We were the lawyers for Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and John Artis during the many years that they fought against their unconstitutional convictions in the New Jersey courts for murder. They were falsely accused and twice convicted of killing three white people in a Paterson bar in 1966. Rubin’s unfortunate death compels us to reflect on the many defects in the criminal justice system that led to those convictions and that hindered their efforts to obtain justice.
First, the case shows the importance of federal courts issuing writs of habeas corpus to correct and overturn wrongful state convictions. Carter and Artis were finally released only because an extraordinary, thorough and uncompromising federal judge, H. Lee Sarokin, examined the entire 19-year record and concluded — contrary to the decision in the state courts — that the convictions were “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”
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