Here comes the story of the Hurricane… the man the authorities came to blame

IT’S been a few days since the death of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the American boxer whose wrongful murder conviction was the subject of the amazing Bob Dylan song ‘Hurricane’.
And it’s been a few days to assimilate what his death means to me as a passionate devotee of Dylan’s music.
‘Hurricane’ was the stand-out song on Dylan’s 1975 album Desire, one I have played hundreds of times and used in school lessons to highlight racial prejudice and the injustice of the US judicial system.
For me, Carter and Dylan will always be inseparable.
Rubin Carter, who had prostate cancer, died in his sleep at home in Toronto, last Sunday, aged 76.
He spent a quarter of his life in prison for three murders he did not commit. His imprisonment also ended a promising boxing career.
Carter’s nightmare dates back to the night of 16 June 1967, when three white people were gunned down at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.
Moments later, hometown boxer Rubin Carter and his friend John Artis were pulled over by the police, who took the two men to a nearby hospital to see if one of the dying men could ID Carter and Artis as the gunmen. The victim did not.
Within weeks the Grand Jury investigating the Lafayette murders declined to indict either man.
But three months later, career criminal Alfred Bello, who had been lurking around the Lafayette on the night of 16 June, and was looking for leniency from police, told prosecutors he could identify the two black men as the killers.
On 27 May 1967, with no motive offered by prosecutors, Artis and Carter were convicted on three counts of murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison.
“How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.”

Eight years later in 1975, Rubin Carter sent Bob Dylan a copy of his autobiography The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to #45472.
Dylan visited Carter in prison within a month of receiving the book.
“The first time I saw him, I left knowing one thing … I realized that the man’s philosophy and my philosophy were running down the same road, and you don’t meet too many people like that,” said Dylan in a later interview.
And so the song was born.
Within a few days of the meeting Dylan sat down with producer Jacques Levy and the two men quickly penned ‘Hurricane’.
Part protest song, part historical document, Dylan’s eight-minute epic reads like a legal brief, as the singer punches holes in the prosecutor’s Lafayette killings case, spitting out the lyrics with passion and contempt.
After attorneys at Dylan’s label, Columbia Records, asked for slight changes in the song to avoid possible lawsuits, ‘Hurricane’ was quickly shipped out to radio, where it received heavy airplay.
Dylan also featured the song heavily in his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, which made a stop at the New Jersey prison where Carter was held to show their support.
The Revue, which featured Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Mick Ronson, Allen Ginsberg and Roberta Flack, went on to play massive benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden and the Houston Astrodome to raise funds for Carter’s legal defence.
After Dylan played ‘Hurricane’ on virtually every date of his Rolling Thunder tour, Carter’s incarceration became an unavoidable subject of national discussion.
It also intertwined Dylan and the song permanently with Carter’s own life and campaign.
But what it didn’t do, was set Carter free.
In 1976, following Bello’s recantation, the initial convictions were overturned; Carter and Artis were given another trial. But they were convicted and imprisoned again.
After nine years of submitting appeals, Carter’s case was finally heard for the first time in a federal court in 1985.
The judge ruled that prosecutors had “fatally infected the trial” by promoting a theory of racial revenge without evidence, and withheld evidence that disproved the witness’s identifications.
“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 judge said.
The convictions were overturned on constitutional grounds and Carter was set free. (Artis had been released on parole four years earlier.) The charges were formally dismissed in 1988.
But ‘Hurricane’ wasn’t just a legal brief set to music.
It’s also a great song, a musical freight train that picks up terrifying speed and fury as it roars down the track.
In its unapologetic anger, it remains reminiscent of songs Dylan had written in the early 1960s.
Perhaps it was closest to “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” about a poor Baltimore maid who died after a rich drunken white man William Zanzinger hit her with his cane. Zanzinger was jailed for just six months.
After his release, Rubin Carter moved to Toronto and became active around issues of inequality in the criminal justice system.
He founded Innocence International in 2004 and published a second autobiography, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path From Darkness to Freedom in 2011 with a foreword by Nelson Mandela.
In 1999, he was portrayed by Denzel Washington in Norman Jewison’s film The Hurricane.
Rubin Carter remained active in criminal justice causes until the end of his life.
In February this year, he wrote a column for the New York Daily News campaigning for the exoneration of a Brooklyn man David McCallum who has spent nearly three decades in prison on murder charges.
“If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised,” he wrote.
“In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”
Hurricane: https://vimeo.com/53933900

Poison Chapter 5

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter Five

IN the kitchen of 24 Severn Avenue, Amy was making baked beans on toast for her two unexpected visitors.
“Typical kids, thinking they can survive on chocolate fingers and jelly beans,” she mused.
Amy had known TJ since college and they had become best friends. But while Amy happily worked her time in the bar of a local restaurant, TJ enveloped her life in environmental action and saving endangered animals, such as the orang-utans in the picture that Nathan had shown her.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Rainbow Warriors and Wildlife Action, TJ had joined just about every environmental action group going. She was a real hero in Amy’s eyes.
“But,” thought Amy, “TJ made some nasty enemies.”
She buttered the toast and spooned the beans on top.
“How much should I tell them?” Amy wondered.
In the living room the two boys had the same thoughts about how much they needed to let TJ’s friend know.
“Tea-time!” yelled Amy, and she was soon joined in the small kitchen by two smiling young boys.
“Wash your hands first!” she ordered, “And if you eat all the beans, there is a surprise for pudding!”
After a hearty tea and a surprise of chocolate muffins and custard, the trio sat down in the front room to talk…. but only after Amy had drawn the curtains closed.
“Why have you shut the curtains?” asked Joe, “It’s sunny outside!”
“Just in case we are being watched,” answered Amy nervously.
They all looked nervously at each other.
Amy nodded and sipped at a cup of coffee.
Nathan began to tell what he knew of TJ’s disappearance and her mysterious life-threatening condition.
He pulled out a scribbled hand-written note, and explained he had received it in the post three weeks ago, along with the photo of TJ and the red ape.
He was relieved that on school days he usually got the post first or his dad might have asked some awkward questions.
But Nathan had not recognised the stamps on the envelope it came in. He told Amy it was “foreign” and the postmark bore the name Kuching.
The note told Nathan that his sister was seriously ill in hospital after being attacked while trying to save two baby orang-utans.
She was in a deep coma and only one thing could bring her out of the coma, and maybe then she could tell them all what happened.
The writer needed Joe to milk a small amount of venom from his brother’s Green Tree Viper – “he knows how to do it safely” said the note – and take the vial of venom to an address in London.
But the note went on to say that under no circumstances must either Nathan or Joe tell their parents, nor the police, or TJ could die.
“There are other people trying to find her first,” it added.
The note was signed by Joe’s brother Sam.
He had added a PS saying he would join them as soon as he could.
“Where’s the envelope now?” asked Amy.
“Sorry, I think I threw it in the kitchen bin,” answered Nathan.
Amy moved across to a small desk and switched on an old PC.
Once logged in she Googled the word Kuching.
“My God,” she exclaimed, “It is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo… that’s where orang-utans live…. TJ was always going on about wanting to go there.”
Amy froze and put her right hand to her forehead.
“Now something is beginning to make sense,” she muttered.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe.
Amy explained that she had received two strange mobile text messages from TJ a few weeks earlier, saying she was going on a potentially dangerous mission to help save some endangered animals.
She added that TJ and Sam had been “a bit of an item” for the past six months and were “almost inseparable”.
They said they were going abroad together for a short holiday.
Amy had suggested Tenerife, but TJ had winked and said: “No, someplace else.”
“Urgh gross!” exclaimed Joe, “Your sister and my brother… bet they’ve been snogging!”
“Yuk!” retorted Nathan, poking his tongue out.
“But,” said Amy, “There is something which is now worrying me a lot.”
She told the boys how, about a week ago, she had answered the door to a tall blonde haired man, with steely grey eyes and a deep tan, who said he was a friend of TJ’s and she had asked him to fetch a bag from her room.
“He was quite convincing and nice at first, but I wouldn’t let him in, because I saw another man watching us from a black car across the road, and something did not seem right,” said Amy.
“He became quite angry and told me if I knew what was good for me I would get the bag for him.
“I slammed the door in his face and watched him cross the road and get into the black car with the other man and drive away.
“He had a European accent,” she added suddenly, “Sort of German or maybe Austrian.”
By now Amy was shaking and started to cry.
“I have been really frightened and was going to ring the police, but later that day I got this phone call on my mobile telling me if I told anyone about the visit I would not see TJ again.”
Amy was now in floods of tears and between sobs muttered in frightened tones: “How did he know my mobile number?”
Nathan and Joe sidled up either side of her on the sofa and the three cuddled close.
“I haven’t left the house… but I have seen the car and the blonde haired man in the street every day since then.”
“But where is the bag?” asked Nathan.
Amy reached under the sofa and pulled out a small blue denim handbag.
“I think this is maybe it,” she said.

Back at Greenfield Mansion, Felicity was hurrying across the grass towards her studio with a flustered and red faced Bob beside her, carrying her easel and painting gear.
“It is unlike Nicolas to be so worried,” she said as she allowed Bob to put her painting things away while she tripped through the scullery door.
Ignoring Joy, who was ironing a pile of boy’s jeans and T shirts, Felicity walked towards the drawing room.
“Oh Nicolas, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting… whatever is it?” she asked.
Nicolas got up from the Chesterfield, smiled wanly and explained his afternoon discoveries.
“Oh my Lord!” responded Felicity.
“I have not seen Nathan at all today, and come to think of it, have not seen Joe since breakfast… and Bob says neither he, Helen nor Joy have seen him either.”
Nicolas held Felicity’s hand and quietly but purposefully said: “I think this maybe more serious than I first thought!”
The two parents looked worryingly into each other’s eyes.
Felicity blinked first.
At that moment Bob reappeared at the drawing room door.
“Ma’am, there is the young Mr Anthony Woodward to see you… he’s says it’s urgent,” said the butler.
Felicity and Nicolas turned as the strapping and dashingly handsome Tony Woodward strode into the room.
“Your ladyship,” he exclaimed, ignoring the presence of Nicolas.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but Clara did not turn up for her violin lesson this morning and I can’t get any reply to calls I have made to her mobile phone.”
“But,” said Lady Greenfield, “I thought she was having cello lessons?”
“Oh, sorry,” replied Tony, “I meant cello, just a slip of the tongue,” he lied, blushing.
There was a silence.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Lady Greenfield. “Follow me….”
Felicity, Nicolas, Tony and Bob the butler together hurried into the main hallway and up a flight of stairs to the first landing.
The first bedroom they visited was that of a small boy, littered with toys and computer games, with a large drum kit standing in the corner.
Felicity glanced around and exclaimed: “Well, the only things missing are my son’s GI Joe bag… and my son!
“And possibly this torch,” she added, holding the silvered flashlight in her left hand.
The four adults ventured across the landing to a much larger bedroom.
On the unmade bed was a Jack Wills clothing catalogue, an array of designer blouses and jeans and a small pink mobile phone flashing and making a pinging sound.
Tony picked up the phone and clicked it open.
“Blimey!” he started, and blushing red again added: “Didn’t realise I had sent her quite so many text messages and calls today!”
“So,” said Lady Greenfield, “We are now missing two young boys and my daughter Clara!”
“And I believe the wolf Blue,” interrupted Bob, “None of the staff have seen the animal since this morning!”

Some hours later at 24 Severn Avenue, Amy tucked Nathan and Joe into the double bed in TJ’s room.
The boys looked exhausted, but she was glad of their company.
She peered out through the bedroom curtains.
The pair of curious brown eyes had departed the street to a bed and breakfast nearby.
But two sinister grey eyes still watched the house from behind the steam of a Chinese takeaway in the front driver’s seat of the black BMW car.
And from under the laurel bush the piercing green eyes watched everything.