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.
AUTHOR: Matthew Van Meter works with people whose voices have been ignored or silenced, both as a journalist and as the Assistant Director of Shakespeare in Prison. His reporting on criminal justice has appeared in The Atlantic and The New Republic, and he is currently editing the first critical edition of Shakespeare written entirely by incarcerated people. Raised Quaker on the East Coast, he now lives in Detroit.