Deep delta justice A Black teen, his lawyer, and their groundbreaking battle for civil rights in the South

Matthew Van Meter

Book - 2020

"In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting his fate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at "the most radical law firm" in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the S...outh, a man called simply "The Judge." In this powerful work of character-driven history, journalist Matthew Van Meter vividly brings alive how a seemingly minor incident brought massive, systemic change to the criminal justice system. Using first-person interviews, in-depth research and a deep knowledge of the law, Van Meter shows how Gary Duncan's insistence on seeking justice empowered generations of defendants-disproportionately poor and black-to demand fair trials. Duncan v. Louisiana changed American law, but first it changed the lives of those who litigated it"--

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

323.1196/Van Meter
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 323.1196/Van Meter Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2020.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 290 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates ; illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 237-275) and index.
ISBN
9780316435031
0316435031
Main Author
Matthew Van Meter (author)
  • Prologue: Down the road
  • A dirty storm
  • The boss
  • What is ours
  • Contact
  • Going to war
  • Determination and unity
  • Dire straits
  • Cruelty
  • Klantown, USA
  • The case for the prosecution
  • The case for the defense
  • Investigation
  • Trouble
  • No error of law
  • The chief engineer
  • Bailing out
  • Where is your law?
  • Absent and unrepresented
  • The fruits of benevolence
  • Losing everything
  • Having a field day
  • Flambeaux
  • Suppression
  • The facts of this case
  • If it ain't true, it oughta be
  • First and foremost
  • Workhorse
  • Profound judgment
  • Tranquility
  • A clean storm
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword.
Review by Booklist Reviews

In this well-researched account, Van Meter presents a court case that changed the course of social injustice in the South via a denial of trial by jury, which, at the time, affected thousands of poor and mostly Black Americans. Deep Delta Justice tells the story of Gary Duncan, a Black man who in 1966 was charged with "cruelty to juveniles" after simply putting his hand on the arm of a young white man in an effort to stop a fight. Wanting a fair trial, Duncan used his contacts to get help from Richard Sobol, a white New York lawyer who had previously worked with a Black law firm in New Orleans. Based on first-person interviews and records, Van Meter's narrative and characters come alive to illustrate a pivotal time in American justice. The extraordinary details he gleans from his research immerse readers in the climate and culture of the era. Readers drawn to Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy (2014) will find this book a similarly engaging reminder that the justice system is ever-evolving. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 1966 Louisiana, Gary Duncan leaped from his car to stop a fight between a bunch of white kids and two of his own cousins and was promptly accused of assault. He asked New Yorker Richard Sobol, working that summer at a New Orleans law firm, to represent him, and together they fought a case all the way to the Supreme Court that ended the pernicious habit of denying trial by jury. With a 30,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish during the summer of 1966, 19-year-old Gary Duncan witnessed a group of white boys harassing his two cousins. He attempted to calm the scene by lightly touching the arm of one of the boys who, in turn, feigned injury. That evening, Duncan was arrested and charged with battery. From this point, journalist Van Meter masterfully traces the career of aspiring Jewish corporate lawyer Richard Sobol, who temporarily leaves a prominent Washington law firm to join fellow attorneys in New Orleans on Duncan's behalf. Duncan and Sobol successfully carry their appeals to the Supreme Court on the issue of denial of trial by jury in Duncan's misdemeanor charge. They eventually win, and Duncan v. Louisiana (1968) establishes the constitutional right to jury trial in minor wrongdoing cases involving disproportionately higher penalties. VERDICT A seminal work of impeccable scholarship. Recommended to all working in the intersections of law, criminal justice, and social activism, along with readers of African American history and Southern history. Also see the documentary feature film A Crime on the Bayou (2020), in development with Augusta Films and HBO, which follows Duncan's story. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]—John Carver Edwards, formerly with Univ. of Georgia Libs. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Van Meter's excellent debut revisits Duncan v. Louisiana, the landmark 1968 Supreme Court decision affirming that the constitutional right to a trial by jury applied to state courts. The case originated in the 1966 arrest of a 19-year-old black man for allegedly striking a white boy in Plaquemines Parish, La. Convicted of misdemeanor battery, Gary Duncan was sentenced to 60 days in prison but appealed on the basis that Louisiana's trial jury statutes violated his Sixth Amendment rights. As the appeal worked its way to the Supreme Court (where Duncan's conviction was overturned), forces aligned with local political boss Leander Perez ("the most notorious racist in the state") fought to have Duncan's attorney barred from Louisiana courtrooms for practicing law without a state license—a legal strategy designed to blunt the effectiveness of civil rights lawyers across the South. Van Meter makes great use of interviews and oral histories to bring the case's major players to life, and readers will be struck by how many of the issues involved—voter suppression, public funding for private schools, racial inequalities in the criminal justice system—are still being legislated today. This deeply researched and vividly written chronicle is the definitive account of one of the civil rights movement's most unheralded victories. (May) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Tells the story of a lawyer and his defendant, who together changed American law during the height of the Civil Rights era.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Tells the story of a lawyer and his defendant, who together changed American law during the height of the Civil Rights era. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting hisfate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at "the most radical law firm" in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the South, a man called simply "The Judge." In this powerful work of character-driven history, journalist Matthew Van Meter vividly brings alive how a seemingly minor incident brought massive, systemic change to the criminal justice system. Using first-person interviews, in-depth research and a deep knowledge of the law, Van Meter shows how Gary Duncan's insistence on seeking justice empowered generations of defendants-disproportionately poor and black-to demand fair trials. Duncan v. Louisiana changed American law, but first it changed the lives of those who litigated it"--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The book that inspired the documentary A Crime on the Bayou2021 Chautauqua Prize FinalistThe "arresting, astonishing history" of one lawyer and his defendant who together achieved a "civil rights milestone" (Justin Driver).In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting his fate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at "the most radical law firm" in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the South, a man called simply "The Judge."In this powerful work of character-driven history, journalist Matthew Van Meter vividly brings alive how a seemingly minor incident brought massive, systemic change to the criminal justice system. Using first-person interviews, in-depth research and a deep knowledge of the law, Van Meter shows how Gary Duncan's insistence on seeking justice empowered generations of defendants-disproportionately poor and black-to demand fair trials. Duncan v. Louisiana changed American law, but first it changed the lives of those who litigated it.