, politicians and entertainers. He was ultimately exonerated in 1985.
"There is no bitterness. If I was bitter, that would mean they won."
"I never agreed to wear the prison clothes, eat the prison food….I felt to do that would be to implicitly agree that I was a criminal settling into the routine of a prisoner who'd accepted that title…"
"…they sentenced me to a life of living death. And that is the only way of describing prison."
Professional boxer Rubin Carter was born on May 6, 1937, in Clifton, New Jersey. In 1966, at the height of his boxing career, Carter was wrongfully convicted -- twice -- of a triple murder and imprisoned for nearly two decades. During the mid-1970s, his case became a cause celébrè for a number of civil rights leaders, politicians and entertainers. He was ultimately exonerated, in 1985, after a United States district court judge declared the convictions to be based on racial prejudice.
Carter, who grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested and sent to the Jamesburg State Home for Boys at age 12 after he attacked a man with a Boy Scout knife. He claimed the man was a pedophile who had been attempting to molest one of his friends. Carter escaped before his six-year term was up and in 1954 he joined the Army, where he served in a segregated corps and began training as a boxer. He won two European light-welterweight championships and in 1956 returned to Paterson with the intention of becoming a professional boxer. Almost immediately upon his return, police arrested Carter and forced him to serve the remaining 10 months of his sentence in a state reformatory.
In 1957, Carter was again arrested, this time for purse snatching; he spent four years in Trenton State, a maximum-security prison, for that crime. After his release, he channeled his considerable anger, towards his situation and that of Paterson's African-American community, into his boxing -- he turned pro in 1961 and began a startling four-fight winning streak, including two knockouts.
For his lightning-fast fists, Carter soon earned the nickname "Hurricane" and became one of the top contenders for the world middleweight crown. In December 1963, in a non-title bout, he beat then-welterweight world champion Emile Griffith in a first round KO. Although he lost his one shot at the title, in a 15-round split decision to reigning champion Joey Giardello in December 1964, he was widely regarded as a good bet to win his next title bout.
As one of the most famous citizens of Paterson, Carter made no friends with the police, especially during the summer of 1964, when he was quoted in The Saturday Evening Post as expressing anger towards the occupations by police of black neighborhoods. His flamboyant lifestyle (Carter frequented the city's nightclubs and bars) and juvenile record rankled the police, as did the vehement statements he had allegedly made advocating violence in the pursuit of racial justice.
Carter was training for his next shot at the world middleweight title (against champion Dick Tiger) in October 1966 when he was arrested for the June 17 triple murder of three patrons at the Lafayette Bar & Grill in Paterson.
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