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Larry King Live
Rubin `Hurricane' Carter Tells His Side of the Story in `The Hurricane"Aired January 21, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a powerful and controversial new movie tells the incredible story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, and the man himself is with us. Rubin Carter is here in Los Angeles, along with the man who brilliantly portrays him, Denzel Washington. Also here to discuss the movie and the case, famed defense attorney Gerry Spence, legendary talk show host Mike Douglas, who once interviewed "Hurricane" Carter in prison, all that and others next on LARRY KING LIVE.
By now the movie about "Hurricane" Carter, "Hurricane," has already gained a great deal of attention, lots of stories about this man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder, along with another defendant, that they did not commit. The movie is receiving sensational reviews. I saw it. It's an incredible film, with a brilliant portrayal by Denzel Washington, who is here with us.
How did the movie come together, Denzel, a little bit first?
DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: We met, Rubin and I, met for the first time -- my involvement with the film was -- I think it was 1992 -- '91, '92.
KING: Eight, nine years ago?
WASHINGTON: Yes, yes. Someone brought the books to my attention. I read them. I wanted to meet Rubin, so I flew up to Toronto to meet him and his Canadian friends.
KING: It took all that time to get this done.
WASHINGTON: Well, at that time, I was trying to become involved as a producer. They made a decision go with someone else. And it was a good decision. It was a very good decision, in fact. It was a very good decision as a matter the producers of the film now.
So I was sort of out of the picture for about five or six years, and maybe three years ago, they approached me with a script.
KING: Difficult to play someone you know?
WASHINGTON: Well, there's a lot of advantages, obviously. I mean, you can ask the man himself. There's more of a responsibility, I think, if not a pressure, that you feel. But we've gotten to know each other quite well, become good friends, so it's been a pleasant experience.
KING: And having done other movies about people who were wrongfully accused -- Malcolm X and the like. You've been in prison three times.
WASHINGTON: Yes, right, yes, right.
KING: What, Hurricane Carter, a little bit about you as a boxer, all right. You were a pretty good boxer, right, on your way, do you think? Do you think you would have been champ?
RUBIN "HURRICANE" CARTER, FORMER BOXER: Yes, I was a doggone good prize fighter, you know.
KING: Had a shot at the championship.
CARTER: Yes, oh, yes, yes.
KING: Lost to Giardello.
KING: Were you a tough -- were you a rough kid?
CARTER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
KING: Bad kid?
CARTER: No, no bad kid. You see, I was born 63 years ago in the segregated United States, and I could never understand why people with the color of my skin were segregated and was discriminated against, and we couldn't eat out of this water fountain -- we couldn't drink out of this water fountain, or go to this school or live in this neighborhood. I could never understand that.
KING: So you were angry?
CARTER: I was furious that anybody...
KING: Better word.
CARTER: would because of the color of my skin, of which I had nothing to do with -- this is because of my ancestors; whatever they -- I didn't believe that it should be brought to people of today.
KING: OK. But you got into trouble?
CARTER: Oh, yes.
KING: You were in prison, right?
CARTER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
KING: Are you disturbed that the movie didn't clearly bring that out?
CARTER: Well, a lot of stuff -- 63 years cannot be brought up or brought together in a two-hour film, just can't do it.
KING: But they did mention you had troubles, right? They did mention that you...
CARTER: Oh, yes.
KING: I mean, that was brought to the attention of the audience?
CARTER: Oh yes. Yes see, that is the very thing, Larry. Today, one out of every three young black men in this country between the ages of 12 and 27 have been tagged and are now under the control of the criminal justice system -- one out of three. I was tagged at the age of 11. And from that moment on...
KING: You had the tag.
CARTER: ... that's where my tag was, and that's where the problems began.
KING: Rubin Carter was convicted of murder. There was a shooting in a diner, right?
CARTER: Well, I have no idea.
KING: You weren't there?
CARTER: I was convicted...
KING: You weren't there.
CARTER: No. I didn't have a clue what happened.
KING: But you were in the neighborhood and identified.
CARTER: No, I wasn't in the neighborhood. I wasn't in the neighborhood.
KING: Well, let's show the scene of his first conviction, and we'll pick up there. This is from the movie, now out everywhere, "Hurricane" -- watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HURRICANE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Rubin Carter, although you still contend you're not guilty of the crimes charged against you, you were afforded a full and fair trial by a jury of your peers. Have you reached a verdict?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes we have, your honor. We, the jury, find the defendant, Rubin Carter and John Artis guilty on all counts.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, no! No!
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Gerry Spence, does that happen to you in court?
GERRY SPENCE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes.
KING: Client of yours?
SPENCE: None of my clients, no. I've never lost one of those. But I see it...
KING: You know the feeling.
SPENCE: I see it every day, and that's the feeling, that's the feeling that becomes a kind of ghost that follows you into court and makes you work so hard, and frightens you and keeps you awake at night.
KING: It should be paid attention to both Denzel and "Hurricane" -- of course Gerry's defended a lot of people, become very famous -- but you recently defended or helped four black, young men -- not young anymore -- get out of prison for a crime they did not commit, right?
SPENCE: There were four of them, picked up...
SPENCE: ... for a murder and a rape they didn't commit, and thrown into prison and convicted, not once, but like Rubin, twice, like Rubin with a snitch, like Rubin with lies and false testimony, like Rubin, with people who knew that you were innocent, that they were innocent, and they were on death row for 18 years.
KING: Got out because of the work of college students, right? Journalism?
SPENCE: Yes, these were the kids in the journalism class, and their instructor, and at the university at...
SPENCE: Northwestern. And they got those kids -- they got these kids out.
KING: And how much did they get from the state?
SPENCE: Thirty-six million. And it wasn't enough.
KING: Nine million each.
What did you get?
CARTER: Nothing. Nothing. I got me.
KING: As an actor and a black man -- you can't separate the two -- you are both... CARTER: Wow, Denzel, you are black.
WASHINGTON: I'm not an actor, though.
KING: Is this -- does this annoy you socially as well? In other words, when you hear that -- you have to play it. When you hear it, how do you feel?
WASHINGTON: I live it.
KING: Yes, but you didn't live it by -- you were fortunate enough to have a talent. You weren't...
WASHINGTON: Yes, but you still run up against it in other ways, you know. I think it was an actor, in fact a famous actor -- Danny Glover was just in New York not too long ago.
KING: A cab wouldn't pick him up.
WASHINGTON: Yes, so you know, "Lethal Weapon" one through whatever, 12, it didn't matter to the guy behind the wheel.
KING: So you still...
WASHINGTON: You still -- of course you do.
KING: When you hear this, do you get angrier?
WASHINGTON: Well unfortunately, no, because I am not shock. I am not numb either, but I am not shocked. I mean, this was still obviously going on. It was going on in that time; it's going on today.
KING: We're going to get a break, and find out what it's like to be somewhere in a prison wrongfully convicted, right after this.
KING: A good example of the person Rubin Carter was and is -- I don't know if he is; we'll ask if he is. This is one of the great scenes in -- a lot of the scenes we're showing tonight have not been seen on clips on previous shows and were not in the trailers. Here is the moment of refusing to wear a prison uniform. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE HURRICANE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're being issued a standard inmate uniform with your number sewn on it so that we can identify you immediately. And you're going to have your facial hair shaved. You know the rules.
WASHINGTON: No, I can't do it, warden.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I beg your pardon? WASHINGTON: I cannot do it. Look, you have legal custody over my body. But I'm innocent. I have committed no crime. The crime's been committed against me. And I will not wear the clothes of a guilty man.
Now, I'll go anywhere you want me to go in this penitentiary, warden, but you let it be known in no uncertain terms that any man who tries to put his hands on me...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This place is where we tell you the rules.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that just the way it happened?
CARTER: That's exactly the way it happened. Little did I know what that decision meant.
KING: They put you in the hole?
CARTER: They put me in the hole. I mean the hole, hole, hole.
KING: For how long?
CARTER: I have no idea. When you go into...
KING: The movie says -- what?
CARTER: ... the hole 6 feet under -- 6 feet under the ground, there was no delineation as to what time that I'm going to do there. There was no 90 days. Six feet under the ground, in the dark: no sanitary, no lights, no anything there in that dark.
KING: How do you get food? They just pass it under...
CARTER: Five slices of bread and a cup of water a day. Man, when you are in those kind of conditions, you learn from those kind of conditions that you can grow beyond yourself, that there's something else that's so powerful, something else that can handle this thing that I can't handle in my own weak state myself -- that there is something.
KING: What do you do with your mind on the 15th day? You don't know it's the 15th...
CARTER: You don't know it's the 15th day.
KING: What do you in there? Do you play games? What do you do with your mind?
CARTER: You are confronted with yourself, because that's all you have to deal with: is self, you. You are confronted to the nth degree, your body is confronted to the nth degree. You begin, hopefully, to go along the path of the -- the ultimate discipline. KING: Tripley worse when you didn't do it, right? I mean, it's bad to be -- it's terrible to begin with.
SPENCE: See, I think most of us have trouble living with ourselves surrounded by people, surrounded with the television set, and with our friends and our wives. Then to be put in a hole 6 feet down into the ground and to live with yourself without being able to reach out and contact anything that's real except you must be -- must -- the schizophrenic scene in the movie must have really been what it was like.
WASHINGTON: Just -- just -- one of the advantages of having...
KING: You could ask him.
WASHINGTON: Well, we talked about it. I didn't ask him specifically that day, what did you do? But we sat down and we talked a lot in the hotel and all around. And I remember Rubin saying something about hearing -- he thought there was a speaker in there. He says, you know, I got to place where I could hear everything in the prison. And he said, I thought that they had put a speaker in there because they were starting to talk back. He was talking back to himself and listening and having a conversation.
WASHINGTON: So I sort of started and went with that. And we sort of improvised those scenes. I mean, there wasn't -- really wasn't any dialogue written.
KING: How do you -- you can only imagine what that must be like.
WASHINGTON: You can only imagine. You can only act it. I cannot -- no...
KING: You know, you're going to get nominated. You might win the Academy Award for this. I mean, this is a great -- did you know you were kind of going beyond yourself in this? Could you tell?
CARTER: Larry, he had to. He had to. He had to.
KING: You were judging him.
CARTER: He had to, because I told him...
WASHINGTON: The pressure was on.
CARTER: ... I told him if anything scandalous -- because there's no good images on that screen of black men. There's always Stefan Fletcher (ph), there's always Superfly. There's always some kind of negativity.
And I told D, I said, D, I trust you to take care of me as well as I would take care of myself.
KING: Did you like each other right away? CARTER: We wrote the script for D to play, because we knew that there was nobody else on this planet to play this but Denzel.
KING: Did you learn -- did you learn how to box by the way?
WASHINGTON: I'm still learning. I'm still learning.
KING: Could you box? Could you go do some...
WASHINGTON: Yes, yes, I was fighting. I mean, I was sparring. You know, I was knocking folks down and getting knocked down.
KING: In those -- that scene in solitary, when you can only imagine it, what do you bring to it? Do you imagine worse moments in your life?
WASHINGTON: No, you just -- you just go with it. You know, first of all, I'm talking to myself but I'm never there. You know what I mean? I mean, you cut it together and see the different aspects of Rubin there.
KING: But they put you in a poor condition, right? I mean, you're in something dark.
WASHINGTON: Yes, and I made it darker. You know, I would have them close it in, keep it tight. And Norman is a great director. He's an...
KING: Norm Jewison, a great director.
WASHINGTON: He knows how to -- he can feel me and knows how I'm coming in. He knows the parameters of the scene. So he starts clearing folks out and get it real quiet and dark. And he'll make the situation -- the surrounding circumstances good for me to want to feel free to create.
KING: One of the most impacting movies ever filmed. There's some controversy over the truthfulness of aspects of it. We'll get into that.
We have an extraordinary session coming next. Mike Douglas was on this show a couple of weeks ago, famous talk-show host, who in the height of his talk-show days, when he had the No. 1 talk show in America and he would have co-hosts, visited Rubin Carter in prison. We'll talk with Mike about that right after this.
KING: Joining us now from our bureau in Miami is Mike Douglas, the same Mike Douglas who was with us some weeks back when we reminisced about his show. Mike interviewed Hurricane in prison on April 15, 1975. The co-host that day was Dyan Cannon.
Mike, what do you remember about that day?
MIKE DOUGLAS, INTERVIEWED HURRICANE CARTER IN PRISON: The one thing that stands out in my mind -- this was a very angry man and rightfully so. But the one thing that has stayed with me, Larry, was when I walked into that -- and I believe it was the death cell. And they shut this enormous door behind me. I thought to myself, just hearing that -- it was absolutely frightening.
And then I had this beautiful lady with me, and I wondered how that would turn out, if there would be anybody shouting obscenities to her or whatever.
And it -- I met this man and was impressed with his sincerity and believed his story. And I remembered him as a fighter too, by the way. He had a terrible decision in Philadelphia when I was living there.
DOUGLAS: Giardello. Joey Giardello he fought.
And then I saw this movie today, and I must tell you, this was the greatest performance that I have seen in many a moon. This -- I don't know the man, Denzel Washington. I'd like to.
KING: He's looking at you right now.
DOUGLAS: And I heard him say in an interview somewhere he took a lot of chances in playing this role. I don't think that people generally know what that means. I do. I have been around enough actors to know.
Can you describe a couple of those chances you took, Denzel?
WASHINGTON: Well, you have to do -- I have to do whatever is necessary to -- to play the part, you know, and -- and whatever that takes, I try to do that. In this film, it started with boxing, so I started boxing about a year and a half before we started shooting.
DOUGLAS: And I could tell, because my father's avocation was -- he was a fight manager; I've been around all of that, and So I could tell you had done some work.
KING: There are risks in taking on a role like this, aren't there? The risks are you get identified with the character, you become involved. Do you ever become so involved you tend to get angrier at things outside the character?
WASHINGTON: Well, I've been very fortunate. I played Steven Biko. I portrayed Malcolm X. So I've been down the road of controversy, and fear and danger. I mean, there was a lot going on with both of those films. I mean, our lives were threatened daily in working on "Cry Freedom," so.
KING: Rubin, how were you able to be dressed like you dressed in that picture we just saw, sitting with Mike and Dyan?
CARTER: It was very difficult to, but I...
KING: How did they let you dress like that?
CARTER: They didn't let me. I just would not wear the stripes of a criminal.
KING: So what are you wearing there?
CARTER: I'm wearing a dashiki. I'm wearing my regular civilian pants. You see, because I wouldn't dress -- and because I wouldn't give up my facial hair, and because I wouldn't give up my jewelry -- this is the very watch that I walked into the prison with and walked out with, the very watch right here.
KING: You kept the watch.
Do you remember Mike Douglas?
CARTER: I remember Mike so well, because Dyan Cannon.
KING: That's what you remember.
DOUGLAS: You see. I had the same experience once, walking on the Emmy Awards show with Lena Horne at my side, and I said kiddingly, no one will ever remember having seen me on this show. Do you know, to this day, my own parents didn't say they saw me, I swear.
KING: Mike, it was scary to go into prison, wasn't it, even for a half hour?
DOUGLAS: Oh, I tell you, I get chills when I talk about it. And this man -- you had to show Denzel some of those moves that I saw in the movie today -- some of these.
CARTER: No, Mike, I didn't.
CARTER: In fact, Denzel showed me something very important. Denzel showed me, which I've never seen me before, Mike, you know. He showed me me. And I really, really begin to act like I love me as he showed me.
KING: And, Mike, you said you believed him.
DOUGLAS: I believed him. A lot of people felt that he was guilty because he was such an angry man, and he conveyed that in his speech pattern -- everything was like that. And I just thought something wrong has been done to this man. Nobody could have that -- I don't know how he kept his sanity, quite honestly.
KING: We're going to hold Mike Douglas over for one more segment. By the way, still to come on this program, you'll be meeting Lesra Martin, the young man who -- when you see the movie, you'll understand more -- writes to Rubin, comes to meet him and eventually now is a prosecutor. Who thought he'd go bad, huh? He's a prosecutor -- a little joke there, folks -- in British Columbia. And we're also going to meet the judge who freed him.
Before we go to break, here's a scene when Rubin Carter in anguish breaks up with his wife in prison. We'll be right back -- watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HURRICANE")
WASHINGTON: I want you to divorce me, understand? And I don't want you to come back down here.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No. No. Now, you listen to me.
WASHINGTON: Don't make...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: There are still things that we can do.
WASHINGTON: I am not going to be weight...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: We'll just get you out of here.
WASHINGTON: ... hanging around my neck.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You are no weight around my neck.
WASHINGTON: Well, then you're a weight around mine. Now I can't do all the years I got to do in here knowing that they can take your beautiful face away from me anytime they want to, you understand?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Rubin, I ain't walking away from you.
WASHINGTON: I'm dead. Just bury me, please.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Rubin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mike Douglas, was it tough to get permission to go to prison then?
DOUGLAS: I really don't know, Larry. My staff took care of all of that. I am sure it must have been. I'll never...
KING: I'll bet you were glad when you walked out, huh?
DOUGLAS: Oh, I was so happy to walk out of that place. That's a scary situation, I'm telling you. And what this man must have endured, and that -- the movie depicted all of that, just -- it's just amazing. And the performance of Mr. Washington -- I want to tell you something, like you said earlier, he's going to be nominated certainly, and should win. I haven't seen anything come up to that performance at all, and I see a lot of movies.
KING: What was it like to see yourself played, Rubin?
CARTER: You know, until I saw "D" portraying me on that big screen, I really didn't know how good looking I was.
CARTER: I didn't have a clue.
KING: How can you laugh so easily...
WASHINGTON: Glad to be of help to you.
KING: How can you laugh so easily now? Twenty years of your life for something you didn't do.
CARTER: Yes, but the last 10 years, when I understood that it was the law that put me in prison, not the individuals, not the jury, but the law which conditioned that jury to bring the decision that it did, when I understood that, I turned that prison into an unnatural laboratory of the human spirit, to overcome the law, and in trying to escape the physical prison, I stumbled upon the universal prison of sleep, you know what I mean? And that gives me the ability to laugh.
KING: Mike, you can only imagine what this must have been like and his amazing attitude now, compared to the guy you saw in prison?
DOUGLAS: Oh, he's -- I'm not sure I am listening to the right person.
CARTER: Because the fellow I met in that prison, he could have beaten anybody in the ring, anywhere.
KING: Mike, thanks for sharing these memories with us.
DOUGLAS: My pleasure.
KING: Always great seeing you.
CARTER: Mike, Mike, take care.
DOUGLAS: Thank you, Rubin.
KING: Before we go to break, can you tell us, Gerry, what the attitude were that these four men, who just got nine million each, he got nothing -- were they bitter?
SPENCE: No, you know, I was amazed. I thought they'd be bitter. I don't see how I could do that without being just overcome with bitterness. But I think what it really shows -- and when we look at Rubin and see who this man is, it shows that those kind of trials by fire don't produce the hatred of human beings; it produces their forgiveness.
CARTER: Absolutely. KING: Denzel, were you surprised that he forgave?
WASHINGTON: No, no, because he's just -- he's an unusual individual. And from the outside we look at those circumstances, and we feel, well, he should be this way. That's because we haven't gone through them. You know, he's gone through them, and this is who has come out.
KING: Do you think you'd have been that way?
WASHINGTON: I wouldn't have made it, first of all.
KING: You wouldn't have made it?
WASHINGTON: No, I don't think so.
CARTER: No, he would have made it.
WASHINGTON: I would have survived. I would have survived.
CARTER: But you can't just survive. You've got to live under those circumstances. That's the circumstance in which to nurture -- nurtures the inner-self, the groove -- the inner-groove.
KING: When we come back, I am going to try to get you to come out a little bit.
WASHINGTON: Yes, yes, just speak out a little more. It's because Rubin went in there knowing he could knock anybody out; that helps, too.
KING: You're a very weak guest.
We'll be back with more. And when we come back, we're going to meet Lesra Martin, the young man who helped get him out, and then we're going to meet the judge who let him out.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER: How do you feel, Rubin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HURRICANE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is some place, man. CARTER: No, it's not. This is no place. Not for human being. Don't ever get used to a place like this, Lesra. You've got a lot of guts, kid. It takes lot of courage to come all the way down here by yourself. I am impressed.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I was scared you weren't going to let me come.
CARTER: Me, too.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But you Rubin "Hurricane" Carter -- who would you be scared of?
CARTER: Doors opening, the light outside -- of you.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Me? Mr. Carter, I don't understand.
CARTER: Don't call me Mr. Carter. Call me "Rube."
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Rube?
CARTER: Yes, Rube.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now is the real Lesra Martin, who championed hurricane's cause and was played in that scene brilliantly, I might add.
LESRA MARTIN, FRIEND OF HURRICANE CARTER'S: I agree. I agree.
KING: How old were you Lesra, when you...
MARTIN: I was 15.
KING: What prompted you to go to see "Hurricane" Carter?
MARTIN: His book.
KING: You read his book...
MARTIN: I read his book "The 16th Round," and I...
KING: You were in Canada, right?
MARTIN: I was in Toronto at the time; that's right. And it was actually the first book I ever read, and I tackled through it, and I thought that it had such an amazing impact on my life at that time. I needed a role model. I think that's what it was all about. And I just wanted him to know, you know, he's stuck in prison, but he's still having a huge impact on my life.
KING: And what kept you with him throughout all the rest of this time?
MARTIN: Him. KING: His personality.
KING: Because you had a lot to do with helping him get out, working with those other people. Now there were a lot of combined characters in this, right? There more than three people in Canada helping?
CARTER: There were 13.
KING: This is from -- we should explain, right, Denzel? For movies, we have to make allowances.
WASHINGTON: If you want it to be under 30 or 40 hours, yes.
KING: You had one character as an evil kind of guy. There were many like that...
CARTER: But he was a composite.
KING: A composite of many things.
CARTER: Of many things, of the total, of the entire...
KING: Were you interested, Lesra, in the other young man, John Artis?
MARTIN: I had -- because I read Rubin's book and only met John Artis' character at the very end of it, I never got a chance until recently to really meet John, but I'm amazed at the strength and courage that...
KING: This is the young man who went to jail with you.
CARTER: He's my hero.
KING: Who could have copped out, right?
CARTER: Any moment.
KING: He could have just said, you did it?
CARTER: And I would be dead, Larry. He's my hero. At the age of 19, never having been involved with the police before, scholarship going to college, track star and football star, churchgoing person, was asking me for a ride home that night, and that's the only reason why that individual was in my car, and the police -- before we let him off, the police stopped us, and from that moment on, John Artis' integrity was tested to the hilt. And for 15 years, he maintained that there was no -- that we had nothing to do with this crime.
KING: Why was he kind of left out of the movie?
CARTER: Well, he wasn't left out of the movie. John has been the forgotten man for...
KING: Was he in court the day you were...
CARTER: Yes, John had been released from prison five years earlier.
KING: Should they have told us a little more of that, Denzel, in retrospect? He disappears from the from movie.
WASHINGTON: Could be, yes. Could be, yes.
CARTER: I agree, too, that John's portion should have been larger, and other people's portions should have been shorter, but then again, you can't satisfy everything; you just can't do it.
WASHINGTON: One of the stories -- and you can tell the story about how they would bring John home. That's something we should have put in the film.
CARTER: Yes, of course. The governor of the state of New Jersey would take John out of prison every single year, bring him home, set him in front of his mother and father, and his brothers and sisters, and promise that they would -- he would be home that day if he gave an incriminating statement against me, and John's answer to that was, My mother and father didn't teach me to lie, they taught me to tell the truth.
KING: Explain -- you should have filmed that.
WASHINGTON: I agree, I agree.
KING: Explain that.
SPENCE: Well you know, it happened the same way with those four kids in Chicago. Any one of those four kids, any one could have rolled over and said, you know...
KING: The other three did it.
SPENCE: ... the other three did it, and he would have walked out, and all three of them stayed there 18 years.
KING: Lesra, It has to be asked -- why are you a prosecutor?
MARTIN: I knew that was coming, Larry. Why not? That's probably a better question, because...
KING: Does this make you more compassionate lawyer? MARTIN: How can it not? You know, where else would I rather be than at the opening gates, so I can ensure we don't have Rubin Carters.
KING: So would you say you've got to be convinced before you bring a man to trial? Have you sent a man to prison?
MARTIN: I have, yes.
KING: Isn't that hard to do, on a given?
MARTIN: I don't think, you know, prison necessarily rehabilitates everybody, and so I think it's something that we have to think about every single time. You know, it's an individual thing. So it's not easy to send anybody to prison, because I firmly believe in rights and liberties, and sending someone to jail shouldn't be easy for anybody.
KING: How do you think you were portrayed in the film?
MARTIN: By Vicellous Shannon, the fellow who plays my role? He did a fantastic job, a marvelous job. He is -- he really captures the sense of me, and I think working with Denzel, he captures the sense of Rubin and my relationship quite well.
KING: Isn't it hard to work with a youngster? They say don't work with children?
WASHINGTON: Animals and children or something like that, scene stealing and every time they'll get you -- oh yes, you were pretty good, Denzel, in that scene with that great kid!
KING: Bobby Dylan was involved, right?
KING: Bob Dylan sang a song, and the public reaction to that song.
KING: Here's and little bit about that -- watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: The people united will never be defeated. The people united will never be defeated. The people united will never be defeated. The people united will never be defeated.
MUHAMMAD ALI, BOXER: It shows that there's still hope -- there is hope for change in America.
JOE FRAZIER, BOXER: I believe in law and order. And I believe that everybody has a right to have another try.
BOB DYLAN, SINGER (singing): Here comes the story of a hurricane, the man the authorities came to blame for something that he never done, put in a prison cell. But one time, he could have been a champion of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back.
Did Bob Dylan drop out of this, all of these...
CARTER: No, no, no one ever dropped out, you know. Everybody came in 1976 -- Mike Douglas, Dyan Cannon. Everybody came in 1976, opened the prison doors for me, and our imprisonment was enlarged. We were out on bail for a second trial. But that polarized the law enforcement agencies of the United States, because now they said it's us against them.
KING: And made them angrier, yes.
CARTER: And made them the Hollywood stars and the celebrities against the law enforcement.
KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back with our cast of characters. Later joining us when Lesra leaves will be Judge Lee Sarokin, the U.S. court of appeals judge, now retired, who freed "Hurricane" Carter.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HURRICANE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: "In the end, the prison will vanish, and there will be no more Rubin, no more Carter, only the "Hurricane." And after him, there is no more."
What are we going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: About what?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: About the "Hurricane," that's what.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, there's not much we can do, Lesra.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But the man's innocent. He's been in jail 15, 16 years. That's not right.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I know that's what his book says.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Two juries found him guilty, Les.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Two white juries!
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Hey, hey, not all white people are racists.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And not all black people are murders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE HURRICANE")
DAVID PAYMER, ACTOR: This evidence is the key to getting you out of here, and you'll be throwing it away, Rubin, when in a few more years...
WASHINGTON: I don't have a few more years, Myron!
PAYMER: Leon, help me out.
HARRIS YULIN, ACTOR: I can't. I agree with Rubin. It's time to move on.
PAYMER: Move on? Who can move on? Move on where? You're going...
YULIN: The (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We're not going to get anything there. We have to go federal.
PAYMER: You can't take the risk of going federal with...
WASHINGTON: Listen to me! I'm 50 years old. I have been locked up for 20 years. I put a lot of good people's lives at risk. Now I either get out of here...
Get me out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That realistic, Gerry Spence?
SPENCE: That scene is going to get Denzel an Academy Award.
KING: Have you had that kind of thing that the lawyers are discussing and the clients sitting and watching the lawyers go at it?
SPENCE: Oh, you know, that's...
KING: It's his life and you deciding.
WASHINGTON: That's why I started banging -- the banging on the phone. Banging the phone on the window was just a natural reaction. It was like "Hey!"
SPENCE: Yes, but worse than that is when -- is when the client has so much faith in you, he says you do the right thing and you have to make the decision, and your decision may be wrong and your decision may result in his death or his loss for the rest of his life.
KING: Back, Lesra, to what this brings to you as a prosecutor, discussing off the air about -- are you representing society? Does the law follow society, or do you lead society?
MARTIN: Well, Rubin made a comment earlier, and it made me think. I think that it's the individuals who make up the system -- the judges, the lawyers, the prosecutors, you know, the jury -- everyone plays a role in making the system itself function and work. And when people who work the system don't fulfill their responsibilities to the fullest extent possible, that's when you get error. That's when you can get wrongful conviction.
KING: And you disagreed with that?
CARTER: I disagreed with that but I do not disagree with my son.
I disagree with the state totally, but I do not disagree with my son. You know, my son is still young yet.
KING: Gerry, where do you come down?
SPENCE: Well, I see, you know, here's society. Let's call it the herd of sheep. And we plunk one of the sheep out as the prosecutor and another one out as a judge, and here's the defense attorney and here's the defendants and all the rest.
KING: You're making it sound like a game.
SPENCE: And they represent -- they represent the system that they came from, the society that they came from.
CARTER: The society...
SPENCE: And so the law is nothing more than a representation, and its servants are nothing more than a representation of us.
MARTIN: But that doesn't mean that all individuals in society know what the law is. For instance, if you say that someone is innocent until proven guilty, people assume that that means by fact that person is innocent until they're proven guilty. But in fact it only means that they you're presumed innocent until...
SPENCE: You sound like a prosecutor to me.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) like a prosecutor to me.
KING: Got this case of a black boxer, and we want you to...
CARTER: No, no, no. Not with those...
Not with those... KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they're back!
CARTER: You see, Larry, Larry, we are born into a society that already has its laws and its principles and its discriminations and its segregations. We are born into that society, and from there we operate.
KING: Let me get a break. We'll spend a few more moments with Lesra Martin and then get a federal judge in on this too.
KING: By the way, tomorrow night's complete prom is on crime and punishment in America. We'll be right back.
KING: Let's get a quick call in from Castor Valley, California. Hello.
KING: Hi. Go ahead. Yes, go ahead.
KING: Don't listen to your screen. Talk.
CALLER: Yes, I wanted to know where's Rubin's wife and family, and if he has any family now.
KING: Yes. What...
CARTER: Oh, yes. I have -- I'm married to a very beautiful angel.
KING: She's here tonight. She's gorgeous.
CARTER: She's here in the studio with me tonight. Her name is Teresa (ph). She's my angel.
KING: And children.
CARTER: And I have two children. I have four grandchildren and one great grandchild. So I am very rich in...
KING: Well, one of your sons has made the news. He's angry at you, right? Says you're not helping him.
CARTER: Well -- well, I tell you. I sent the bail bondsman down to the jail to put up a $75,000 bail and then they -- the people wouldn't let him go because they said they had another charge on him, which had a no bail stipulation.
KING: Are you concerned, though, that you have a son...
CARTER: I'm concerned that I have my mother, my father, my former wife, my children, my grandchildren -- all live in Patterson, New Jersey.
KING: You've had a rough life.
CARTER: Why would they be in Patterson, New Jersey? I can't go to Patterson, New Jersey. I refuse to go to Patterson.
KING: You won't go to New Jersey.
CARTER: Of course not.
KING: Lesra, what's all this done to you? I mean, what does it all mean to you now?
MARTIN: Well, it's turned my life upside down in many respects. You know, I get calls every day now, you know, by the truckload, you know. In fact, I'm, you know, speaking now professionally, and that really is a new twist on things, and I'm trying to prosecute at the same time.
KING: What are your goals? What do you want to do?
CARTER: Be a judge.
KING: Do you want to be a judge? Do you want to be district attorney? Do you want to practice law with Gerry Spence?
MARTIN: You know, contrary to most people I don't make five-year plans. I don't think I could have gotten, you know, Rubin out of jail with a five-year plan. You have -- you have to go with the flow.
KING: It's been wonderful meeting you.
MARTIN: Thank you.
KING: Thank you. That's Lesra Martin. And when we come back in our remaining moments, we will meet Judge H. Lee Sarokin: the judge who freed Mr. Carter. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. And joining us in our remaining moments is Judge H. Lee Sarokin, United States Court of Appeals retired.
What did you think of the movie?
JUDGE H. LEE SAROKIN, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS (RET): Fabulous. Denzel Washington does justice to a man who deserved justice.
KING: Did you sense that early on in reading the papers and the briefs?
SAROKIN: Well, they were extraordinary. That's one of the things about the movie that I think is a little bit lacking, is the remarkable job that the lawyers did.
KING: You don't think they get enough credit?
SAROKIN: No, I don't. But as has been said, it's a movie. With two hours, you can't do everything. But that's the only thing that I felt was lacking. They deserved more than they received.
KING: We're going to show you now one of the great scenes in this film. The man playing the judge is Rod Steiger. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE HURRICANE")
ROD STEIGER, ACTOR: The extensive record clearly demonstrates to this court that Rubin Carter's conviction was predicated upon appeal to racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure. To permit convictions to stand which have as their sole foundation appeals to racial prejudice is to commit a violation of the Constitution as heinous as the crimes for which the defendants were tried and convicted.
I hereby order Rubin Carter released from prison...
... henceforth from this day forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that -- those are the exact words, right?
SAROKIN: That's a direct quote from my opinion.
KING: You said great words.
SPENCE: Oh, they're great words. I wrote them down here myself for fear somebody wouldn't say it.
It says an appeal to racism rather than reason, concealment rather than disclosure.
KING: Were you shocked?
SAROKIN: By what?
KING: By this. What was before you. What had happened to him.
SAROKIN: Oh, absolutely. For me, it was one of the great moments in my career, and obviously, I look back upon it as one of the most important cases that I ever had.
KING: And it was appealed, was it not?
CARTER: It was appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
KING: And it was upheld. But someone said now, the current laws, maybe you couldn't do that today.
SAROKIN: Yes. Current habeas corpus, they've raised the bar so high that very few applicants can hurdle it: Congress and the Supreme Court. I think Rubin Carter, if my opinion were appealed today, I think he'd still be in prison. I'd be reversed.
KING: Well, from what you've seen tonight, what you know -- and you're retired now -- have we made progress?
SAROKIN: Yes. I mean, it's very important. The system does work. In Rubin's case, it took a great deal of time. But I have ultimate faith in the judicial system. I would hate to have people think this is a common occurrence.
It does happen frequently, but it generally works as it should work.
KING: But it is still, is it not, is there's not a level playing field in this country?
SAROKIN: No, and it's an imperfect system because it's run by human beings.
CARTER: And that's the reason why you cannot -- the law cannot exact a perfect punishment, which is death, coming from an imperfect system.
KING: So you're against capital punishment?
CARTER: I am totally against it in any civilized society.
KING: What is it like when you see -- sit next to this man who when he walked in that day had your life in his -- what is that -- this is bizarre to me.
CARTER: This is -- I'm -- I'm coming out -- after 20 years in prison, I'm coming to court handcuffed and shackled with guards, with guns and looking at me as if I'm the most dangerous thing in the world. In fact, I looked so dangerous, I scared myself.
SPENCE: And I saw him tonight on his knees talking to the judge in the green room. He was on his knees. And I said to him that's, you know, where you belong for a long, long time.
KING: Now you're sitting next to him.
CARTER: Nobody in the world -- I saw this man sitting on the that high pedestal behind there, and I looked very deeply into his eyes, and I looked at an eagle -- a bald eagle -- but an eagle nonetheless. And I knew this was the person who would not be able to turn away from the truth. And he didn't turn away from it.
KING: You captured that perfectly, Denzel...
KING: ... sitting there. Tough scene to do, that scene?
WASHINGTON: I'm just blown away just sitting here now. I mean, I can't even talk about the movie. I mean, you're sitting here with the real people, you know.
SAROKIN: Larry, I want to say one thing about Rubin: He telephones me every year on the anniversary of his release to thank me, and I say the same thing to him. I say, Rubin, I was doing my job. You don't have to thank me. But that's the kind of person he is.
KING: Do you think, in view of that case in front of you, any good judge would have done that? Any good federal judge?
SAROKIN: I would hope so.
SPENCE: Sorry. You're too generous.
KING: That ain't going to happen, right?
SAROKIN: Jim Hirsch's new book suggests that I might have been the only judge to do it.
SAROKIN: But I hope that that's not true.
KING: By the way, there's something (UNINTELLIGIBLE) before we leave the air. Denzel is out of work. Denzel has no scripts. No -- how do you explain this? Is there still a -- something against the black actor in America?
WASHINGTON: I don't know. I don't know.
KING: It's the truth. You have no scripts in front of you?
WASHINGTON: Not that I want to do, no. No. One or two.
CARTER: Larry, but Denzel has another job in which we are both championing in going on: the ideas, the circle of ideas that exist that touches the spirit. We are both building and creating a place in Swainsboro, Georgia. Swainsboro...
CARTER: For the people, for just the people in the community.
KING: I mean, what kind of place?
CARTER: It's a community center...
KING: We've only got 30 seconds.
CARTER: ... for the people. But it's going to contain the circle of ideas upon which one can talk and meet the spirit.
KING: This movie will carry you far beyond just the film?
WASHINGTON: Well, you know, I think part of the reason I haven't decided on another film yet is because I'm still in this one.
KING: Yes, obviously. Thank you all very much for intriguing hour.
Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND, crime and punishment in America, picking up where we left off, although can't top this, frankly.
CNN "NEWSSTAND" is next. I'm Larry King.
See you in Iowa Monday night. Good-night.
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