The Hurricane Tapes: The second trial & racial revenge theory

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

The Passaic County Courthouse is a big, imposing building in the centre of Paterson.

It's busy. Very busy. Once you've walked through the metal detectors and been patted down by the security guards, you enter a narrow corridor that leads to a bank of lifts.

The doors open and in we go.

Defence lawyers to the left of us, accused to the right, prosecutors in front and victims' families behind. No-one says a word.

It's comfortably the most awkward we've ever felt in a lift.

We get off on the third floor and are guided into a magnificent-looking courtroom, with 50-foot-high ceilings and wood-panelled walls.

It's like time has stood still since the state of New Jersey brought their second prosecution against Rubin Carter and John Artis.

Paintings of every judge to sit in this room hang on the walls, including the man who oversaw New Jersey v Carter and Artis, round two. "Honourable Judge Bruno Leopizzi", his plaque reads.

At the 1976 trial, he allowed the prosecution to introduce a motive - one of racial revenge - to proceedings.

This would change the course of Carter and Artis' lives forever.


The three murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill were not the only ones to take place in Paterson that night.

A few hours earlier, a black bar owner was shot dead by a white man.

The prosecution claimed it was this shooting that motivated Carter and Artis to kill James Oliver, Hazel Tanis and Fred Nauyoks.

It was not easy to find Ron Marmo, the man who introduced that motive. He hasn't spoken to the media once in more than 40 years.

In 1976, he was the assistant prosecutor, which meant he was the man who questioned Artis on the stand. He would have questioned Carter, too, had he chosen to testify.

Rubin Carter outside the Passaic Court House in 1976

Marmo's opponent was defence lawyer Lou Steel.

He still works in the same Manhattan office 40 years on, with a prime view of the Chrysler Building across the road.

The two lawyers were not fans of one another, and Steel felt he was facing an uphill battle when Judge Leopizzi allowed the racial revenge theory to stand.


There were undoubtedly problems with the case.

We found the lie detector results from the night of the murders. They say - and it was widely reported in the press - that Carter and Artis were lying when they denied committing murder.

However, we also found a grand jury statement from the lead detective, who said Carter and Artis both passed their polygraphs.

Despite this, Carter was optimistic. The day the jury went out, he told the press how he thought the "people in America have grown since 1966".

Nine hours later, he and Artis were convicted once again.

But that was not the end of the story. Not by a long way.

Lie detector results

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. The tapes had been missing for nearly 10 years since author Ken Klonsky recorded a series of conversations with Carter for his book Eye Of The Hurricane: My Path From Darkness To Freedom. The audio contained in the tapes has not previously been heard by anyone other than Ken and Rubin Carter.

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