Is a lynch mob menacing Carter? You be the judge

 Blowup of this photo  Blowup of Carter's face
Photo: Rubin Carter outside the Lafayette Grill 35 minutes after the murders. He was picked up by police about five minutes earlier because his car matched the description of the getaway car (white, out-of-state plates, butterfly taillights). From left, Patrolman Angelo DeChellis, Patrolman Bill Nolan, Patrolman Salvatore Santora, Patrolman Rudolph Fiduccia, Rubin Carter. The vehicle is a police car.

Carter's description of the scene

In his book, "The Sixteenth Round," Carter tells of an "angry white mob" standing outside the bar. He writes:

"Their attention was momentarily diverted as a five car siren-screaming cavalcade sped around the corner and screeched to a grinding half in front of the tavern. Several shotgun-bearing policemen leaped out of their cars and scrambled around a white Dodge that they had just escorted to the scene.

"The chattering mob pressed closer as the police forced the two black occupants of the car out onto the street. The two men were confused by the hostile reception the mob gave them, and they had reason to be. I know because I was one of them."

Later in the book, Carter says the crowd "wore very tense expressions. They whispered too loudly, cussed too profusely, and appeared in my mind's eye to be all on the verge of nervous hysteria. There were tears everywhere. Few people seemed to be actually aware of what they were doing.

"Suddenly I knew exactly how a black man in the South must feel when a white mob is about to lynch him and the law is going to turn its head."

Carter says a "bull-faced cop" ordered him to "stand up against that wall over there" and not to move. The cop drew his gun and pulled the hammer back when he questioned the order, Carter claims.

Photographer's recollection

He did not recognize Carter at the time and did not realize Carter was a suspect. "I had to think 17 times before I decided to take the picture," he said. (The photogrpaher did not wish to be identified.)

Pat Valentine's testimony, 1967: 2 cars

(The number of police cars that brought Carter to the scene was not an issue in the trial, but she describes what she saw.)

VALENTINE: I was about here and the police car came up this way. The first one pulled around. The white car pulled behind it and the other police car came this way.

THE COURT: All right, indicating that it was coming up East 18th Street in a northerly direction. It turned left onto Lafayette and came to a stop?


BY MR. HULL (prosecution): And the police car was facing on Lafayette Street going towards East 16th?

V: Yes.

HULL: The white car that came in was facing the same direction?

V: Same direction. And the other car was facing up East 18th.

In a 1975 interview, Valentine said: "There wasn't an angry white mob. I don't think [the bystanders] really knew what had happened." She said she doubts that they knew the extent of the crime, much less the description of the car.

Sergeant Capter's comments

Sergeant Ted Capter is one of the two men who apprehended Carter 30 minutes after the murders. He was interviewed about Carter's claims in November of 1975.

"I don't think that's accurate at all," Capter said. There were only two police cars, no sirens were used, no shotguns were brought out, no guns were drawn, and there was no angry white mob, he said. There were 50 to 75 curious residents who were kept across the street, he said. (At Carter's trial, Capter testified that there were just two police cars.)

Carter chatted with police

After being brought to the murder scene, Carter was there less than 30 minutes and spent most of that time talking with police officers. Their conversation was described as "pretty calm" by Sergeant Capter, "casual and friendly" by one news reporter and "businesslike" by another.

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Clinton State Prison, N.J., Dec. 12, 1975.

BOB MILLER, WABC-TV, New York: I think you said in the book that when you were brought back to the scene of the crime there was an angry white mob.

RUBIN CARTER: Brought back? I never said "brought back."

MILLER: When you were brought to the scene of the crime, there was an angry white mob there. Now this is a picture that was taken at the time and admittedly it's an instant out of what may have been a half hour or an hour. I want you to take a look at it yourself. You don't look that disturbed and I don't see a mob around you. I see two people across the street looking the other way, as a matter of fact, not really interested, it seems, in what you were doing.

CARTER: Well again, look at the trial transcript. Look at the description of the scene when John Artis and I were brought to this scene by the police themselves. There was 75 to 100 people. John Artis and myself were brought up to the side at gunpoint. This picture was taken shortly after the police searched our car at the scene of the crime. I remember this picture very vividly. That was taken shortly, but we were off to the side from the people, from ... the mob was, was in the background.

MILLER: You felt threatened at that time?

CARTER: It's a wonder we didn't get lynched at that time because the description, the general description, was of two black men in a white car. Well, the police brought just that. Two black men, John Artis and myself, in a white car sandwiched between five or six other police cars with machine guns and shotguns hanging out. And at this particular time in 1966, that was a predominantly white area, and so, therefore, the people who were in the street were predominantly white people, and very angry.

CAL DEAL: Four people -- Sergeant Capter, Pat Valentine and two reporters who were there --  told me that there was no angry white mob and that there was just a group of 50, perhaps 75 curiosity seekers who stood across the street. Four people said that.

CARTER: Let me say one thing. Again. Let me reiterate. I refused to be lured into a battle of the wits with an unarmed man here. I've come here to sit here and talk to you about the truth. This man is sitting here talking about what somebody told him, somebody who is not here.

MILLER: However...

DEAL: Four eyewitnesses.

MILLER:'ll admit that somebody is telling me, too, and somebody is telling our television audience. It's pretty much the same thing. It's a matter of who we believe and I think it's to your advantage if you can knock down things like this.

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Interview Margin Notation Made in 1975

As far as I know, the car was not searched at the scene. It was searched in Police Headquarters at 3:45 a.m. by Detective DiRobbio.

-- CD

News Report
June 17, 1966, 23rd paragraph

"A crowd of about 50 persons gathered outside the three-story yellow frame building as police converged at the scene." (Herald-New)

No other mention is made of the bystanders.

Bello's description of gunman's clothes

June 18, 1966 (to compare with photograph): White sport jacket, black pants, vest, no hat and a goatee. (It would be four months before Bello would attach Carter's name to that description, although he identified Carter to a friend on June 17.)


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