slowdive: Bob Dylan - Hurricane
This song is about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who spent 19 years in jail for a murder Dylan felt he did not commit.
Carter's case is complex and filled with legal missteps. On June 17, 1966, three white people were gunned down at a bar in Paterson, New Jersey called the Lafayette Grill. Witnesses described two black men as the murderers; police pulled over Carter and his friend John Artis, who were black, but otherwise didn't fit the description of the killers. They were released, and Carter resumed his boxing career, losing a fight on August 6, but two months later he and Artis were charged with the murders.
The case hinged on the testimony of Arthur Bradley and Alfred Bello, two white men with criminal records who claimed they were en route to rob a factory when they witnessed the shooting, and that Carter and Artis were the killers. Carter was sentenced to 30 years to life; Artis got 15 to life; Bradley and Bello got reduced sentences for their crimes.
In prison, Carter worked relentlessly to tell his story in an effort to earn his freedom. Many sympathized with his cause, including a writer who helped him publish his autobiography, The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472, which was published in 1974. Carter had a copy sent to Dylan, who read it and took up his cause, writing this song about him and raising money for him on his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
Soon after Carter's book was published, Bradley and Bello changed their stories, claiming they were coerced into their testimony. In 1976, Carter and Artis' convictions were overturned, but months later were again convicted in a second trial. In 1985, the case reached the Supreme Court, and this time Carter and Artis were exonerated for good. Carter died on April 20, 2014 at age 76. His professional boxing record was 27-12-1.