Chicago Innocence Project founder remembers Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter as visionary

Ciara McCarthy, Managing Editor

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the vice president of the Chicago Innocence Project and the man at the center of one of the most famous wrongful conviction cases in the U.S., died Sunday from prostate cancer. 

Carter served on ChIP’s board of directors starting in 2011. David Protess, the president of ChIP, started the project at Northwestern as the Medill Innocence Project — now the Medill Justice Project — before he left NU in 2011. Protess, who described Carter as a friend and his personal hero, said Carter was a visionary in encouraging the existing network of innocence projects across the country since his release.

Carter’s case and the legal decision that exonerated him helped inspire Protess to launch a career in investigating wrongful convictions.

“It was a turning point in my life,” he said.

Carter met his inspiration in 1998 at a conference at NU and asked him to join ChIP as vice president in 2011.

Carter was instrumental in finalizing ChIP’s mission statement, formulating its bylaws and achieving the group’s nonprofit status, Protess said. Carter also served as a consultant on the cases ChIP worked on, most recently working on the case of Stanley Wrice, who served over 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Protess said.

“It’s hard to describe how much empathy he had for Stanley,” Protess said.

The charges against Wrice were dropped, and he was released from prison in December, thanks in large part to the ChIP investigation into his case.

Carter was twice wrongfully convicted of a 1966 triple homicide, according to the ChIP website. He was exonerated in 1985 after 19 years in prison. He founded the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted shortly after his release and remained dedicated to freeing the wrongfully convicted throughout his lifetime.

Protess said the organization was already in the process of revising its board when they learned of Carter’s death. The new board, including a new vice president, will likely be in place by this summer, Protess said.

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