Born: May 6, 1937; Died: April 20, 2014.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who has died aged 76, was a former US professional boxer who spent 19 years in prison for murder before being released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial. The arrest, his imprisonment, and the ultimately successful battle to free him are immortalised in the 1975 Bob Dylan song Hurricane

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Carter was once a middleweight boxer and earned a world title fight in 1964 but he became more well known for the turn his life took after he was arrested for a triple homicide in 1966. He was considered a folk hero by many and, as well as the Dylan song, his story was told in the 1999 film also called Hurricane, which starred Denzel Washington as Carter.

Born in Clifton, New Jersey, Carter ran into trouble with the law as a teenager, serving custodial sentences for assault and robbery, and spending two years in the army.

In his 1974 autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, he wrote of his younger years: "The kindest thing I have to say about my childhood is that I survived it."

In 1961, he channelled his energies into boxing, turning pro and earning a 1964 title match against world champion Joey Giardello, which Carter lost in a unanimous decision.

His career was already in decline in 1966 when he was arrested and charged in a June triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey. He was convicted for the shootings along with John Artis, a hitch-hiker he had picked up on the night of the murders.

Carter's case exploded into national consciousness in 1974, when two key witnesses recanted their testimony, sparking a series of stories by the New York Times and making him a cause celebre for the civil rights movement, and prompting Bob Dylan to release Hurricane.

Carter was retried in 1976 and convicted again but was released for good in 1985, aided by a group of Canadian activists. The federal district judge ruled that the convictions were predicated on what he called an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure. Prosecutors decided not to pursue a third trial.

Despite his release, some have raised doubts about Carter's innocence, claiming the facts of his case still point to his guilt.

After his release, Carter spent about 12 years as executive director of the Toronto-based Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. He broke acrimoniously with the group in 2004.

James Lockyer, senior counsel to AIDWYC and a founding director of the organisation along with Carter, said: "We have freed more than 20 people in the last 15 or 20 years - he played a huge role in that."

After his break with AIDWYC, Carter continued to speak out for the wrongly convicted and also worked as a motivational speaker. He remained close friends with Artis, the man with whom he was convicted.

"Those who are wrongfully incarcerated lost a champion," said Artis. "He dedicated his life to helping the people that need the same kind of assistance that we needed, who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated."

Carter is survived by two children from his first marriage to Mae Thelma.