Main Page

Deal Gets Tossed Out
of Carter Trial

New York Times, Nov. 12, 1976

Note: During Carter's second trial, I attempted to sit in on the testimony of Pat Valentine, the most important witness in the case. It was Valentine who saw the killers' car leave the scene of the crime and said it was Carter's car. I am the only reporter to whom she has ever spoken.

Before I could sit down, I was asked to leave by the prosecutors -- apparently because of my extensive interviews with Valentine and another key witness, Al Bello. This is an except from the trial story that appeared in the Times the next day. (My first name is Joseph.)

 

INTRODUCTION
By Cal Deal

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter is a free man , although two juries nine years apart found him guilty of a 1966 triple murder in Paterson, N.J.. He is a free man, although no judge declared him innocent of the bloody crime. He is a free man because of "misconduct" by the prosecution, a decision that ignores the weight of the evidence in favor of protecting Constitutional rights.

Dec. 12, 1975: Cal Deal and Rubin Carter (silhouette at right) meet for their second prison interview as Bob Miller of WABC-TV in New York watches (left). Carter was not told in advance that Deal would be participating in the interview and nearly walked out when he saw Deal in the room. On camera, Deal caught Carter making a false statement about an important witnesses' testimony.

As a reporter for The Herald-News in Passaic, N.J., I went into this case thinking Carter was probably innocent. The press was full of stories about the recanted testimony of a key witness, and it seemed that Carter had been framed. As a municipal beat reporter, I had no prior involvement with the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office and knew none of the people directly involved in Carter's 1967 murder conviction. I had met Burrell Ives Humphreys on two or three occasions in the 1960s, before he became Passaic County Prosecutor, but that was it. (Humphreys was the County Prosecutor at the time of Carter's second murder trial, but not at the time of the first.)

My first interview in the case was with Carter himself at Trenton State Prison, where reporter Jim Lanaras and I traveled on Aug. 28, 1975. I was there as the photographer, but read up on the case before we went.

Carter was friendly, talkative and persuasive, but he refused our offer of a lie detector test. We used that offer as a crude litmus test to guide us in our assessment of the man and his case. His refusal created the first big spark of doubt in our minds about his innocence. It was troubling, but far, far from conclusive.

With that in mind, and armed with the transcript of Carter's words, we began checking the facts. We were surprised to discover that Carter's statements were often false and misleading. The deeper we dug and the more we applied common sense, the more I began to believe that Carter was guilty.

Finally I conceived and directed a major four-part series on the murders for the newspaper. Much of that series pointed to Carter's guilt.

Later reporter Bob Miller of WABC-TV in New York invited me along on a Carter interview. In front of the camera, Carter tried to discredit me by calling me a snake, a liar, a criminal and a racist. Meanwhile, I caught him making a significant false statement about the testimony of a prosecution witness -- and used his own book to prove it. (That portion of the interview is on this site.)

Now the Hollywood Justice System is weighing in. I haven't seen the movie as of this writing, but I imagine it will tell us of the terrible misdeeds of prosecutors, and of the lies of witnesses, and of racist cops, and of conspiracies on top of conspiracies. It may be dramatic, it may be riveting, but I can't imagine that justice will be served.

During the course of my work on the case, I came to know the key witnesses, including Pat Valentine, who saw the killers' car pull away, and Al Bello, who practically bumped into the killers seconds after the shootings. I also got to know some of the family and friends of the murder victims. Although many people try to paint this as a black-white thing, I was struck by the fact that the people hurt the most by the murders actually felt sorry for John Artis, the young black man who was convicted with Carter. They felt he had been swept into the tragedy by Carter's powerful influence, and the thought of Artis being released from prison didn't bother them at all.

Carter was another matter.

So it is for Pat, and Betty, and Murph and Barbara -- and for all the others who suffered a terrible loss on that bloody night -- that I have put these pages together.

Dec. 21, 1999

eMail