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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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Beginning in 1980, Carter developed a relationship with Lesra Martin, a teenager from a Brooklyn ghetto who had read his autobiography and initiated a correspondence. Martin was living with a group of Canadians who had formed an entrepreneurial commune and had taken on the responsibilities for his education. Before long, Martin's benefactors, most notably Sam Chaiton, Terry Swinton, and Lisa Peters,
developed a strong bond with Carter and began to work for his release.
Their efforts intensified after the summer of 1983, when they began to work in New York with Carter's legal defense team, including lawyers Myron Beldock and Lewis Steel and constitutional scholar Leon Friedman, to seek a writ of habeas corpus from U.S. District Court Judge H. Lee Sarokin.
On November 7, 1985, Sarokin handed down his decision to free Carter, stating that "The extensive record clearly demonstrates that [the] petitioners' convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure." The state continued to appeal Sarokin's decision -- all the way to the United States Supreme Court -- until February 1988, when a Passaic County (NJ) state judge formally dismissed the 1966 indictments of Carter and Artis and finally ended the 22-year long saga.
Upon his release, Carter moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, into the home of the group that had worked to free him. He worked with Chaiton and Swinton on a book, Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Untold Story of the Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, published in 1991. He and Peters were married, but the couple separated when Carter moved out of the commune.
The former prizefighter, who was given an honorary championship title belt in 1993 by the World Boxing Council, now serves as director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted, headquartered in his house in Toronto. He also serves as a member of the board of directors of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and the Alliance for Prison Justice in Boston.
In 1999, widespread interest in the story of Rubin Carter was revived with a major motion picture, The Hurricane, directed by Norman Jewison and starring Denzel Washington. The movie was largely based on Carter's 1974 autobiography and Chaiton and Swinton's 1991 book, which was re-released in late 1999. In 2000, James S. Hirsch published a new authorized biography, Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter.
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