The Hurricane Tapes: Robert Mohl, Rubin Carter & telling the 'other side' of the story

In 1967, middleweight boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter and John Artis were convicted of triple murder in the United States. They spent almost 20 years in prison, maintaining their innocence, before being released. BBC World Service has investigated the murders - at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey - in their podcast series The Hurricane Tapes. This is their story.

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A triple murder. A guilty verdict. Forty hours of tape recordings from Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter tell the real story

Former Paterson police detective Robert Mohl has, to put it bluntly, an old-fashioned view of the world.

We met him for an hour-long lunch in a tiny Italian restaurant in New Jersey to discuss Rubin Carter and what it was like to be in the police in 1960s America.

He was polite and friendly - in fact, the only thing he asked of us during the whole hour was to swap seats with him because "cops don't like to have their backs to the door".

Some things never go away.

Getting the other side of the story is incredibly important to us. After all, the whole point of The Hurricane Tapes is to tell the full and true story, because that's never been done before.

Mohl was the first 'anti-Carter' person we sat down with - although he wouldn't be the last - and he epitomises the difficult relationship between the black community and the police.

There were moments during our interview with Mohl where we sat, slack-jawed, as he told us in a very matter-of-fact way about Carter, and his memories of the case.

Mohl spoke with nothing short of glee about his time policing race riots and chasing down what he called "30 IQ" people.

And there was more than a hint of a smile when he recalled sliding his shotgun under John Artis' chin when he was finally able to arrest him for the Lafayette Bar and Grill murders in 1976.


"Only black lives matter, right?"

That's the most memorable line from our interview, and I suspect allowing him to say it unchecked may prompt some criticism.

Ultimately, had we interrupted and challenged Mohl constantly, we would never have got the incriminating anecdote he told us about the way the police handled key witness Alfred Bello.

We couldn't believe our ears when he started telling us about the day he was told Bello had been in a fight with one of his guards.

So what did he do? He told us he went and beat Bello up.

He assaulted the key witness in the case because he wasn't behaving the way the police wanted.

If you asked Mohl if he's a racist he'd say no. He'd tell you about all the black informants he had during his time as a cop in Paterson, and underline the fact every one of them was telling him Rubin Carter committed the murders.

The Carter tapes

Although it was difficult, we left the restaurant with a greater understanding of Carter's struggles with the police.

He talks on the tapes about the police wanting him off the streets. And based on our meeting with Mohl, it is hard to argue with that.

That does not, however, mean Carter and Artis are innocent. That required more investigating.

Each week, BBC Sport will publish a new article to coincide with the latest episode of The Hurricane Tapes. A longer feature piece on the BBC World Service's investigation will then be published at the end of the podcast series.

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