Rubin "Hurricane" Carter has become a symbol, both negative and positive, for American's judicial system.
Rubin carter's case has had a profound impact on accused and convicted criminals today. The advent of DNA technology has helped to reduce the number of wrongful convictions, and has also been instrumental in exonerating a number of convicted prisoners. While DNA technology has had an important impact on the criminal justice system, experts argue that the number of wrongful convictions is an increasing problem in the United States. One website lists 22 potential wrongful convictions on Texas' death row alone. Racism played an important role in Carter's original conviction, and today allegations of racism continue to plague the criminal justice system. The legal damage to the right of habeas corpus by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 has reduced the ability of prisoners to demand the right to be brought before a judge to determine if they have been unlawfully imprisoned. Altogether, while Rubin Carter's case brought a great deal of public attention and sympathy to the issue of wrongful convictions, accused and convicted criminals today continue to fact the problem of wrongful conviction.
Rubin Carter, an African-American was first arrested on suspicion of involvement in a triple murder at the Lafayette Grill. An eyewitness who was injured in the shooting testified that Carter was not involved in the crime. Despite this evidence, and on the basis of conflicting evidence by convicted felons, Carter was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison, and finally won a retrial in 1976, when he was convicted again. Once again, Carter protested his innocence and tried to fight the conviction, and was finally freed in 1985 when an appellate judge decreed Carter had not received a fair trial. In 2000, the Hollywood movie, Hurricane starring Denzel Washington, brought further attention to the case that had already received an enormous amount of media attention (Wikipedia).
Since Carter's original conviction, the potential to be wrongfully convicted by America's justice system has improved as a result of the increased use of DNA technology as criminal evidence. In a booklet entitled "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology," the United States government notes that DNA technology can "help minimize the risk that innocent individuals are wrongly accused or convicted." The booklet then lists two separate examples of men who were released from prison after decades of incarceration, based on new DNA evidence (U.S. Government).
Despite improvements in the justice system brought about by DNA technology, many Americans continue to be wrongfully convicted to this day in the United States of America. On their website, the Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP) list a number of convictions that they feel should be investigated as potential cases of wrongful conviction. The list contains 22 potential wrongful convictions among death row inmates in Texas alone. While the site clearly notes that it has not investigated the merits of the cases in question (CUADP).
Paul Craig Roberts' assertions that wrongful convictions are an increasing problem in the U.S. add credibility to the argument that there are many Americans currently wrongfully jailed. Roberts suggests that a loss of legal principles that protect the innocent, a breakdown of prosecutorial ethic and plea bargains have all combined to increase the number of wrongful convictions. As a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Roberts' assertions carry some weight.
Racism was allegedly an important component of Carter's original convictions. The bartender who died in the incident (James Oliver) was white, and the majority of police where the crime occurred were white males. Carole Bos argues that there was a large amount of racial tension in the area in 1966, potentially contributing to Carter's conviction. Further, Carole Bos notes that a prosecutor commented."..we know that in 1966 there were many blacks with legitimate grievances and some blacks and some whites did not act as law-abiding citizens." Further, Carole Bos, on the Law Buzz website, notes that Carter was originally convicted by an all-white jury. In contrast, The Graphic Witness Inc. asserts that "the 1976 jury that convicted Carter included two blacks."