Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer and Their Battle for Civil Rights in the South

Matthew Van Meter. Little, Brown, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-43503-1
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)
Reviewed on : 03/05/2020
Release date: 05/19/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-3234-6
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