The Hollywood Version:
The Hurricane is the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer boasting great talent, a really sweet nickname, and a badass Bob Dylan song he inspired. The movie tells us the story of how Hurricane was a promising middleweight who was falsely accused and convicted of a triple homicide, derailing his boxing career but making him prime to be the subject of a great protest song.
Luckily, after 20 years in prison as an innocent man convicted by a bitterly racist system, three young white people from a magical land called "Canada" took up his cause and, after discovering a key piece of evidence, proved Hurricane's innocence and set him free.
In reality ...
First, there is a scene in the film where Carter beats the shit out of an inferior white boxer (Joey Giardello) only to lose when blatantly racist judges award the fight to the white man. In real life, Carter lost the fight so badly that the real Giardello sued the filmmakers over the scene and got a nice settlement out of it.
But far more disturbing is the whole murder thing. We're not saying Carter committed the crime, we'll just casually point out that by the age of 14, the Hurricane had already been arrested for assault and armed robbery. By 22, he had been imprisoned twice for "brutal street muggings." He was booted from the military after being court-martialed a whopping four times, being described as "unfit to serve." But, hey, nobody expects boxers to be model citizens. It doesn't mean he killed anyone, right?
Well, when it came to the murders, there was enough evidence to convict him twice (both times set aside due to procedural errors by the prosecution). Carter failed a lie detector test--miserably--and then was given a chance to re-take it after he'd been imprisoned for awhile. He refused. At his second trial, several witnesses who had provided Carter's alibi admitted they had been asked to lie for him.
But what about that evidence that proved his innocence? Well, there was in fact none. The judge was forced to throw out the conviction because the prosecution had failed to turn over some evidence and thus didn't give Carter a fair trial. The prosecution could have chosen to re-try the case from scratch to convict Carter a third time, but they decided it wasn't worth doing since 22 years had passed and all of the people involved were either dead or ridiculously old.
Of course the law is the law and the law said Carter could go free. But it's probably not quite accurate to use Carter's story as proof that the criminal justice system is run by the Klan. The whole thing has really made us question Bob Dylan's research skills.
For an article in which we call bullshit on more of your favorite flicks, check out 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy or our look at 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do.