John Artes, co-defendant in ‘Hurricane Carter’ case, dies at 75
Hampton, Virginia. John Artes, who was wrongly convicted along with boxer Robin “Hurricane” Carter in a triple murder case made famous in the 1975 song by Bob Dylan and the 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, has died. He was 75 years old.
Fred Hogan, a longtime friend who worked to help overturn Artis and Carter’s conviction, said Artis died on November 7 of a gastric aneurysm at his home in Hampton, Virginia.
Artis and Carter were convicted in 1966 of murder in a bar in Patterson, New Jersey. The three victims were white; Witnesses said the two men who killed them were black. Artis and Carter were each sentenced to three life terms after their conviction by an all-white jury based primarily on the testimony of two thieves who later retracted.
Dylan realized Carter’s plight after reading the boxer’s autobiography. Carter met and co-wrote the song “Hurricane,” which he sang on the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour in 1975. After years of pleas and advocacy, including by boxing great Muhammad Ali and other celebrities, the men were released.
Artis was released in 1981. In 1985, US District Judge H. Lee Sarokin overturned the convictions, writing that the prosecution “was based on racism appeal rather than cause, concealment rather than disclosure.”
Hogan said Artis was the “forgotten man” in the case, which drew widespread attention to Carter, but little to Artis. He said Carter often called Artis his “hero” because Artis had turned down an offer of a reduced prison sentence if Carter was involved in the murders. Hogan said Artis and Carter remained good friends until Carter’s death in 2014.
“John got promises of a lot of things that would have helped him avoid prison if he said Robin was involved in the crime. I’m not lying,” John said. ‘We didn’t do it, we weren’t there,’ said Hogan, ‘and I won’t be involved in any of that.
Hogan said Artis returned to Virginia, where he was born and spent part of his childhood, in the late 1980s. The New York Times reported that Artis advised inmates at the Norfolk juvenile detention center.
Hogan said Artis has also volunteered and worked on wrongful conviction cases in both the United States and Canada.
“He had a relatively healthy attitude compared to what most people would have. He just wanted to leave (jail time) behind,” Hogan said.
“He was always smiling, and his famous quote was ‘Great beans.'”
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