NEWARK -- New Jersey has decided not to try Rubin (Hurricane) Carter a third time for murder, ending the former boxer's 22-year legal saga, acting Passaic County prosecutor John Goceljak said.

Goceljak said the decision was based on the time since the 1966 murders, the unavailability of witnesses, the likely exclusion of the only eyewitness testimony and the decision by a federal judge that Carter's conviction was racially tainted.

On Jan. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a federal judge's ruling that cleared Carter. The lower-court judge found Carter's conviction was tainted by racism and by prosecutors withholding information from the defense. Carter had been free on bail pending appeal after serving 19 years of a life prison term.

The Supreme Court ruling left to the Passaic County prosecutor's office the decision on whether to seek another trial for Carter and his alleged accomplice, whose first convictions were overturned by the New Jersey Supreme court before a 1976 retrial.

The case began June 17, 1966, when two black gunmen entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson and killed the bartender and two patrons. Carter and John Artis were arrested three months later and convicted by an all-white jury in May 1967.

But two witnesses later recanted, and the case was reopened in 1974. The state Supreme Court threw out the first verdict in 1976 and their second convictions, based partly on the testimony of one of the recanting witnesses who stuck by his earlier evidence, were overturned again on appeal.