far away in another part of town,
Carter and a couple of friends are drivin' around
at young Artis
with concern.... er....
I think that's concern....
didn't match Carter's
Hazel Tanis, one
of the victims,
gave a description of her assailant before she died
-- see the police
Artis was a model
prisoner, participating in sports and taking college courses.
He developed Buerger's
disease, a condition that affects blood circulation, and he lost some
of his fingers and toes.
Artis was paroled
in 1981, after having served fifteen years.
and Artis on the
lecture circuit, 2001
I had an agreement in here that I would do the law [handle their defense],
you know, and that was it. And so we have always kept up that agreement."
-- Carter responds
to a journalist who asks if Artis is "thinking for himself... and
doing the right thing," The Aquarian, Sept. 1975
After leaving prison a second time, Artis worked as a juvenile counselor and
then as a corrections officer.
Victim -- of bad
Artis says he was
"raised not to lie" and therefore he couldn't turn on Carter.
But why didn't he just say that he, like the third
man in the car, "Bucks" Royster, didn't know what was
Artis would have
been much better off if he had asked for a separate trial and testified
that he'd hopped into Carter's car at 2:30 in the morning, and that
he had no idea what Carter was doing before that. (If he was innocent,
as he claims, this has the added advantage of being the truth.) Artis
stood a pretty good chance of being acquitted on the basis of reasonable
doubt, since there was no physical evidence linking him to the case,
and he had no prior criminal record. Even the prosecutor and the judge
tried to help him see that being tried together with Carter was against
his best interests!
The prosecutor "made
a detailed presentation to alert the defense about their option to seek
a severance... in light of the fact that some evidence related only
to (Carter)... the defendant Artis personally and, through his attorney,
declined the trial court's invitation to sever the case...." (from
Bruno Leopizzi, before the second trial, offered that he would "consider
a motion to sever," that is, agree to consider splitting Artis'
case off from Carter's. Again, Artis and his lawyer refused.
Instead, Artis signed
up for the defense strategy of claiming that there was a police
conspiracy against Carter. To make matters worse, his lawyer, Lewis
M. Steel, was rude and confrontational in the courtroom, which the jury
Carter and Artis were found guilty
a second time, attorneys Myron Beldock and Lewis M. Steel accused
the jury of being racist (against the defendants) and anti-Semitic (against
them). Prosecutor Burrell Humphreys said that the defense attorneys
blew it. "The best way to try a case is to stress reasonable doubt,
and not antagonize the court, heap abuse on the prosecutor, and try
to convince everybody the police are out to get you."
Artis went back
to prison and served another six years before being paroled in 1981.
Hurricane movie came out, Steel
wrote in The Nation that the movie was a "cinematic crime"
that gave too much emphasis to the Canadians
and ignored the fact that it was brilliant legal work that freed the
have a lot to answer for
[Artis] protested his innocence. He was, he said, just a young man who
went along for a ride with Carter on that fateful night. The prosecution
contended that he was a star-struck boy whod had too much to drink
and went along for the ride on a murder spree, swayed by [Rubin "Hurricane"]
Carters charisma and charm. A year before the second trial, prosecutors
reportedly offered Artis full clemency if he would testify against Carter.
He refused. For the second trial, Artis
had the option of being tried separately, but he and his lawyer went
along with Carters defense strategy. The catastrophe that was
the second trial was due entirely to the blunders made by Carter and
his supporters. It was Carter who created the damning evidence of the
letter coaching his alibi witnesses in their story. Artis had nothing
to do with attempts to bribe Bello into
recanting his testimony. It was Carter who was accused of beating a
female supporter, and it was Carter who wrote
a book that was chock full of demonstrable falsehoods and overt
If Artis is innocent,
as he claims, he must particularly regret turning down the offer from
Prosecutor [Burrell] Humphreys before the second trial -- if you pass
a lie detector test, you
can go free. Fail the test, and it wont be used against you
The Hurricane Hoax
Why didn't Artis's
lawyer ask for a separate trial for his client?
[Prosecutor] Humphreys the most about Beldock and Steel
was what he perceived to be their overriding concern
with being able to make money off the case, through future profits from
books and movies... "they had to make a decision on whether they
wanted to win, or whether they wanted to win in a manner designed to
produce books. If they were acquitted on the basis of reasonable doubt,
would that make much of a movie?" Humphreys believed that this
mentality was the primary reason why Lewis Steel decided not to seek
a severance and have his client, John Artis, tried separately."
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and the American Justice System
athlete or unemployed draftee?
John Artis had been
out of high school for several years and was about to be drafted in
the Army. His defense lawyers and supporters always describe him as
a promising athlete, about to go to college on an athletic scholarship.
Not an important issue in itself, but another example of how the defense
has painted a picture inconsistent with reality. Carter actually mentions
that Artis wasn't going to college, in his autobiography, The 16th
"John was a tall
and rangy light-skinned boy whom I had met twice since I'd been home.
He was a whiz at most sports, but had turned down several athletic
scholarships to college, deciding instead to enlist in the Army."
was raised not to lie.
can tell whoppers too,
just like his more famous co-defendant
is from the Virginian Pilot, Feb. 26, 1994
the wheel of Carter's 1966 white Dodge, Artis glanced in the rear-view
mirror and saw a Paterson police cruiser flashing its lights. "I
knew I wasn't driving fast or drunk," said Artis....
testified he'd been drinking heavily that night and had thrown up.
Another potential line of defense, that his lawyer ignored, was that
Artis was too drunk to have committed the crimes.
and Artis went on their way but were stopped again]. Moments later,
the intersection filled with 20 police cars.
claims it was five police cars, the police say there were two cars.
escorted them into the emergency room, where a man and woman wounded
in the shooting said they were not the gunmen. "That's not them,"
the man said over and over, according to Artis. The woman, who later
died from the gunshots, just shook her head no.
detective who took them to the hospital said that Willie Marins said,
"I don't know, I'm not sure." That's also what Marins testified
at the first trial. Hazel Tanis, the female victim, was taken to a
different hospital. Carter and Artis were never taken to see her.
See the eyewitnesses for more details.
was booked on murder charges. His spring plans to leave for Adams
State College in Colorado on a track scholarship evaporated.
had graduated from high school two years before, had worked, then
quit his job. He was facing the Army draft. No evidence was ever presented
in court to show that he was bound for college, in fall or spring.
notes were lost or destroyed and couldn't be produced at trial. Years
later, some of the notes surfaced, Artis said. The description of
the gunmen was of two tall, light skinned black men between 175 and
200 pounds with dark clothing.
descriptions of the gunmen (from Marins and Tanis who had been
shot in the head and five times in the body, respectively) were confusing
and contradictory. But they were never "lost or destroyed."
hope that every time that I speak that I can do something to preclude
(young people) from getting involved in street life..."
Artis doesn't mention, in this lengthy interview, that he went back
to prison after being paroled for the triple murders, when he pled
guilty to dealing cocaine.