The film tells the story of middleweight boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, who was convicted of committing a triple murder in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. His sentence was set aside after he had spent nearly 20 years in prison. The film concentrates on Rubin Carter’s life between 1966 and 1985. It describes his fight against the conviction for triple murder and how he copes with nearly 20 years in prison.
A parallel plot follows Lesra Martin, an underprivileged Afro-American youth from Brooklyn, now living in Toronto. In the 1980s, the child becomes interested in Carter’s life and circumstances after reading Carter’s autobiography. He convinces his Canadian foster family to commit themselves to Carter’s case. The story culminates with Carter’s legal team’s successful pleas to Judge H. Lee Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
In 1966, Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer, expected by many fans to become the world’s greatest boxing champion. When three victims, specifically the club’s bartender and a male and a female customer, were shot to death in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, Carter and his friend John Artis, driving home from another club in Paterson, were stopped and interrogated by the police.
Although the police asserted that Carter and Artis were innocent and thus, “were never suspects,” a man named Alfred Bello, a suspect himself in the killings, claimed that Carter and Artis were present at the time of the murders. On the basis of Bello’s testimony, Carter and Artis were convicted of the triple homicide in the club, Carter was given three consecutive life sentences.
Throughout the trial, Carter proclaimed his innocence, claiming that his race, his boxing career and status and his work as a civil rights activist were the real reasons for his conviction. Eight years later, Bello and a co-suspect, Arthur Bradley, who also claimed that Carter was present at the scene of the crimes, renounced and recanted their testimony. However, Carter and Artis were convicted once again.
Afterwards, the plot goes back to Lesra Martin, who works with a trio of Canadian activists to push the State of New Jersey to reexamine Carter’s case.
In 1985, a Federal District Court ruled that the prosecution in Carter’s second trial committed “grave constitutional violations” and that his conviction was based on racism rather than facts. As a result, Carter was finally freed, and he summed up his story by saying, “Hate got me into this place, love got me out.”