Sunday, April 20, 2014

Death Penalty Activist Ruben “Hurricane” Carter is Dead

Ruben "Hurricane" Carter dead at 76
Toronto, Canada— He was one of seven siblings raised in poverty.   Ruben “Hurricane” Carter had a troubled youth filled with police, jail, courts and prison.  He somehow found salvation and money as a champion boxer until his new life came crashing down.
Carter’s troubled past kept him on the police radar as a “usual suspect” and he was arrested and twice convicted for a New Jersey triple murder.  Finally in 1985 after some 20 years in prison Carter finally won his freedom from the wrongful conviction.
Carter left the nation that failed him in seeking justice for Canada.  He spent the rest of his life speaking, advocating and investigating on behalf of Death Row inmates.  Carter created and chaired a foundation for the wrongly convicted. 

Carter and Willoughby courtesy New Times
I met and chatted extensively with Carter in Phoenix when he came there on behalf of former Death Row inmate 
Dan Willoughby during his second trial.   Willoughby asked me to do his defense investigation but the court appointed rotation list did not allow for that to happen.  He had insufficient resources to hire me.  Instead I covered the case for TV news.  

Carter was a friendly and determined fellow.  Just like the actor that played him in the movie Hurricane, Denzel Washington, Carter was a very sharp dresser.    

Dan Willoughby
Dan Willoughby had a somewhat sordid adulterous affair with a Mexican transsexual named Yesenia Patino.  In 1991, Patino murdered Willoughby’s then wife Trish in Rocky Point, Mexico. 
Arizona authorities felt that Willoughby was involved in a murder conspiracy that began there and claimed jurisdiction of the murder that was committed in a foreign land.

Patino said she beat Trish Willoughby’s head in with a medieval mace and stabbed her with two knives and strangled her with a rope.  Patino was sent to a Mexican prison for 35 years but was brought to Arizona twice to testify against Willoughby.   Patino first claimed that Willoughby was present and participated in the murder. 
After the first trial Patino recanted, saying she carried out the murder alone and that led to the second trial.   
Even thought the crime occurred in Mexico where there is no death penalty Willoughby wound up on Arizona’s Death Row.  The resources and expertise of Mexican police to examine the crime scene was nothing less than what we’d call today, a CSI nightmare.
Getting an Arizona jury to believe Willoughby considering his peculiar adultery paramour and issues surrounding his dead wife’s wealth and a $1 million life insurance policy proved impossible. 
The jury viewed Willoughby as being a philandering, gold digging, perverted and unsympathetic character.  He was convicted again at his second trial.  This time Willoughby was spared the death penalty and re-sentenced to life in Prison.  
Carter passed away at age 76 in Toronto.  His funeral arrangements are pending.

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