John Artis, who was wrongly convicted with boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in a triple murder case famous in a 1975 song by Bob Dylan and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, died at the age of 75.
e died of a stomach aneurysm at his home in Hampton, Virginia, said Fred Hogan, the longtime friend who worked to help overturn the convictions.
The two men were convicted after a 1966 murder at a bar in Paterson, New Jersey.
The three victims were white; witnesses said the men who killed them were black. Artis and Carter were each sentenced to three life sentences after being convicted by an all-white jury based largely on the testimony of two thieves who later denied it.
Dylan became aware of Carter’s difficulties after reading the boxer’s autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote the song Hurricane, which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975.
After years of pleas and lobbying, including boxing great Muhammad Ali and other celebrities, the men were released.
Artis was granted probation in 1981. In 1985, U.S. District Judge H Lee Sarokin dismissed the convictions, writing that the prosecution was “preached on appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”
Mr Hogan said Artis was the “forgotten man” in the case, which attracted widespread attention to Carter, but little to Artis. He said Carter often called Artis his “hero” because Artis turned down an offer for reduced prison time if he involved Carter in the killings.
They remained close friends until Carter died in 2014, Mr. Hogan said.
“John was promised a lot of things that would help him avoid prison if he said Rubin was involved in the crime. John said, ‘I’m not lying. We didn’t do it, we weren’t there, and I won’t be involved in any of that, ”said Mr. Hogan.
Mr. Hogan said Artis moved back to Virginia, where he was born and spent part of his childhood, in the late 1980s. The New York Times reported that Artis was advising inmates at the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center.
He has also volunteered and worked on unfair conviction cases in the United States and Canada, Mr. Hogan said.
“He had a relatively healthy attitude compared to what most people would have. He just wanted to put that (prison time) behind him,” Mr. Hogan said.
“He always had a smile, and his famous saying was, ‘Cold beans.'”