The Hurricane and the justice system

Heather J. Saslovsky

Denzel Washington’s incredible portrayal of Rubin Hurricane Carter has been the talk of movie reviewers everywhere. While Washington’s performance is absolutely amazing, The Hurricane packs a much bigger punch.

This true story of a young, black boxer who is framed for murder should do more than just evoke a few tears from its audience, it should make every last viewer think long and hard about the justice system in the United States.

Carter’s story is not unique to him, the state in which he lived (New Jersey), or the time period when he was convicted (the tension-filled 1960s). Just last year, Anthony Porter, a man on Illinois’ death row who had an I.Q. of less than 60, was found innocent just two days before his scheduled execution. Not to mention that it only took a bunch of college journalism students to show that the evidence (or lack thereof) proved Porter’s innocence.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is another famous defendant, whose story is eerily similar to that of Carter’s. Move the location just slightly south, into Philadelphia, and the time to the 1980s (with racial profiling and a possibly corrupt police force – as determined by the United States’ Justice Department suing the city because of the many injustices that occurred). However, Jamal has not been as lucky as Carter – he is still on Pennsylvania’s death row and the motion picture industry has not picked up on his life story (although HBO produced an excellent documentary).

While not everyone is meant to be a `Lesra’ and devote their lives to freeing the innocent, there are easy ways for each of us to help fight injustice. Do not let Rubin Carter die knowing that nothing has changed. The meaning behind the story of The Hurricane should linger in our minds and ignite action.

-The writer is president of the ACLU at GW.

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