Hurricane Carter

Reporter: Matt White

"I refused to be destroyed." "And there's two reasons for incarceration - to keep you or to kill you .. Those are the only two reasons and I defy anyone to dispute that." "You have to realise that my generation .. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mega Evers, it was my generation that said: we would not take this segregation anymore, we will not stand for it."

His life has already been captured in song, and on film. But these days, the Hurricane tells his own story. "I was a so called celebrity at the time you know .. A tough contender for the middleweight boxing championship of the world and I said 'how can you people do this to me, how can you do this to me. Well I'm not gonna let you do it .. They put me in prison to destroy me. I didn't go to jail for killin nobody. Went to jail because I didn't like segregation."

He was a showman. A professional boxer in his prime. Then, his world came crashing down. In 1966, Rubin Hurricane Carter was convicted of a triple murder - a crime he didn't commit. His fight for freedom lasted 20 years. "The man that walked into that prison and the man that came out 20 years later were two totally different people. They didn't think alike, they didn't feel alike, they didn't even look alike. Two totally different people. And as I sit here with you today Matt, this is the person that I am. I love the person that I am today. The other person was a mean but decent person but he was mean. He would hurt you if he did something to you you know. But this person is a different person."

Since his release in 1985, Carter has been on a worldwide campaign to fight injustice. "There's over 44 innocence projects operating in the United States alone. Plus Canada, plus other places. Well I've been in this wrongful conviction business now for 44 years. 20 years on that side as an innocent person wrongfully convicted of a crime and 20 years on this side of the bars.

Defending innocent people from wrongful conviction has become my life's work. People get and pardon my expression, people get pissed off about that you know. And that's what made me enter this wrongful conviction business because I saw how difficult it was for me to get out of prison even though I had Bob Dylan, Muhammed Ali, Ellen Burstyn... I had all these high-powered people supporting me and yet I just narrowly stuck to the eye of the needle."

It was Bob Dylan's 1975 song "the Hurricane" that took Carter's case mainstream.How much did Bob Dylan's song help your cause, or change your cause? "A whole lot. You guys wouldn't have known a thing about me if it were not for Bob Dylan. So after I sent the book to Bob Dylan, on his way back from England, because he was doing a tour of England at the time, on his way back from England he stopped off at Trinson State Prison and stayed with me for 3 days. We talked and talked and talked and talked for three days and then he went away. A week later he came back with this song "The Hurricane". You know and I listened to it and I said wow, listen to that, this is beautiful, it's brilliant. But you know what Matt, you can't dance to it."

What was the one thing, the main thing that you missed about your life when you were in prison? "I didn't miss anything. It's easy to become a victim."You didn't miss the boxing?"No. No I was glad because I had this conviction not taken place then I would be the same old angry mean prize fighter that I was before. Boy hit, full man moustache and that kind of stuff - you know what I mean. I'll wear a boy hit before anybody even thought about wearing a boy hit."

"November 8 1985 was my new date of birth. Everything that had gone on before was no more. This was my new date of birth. So I am enjoying life on several levels. First of all in November coming I will be 24 years old… yah in a 73-year-old's body of experience. Who can't ask for anything better than that!"

Do you also get people who say this story doesn't hold up, this man is not innocent, this man shouldn't have been released?"That is one of the most diabolical things about being wrongly convicted because no body would ever think you're not guilty. The system said you're guilty. People believe in the system, although they don't know the system, they don't know what the system is about."

He now lives in Canada, turning his back on America as soon as he left prison. His trip to Australia came through Justice WA - an organisation setup to help those like himself who've been wrongfully convicted. But no matter where he goes, the Hurricane's message is the same. "Dare to dream. Dare to dream because without the dream nothing can be different than what it is right now. But once you're able to dream, once you're able to visualize your dream you change. You know, your dream becomes your aim and only with a permanent aim can anything be accomplished. Whatever helps you to achieve your dream is real, is right, is good and is true and whatever zaps your energy or slows you down from achieving your dream is wrong, is bad, it's a lie. Dare to dream. You know what I mean? You just must. Dare to dream."

For more information visit: www.justicewa.com