John Artis was the forgotten man and forgotten hero in the famed miscarriage of justice that sent him and boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter to prison for years for a crime they didn’t commit.
Artis died of a gastric aneurysm at his home in Hampton, Va., on Nov. 7. He was 75.
Their horrific ordeal became immortalized in the 1975 Bob Dylan song Hurricane and was later made into a movie starring Denzel Washington.
In 1966, Artis and Carter were arrested for a triple murder at the Lafayette Bar and Grill, a watering hole in Paterson, N.J. An all-white jury convicted the pair.
Even after two crooks recanted their statements implicating Artis and Carter in the murders, they remained in prison. Another witness also changed his mind.
Artis had been offered a sweet deal if he fingered Carter in the massacre. He turned it down and remained steadfast that both men were innocent with Carter later calling him “my hero.”
But there was little mention of Artis in the 1999 Washington movie.
He was finally released from prison in 1981 after serving 15 years behind bars. A judge tossed the convictions in 1985 as the pair became a cause celeb with Dylan and stalwarts like Muhammad Ali who lobbied for their freedom.
After their release from prison, both Artis and Carter — who died in 2014 — became advocates for the wrongly convicted. But Artis didn’t like to live in the past.
“He had a relatively healthy attitude compared to what most people would have. He wanted to just put that (prison time) behind him,” his lawyer and friend Fred Hogan told the New York Daily News.
“He always had a smile, and his famous saying was, ‘Cool beans.’”