Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
and
the Two Survivors

Carter claims that Willie Marins, who survived the Lafayette Grill shootings, and Hazel Tanis, who survived the shootings for one month, both stated that he and John Artis were not the killers. The fact is, neither witness cleared Carter and Artis.

(Parental advisory: some foul language)

 Myth

Four in the mornin' and they haul Rubin in

Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs

The wounded man looks up through his one dyin' eye

Says, "Wha'd you bring him in here for? He ain't the guy!"

from "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy

 Willie Marins

William "Willie" Marins, 42... had been battling numerous health problems, including tuberculosis....
Marins, who lived nearby in Paterson, was [shot] in the left temple and [the bullet] passed through his forehead near his right eye without killing him. He stumbled to the floor, and, he later said, played dead.

Mike Kelly, The Record, Hackensack, NJ
March 26, 2000

 Partial Timeline

1966 -- Shooting at the Lafayette Bar & Grill. William Marins and Hazel Tanis, two of the four victims, survive.

1966 -- Hazel Tanis dies of her wounds, one month after the shooting.
 
1967 -- Marins testifies at first trial that he cannot identify (or exonerate) Carter and Artis.
1970-73 - Carter writes The 16th Round, in which he admits that Marins did not exonerate him.

1973-- Marins dies of causes unrelated to the shooting

1975 -- Dylan releases the song Hurricane, which claims Marins said, Carter "ain't the guy."
 
1976-- Marins' testimony is read at the second trial.
1976 -- Carter is reconvicted and sent back to jail.

But apart from the bullet through the head, Mr. Marins, how do you feel?

"If Mr. Marins had identified Rubin Carter and John Artis as the two men who had been in that tavern, who would have been the first to attack the identification of the two men but the defense, bearing in mind all of the circumstances, the gunshot wound through the head, the loss of sight in the left eye and the fleeting glance that he had of these two individuals?"

Prosecutor Vincent Hull at the first trial, summation speech to the jury

"Willie was so scared. He was in surgery. They asked him, 'is that Carter?' and Willie was so scared he shook his head 'no.' He didn't want to know nothing. He was petrified."

-- Patty Valentine

Hi, Honey! How was your day?

A little after 8 o'clock on the evening of June 16th, Detective Edward Callahan responds to a report of a shooting at the Waltz Inn. He goes in and nearly trips over the body of Roy Holloway, the owner. He recognizes the shooter, Frank Conforti, still armed with a shotgun. Callahan draws his service revolver, leaps behind a pool table for protection and talks Conforti into surrender.

Then, with the help of some other policemen who arrive at the scene, he gets his suspect out the door and through a large and angry crowd who shout, "Give him to us!"

Eddie Rawls, the victim's stepson, shows up at the police station and yells at Callahan to do something about the murder: "You better do it, or we will goddam do something about it."

A few hours later, in the early morning, Callahan responds to a report of a multiple shooting at the Lafayette Grill. After viewing the carnage at the scene, he goes to see Mrs. Tanis, horribly wounded, at the hospital.

By five in the morning Callahan's standing in the emergency department at St. Joseph's Hospital with Carter and Artis. Carter calls him a "dirty sonafabitch" and a "dirty motherfucker."

 From the first
Police Report

 Hazel Tanis: "She stated that 2 coloured men entered the far door of the tavern. The taller of the 2 was armed with a shotgun and the shorter with a pistol. Neither spoke a word and the tall man began firing the shotgun."

Willie Marins: "Both men were Negroes, the one with the shotgun being about 6' slim build light complexion and pencil line mustache. He could give no description of the 2nd man as the first man blocked his vision."

See also:

How the movie got it wrong

The arrest

Carter's alibis

Sufficiency of Evidence

What was the motive?

Carter claims the eyewitnesses cleared him, but his own book proves him wrong

--and he's been getting away with it for years
Carter quotes this "didn't say we were, didn't say we weren't" judgement of the New Jersey Supreme Court in The 16th Round "The State failed in its effort to prove a dying declaration by Mrs. Tanis. We know only that she and also the surviving patron (Willie Marins) were unable to identify either defendant, but the testimony does not suggest that either patron was able to say affirmatively that the defendants were not the offenders."
Carter also has this to say about Willie Marins in The 16th Round: "(Marins) didn't say that John Artis and I were the guilty parties, but he wouldn't say in court that we weren't, either. Throughout his examination, Marins kept stressing that he was in a complete state of shock on the morning following the shooting and couldn't possibly have known what he was saying when he was being questioned at the hospital by the police."
But in front of his audiences for his motivational speeches, he tells a different story. "Even though I did not remotely fit the description of the assailants... even though the two surviving victims did not and could not identify me and even said it was not me..... I was still convicted."


Scene from The Hurricane
After Rubin Carter and John Artis were apprehended by the police, they were brought to St. Joseph's Hospital to see if Willie Marins, shot in the head, could identify them. This encounter has been described in sworn court testimony (below), in books (below), in song (above left ) and in the Hurricane movie (below).

Scene One, Take Five -- or,
Nice Bedside Manner, Carter!

Five versions of what happened at Marins' bedside


Warning, offensive and bigoted language

From Carter's autobiography, The 16th Round.

Carter does not claim that Marins said anything.

 

"Can he talk, Doc?" asked the bull-faced cop who a few minutes earlier had acted like he was Quick-Draw McGraw....With the aid of one of the nurses, [the doctor] raised the victim's head. The man was weak, pale and seemed nearly dead; he had a ragged hole in his face where his left eye had been...

"Are these the two men who shot you?"

For what seemed an eternity, the injured man stared at me intently with his one remaining eye, glanced at John, then stared back at me some more. I almost cried with relief when he began to shake his head from side to side.

"But sir!" The cop said urgently. "Are you sure these are not the men?"

Then I saw it coming.... because to this critically injured man teetering there on the brink of death, all black people would look the same, especially those the cops had brought in..... I closed my eyes and clenched my fists in rage, and at that moment I might indeed have been able to commit murder. "Dirty sonafabitch!..... Dirty motherfucker!"

From Lazarus and the Hurricane

--the (amazing mind-reading) Canadians do not state that Detective Callahan or Marins used the n-word, they just accuse Callahan of thinking it. Again, Marins doesn't say anything.

"Can he talk, Doc?" asks the detective who appears to be in charge, Sergeant Robert Callahan...

"Can you make out these guys' faces?" asks Callahan. The wounded man nods weakly. "Are these the two that shot you?" The injured man stares at Rubin, glances at John, then stares back at Rubin again. Finally, he shakes his head from side to side, no.

"But, sir! Are you sure these aren't the guys? Look carefully now!"

"Dirty sonafobitch!" snarls Rubin to the cop, hearing the "you-know-all-niggers-look-alike" tone in his voice. "Dirty motherfucker!"

The victim keeps shaking his head.
From the sworn court testimony of Detective Callahan, as reported in the newspaper, Dec. 5, 1976 Callahan said he brought Carter and Artis to the hospital to see the second victim, William Marins, who survived the shooting but has since died. According to Callahan, Marins was sitting in a treatment room at St. Josephıs Hospital and Medical Center with a large, blood-soaked bandage over the side of his face. After looking at Carter and Artis straight on, Callahan said Marins told him, "I can't tell, I don't know."
From Rubin Hurricane Carter and the American Justice System, (the first paragraph implies that Marins cleared Carter and Artis, the second paragraph implies he didn't.

Carter and Artis "were brought before (Marins) in the St. Joseph's hospital emergency room. With the suspects standing at the foot of his bed, Detective Callahan asked Marins if these were the two men in the bar, and he indicated by shaking his head that they were not, even after Callahan repeated the question a second time.

Interestingly, the prosecution had chosen to omit a final comment by William Marins that evening in the emergency room. When he indicated to (Detective) Callahan for the second time that he could not identify the suspects, he stated he had trouble distinguishing black people because "all n*ggers look alike."

From the movie: Hurricane

Marins does not speak.
The real-life detective, Vincent DeSimone, was not at the hospital. In fact, he hadn't been called in on the case yet. He first talked to Carter back at the police station.

Detective: Are these the two men who did it?

Marins shakes his head.

Carter: He said, 'no.'

Detective (to Carter): Move closer

Carter: He said, 'no.'

Della Pesca, the evil detective, steps out of the shadows.

Della Pesca: Take another look, sir.

Carter: (to Della Pesca) Dirty sonafabitch!

Is this any way to plan a frame-up?

If the police were framing Carter, they did a real lousy job when it came to Hazel Tanis. She survived the shootings for one month, but her testimony was excluded from the trial, on Carter's lawyer's motion.

Hazel Tanis was 51 years of age. She had just come from a banquet hall where she worked as a waitress. Her upper right arm was struck by a blast from the shotgun. She was fired at five times with the handgun and was struck by four of the bullets. "Miraculously, Tanis would struggle to live another month before finally succumbing to an embolism. But during that time she would give police a description of the killers... Tanis' daughter, Barbara Burns, now 55, recalls her mother telling her later in the hospital: 'You don't look a man in the eyes and plead for your life and forget what he looks like.' But the police say Tanis chose photos of other men -- hence, another thread of mystery."

Mike Kelly, The Record,
Hackensack, NJ. March 26, 2000

[Carter's lawyer] was successful in blocking the introduction of [Tanis' posthumous testimony] into the trial record by showing that it did not qualify under the provisions of the "dying declaration" statutory requirements. Judge Larner also supported Brown's motion to block the introduction of a rough composite sketch... It was one of the judge's few rulings throughout the entire trial that favored the defense.

-- Rubin Hurricane Carter and the American Justice System

 

Hazel Tanis' daughter and granddaughter in 2000. (update: we are sorry to note that Hazel Tanis' daughter has passed away)

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