His ordeal and its racial overtones were publicized in Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal.
In a statement issued Sunday, Washington praised Carter’s “tireless fight to ensure justice for all.”
Carter and Artis had been driving around Carter’s hometown on the night that three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill. They were convicted by an all-white jury largely on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.
Carter was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976, but he was sent back for nine more years after being convicted in a second trial.
“I wouldn’t give up,” Carter said in an interview in 2011 on PBS. “No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn’t give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people ... found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.”
Dylan, a boxing aficionado, became aware of Carter’s plight after reading the fighter’s autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote “Hurricane,” which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975. The song concludes: “That’s the story of the Hurricane/But it won’t be over till they clear his name/And give him back the time he’s done/Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been/The champion of the world.”
Muhammad Ali and Coretta Scott King spoke out on Carter’s behalf. Other celebrities also worked toward his release, joined by a network of friends and volunteers.
Carter eventually won his freedom from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that the boxer’s prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”