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Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Trials: 1967, 1988

Moving In On Carter, First Trial Ends In Conviction, Second Conviction Overturned On Appeal

Defendant: Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: First Trial: Raymond Brown; Second Trial: Myron Beldock; Federal Court Appeal: Myron Beldock, Leon Friedman, Lewis Steel
Chief Prosecutors: First Trial: Vincent Hall; Second Trial: Ronald Marmo; Federal Court Appeal: John Goceljak Judges: First Trial: Samuel Larner; Second Trial: Bruno Leopizzi; Federal Court Appeal: H. Lee Sarokin
Place: First Trial: Paterson, New Jersey; Second Trial: Paterson, New Jersey; Final Appeal: Newark, New Jersey
Date of Trials: First Trial: April 7, 1967-May 26, 1967; Second Trial: November 11 , 1976-December 20, 1976; Final Appeal Filed: February 13, 1985; Heard, July 26, 1985; Decision, November 7, 1985
Verdicts: First Trial: Guilty on three counts of first-degree murder; Second Trial: Guilty on three counts of first-degree murder; Final Appeal: Overturned the state's case, trial, and judgment on grounds of withholding evidence and an unacceptable charge of a motive
Sentences: First Trial: two consecutive life sentences, one concurrent life sentence; Second Trial: Two consecutive life sentences, one concurrent life sentence; Final Appeal: Carter released from prison

SIGNIFICANCE: This would have been one of the more publicized legal cases of its era if only because it involved three murders and an alleged murderer who was a nationally-ranked boxer, but what struck such a controversial note were its undertones of racial prejudice and its overtones of celebrity charisma. Beyond its two major trials, a series of appeals, and numerous lives caught up in its wake, the case generated several books, a well-known song, and a powerful movie. And to this day, because the original prosecutors would not accept the final verdict of the courts, the case is officially "unsolved."

Shortly after 2 A.M. on June 17, 1966, two men entered the Lafayette Grill, a dreary bar in a working-class neighborhood of Paterson, New Jersey. One of the men carried a12-gauge shotgun; the other had a .32 caliber handgun. With little warning and no apparent provocation, the men shot and instantly killed the bartender and a man at the bar and shot and seriously wounded another male and female patron (the woman died of complications a month later). All the victims were whites; the two gunmen were black. When the police arrived on the scene, two witnesses reported that they had seen two black men flee from the bar and drive off in a white car.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972