A 19-year-old black fisherman, Gary Duncan was wrongly accused of assaulting a white boy in Plaquemines Parish, New Orleans, LA, in 1966.
Years back in October 1966, Duncan saw his cousin and nephew been rounded up by some group of white folks outside a newly amalgamated high school in Plaquemines Parish and approached them in other to prevent a fight that was about to escalate. While trying to settle the dispute, Gary touched one of the white boy’s arm, and that was how he was charged.
Under the leadership of Leander Henry Perez Sr., who was the then Democratic political leader of both St. Bernard Parishes in southeast Louisiana and Plaquemines Parish – infamous for his segregationist laws, Duncan was later charged for assault and battery charge after he turned himself in and the charges dropped.
Gary Duncan was sent to 60 days in prison after being denied a jury trial and was fined 150 US Dollars. A civil right lawyer from Washington D.C., Richard Sobol stood up against the racist legal system and filed the case to the Supreme Court and Duncan was granted his right to a jury trial.
According to a report; “In its 1968 7-2 decision on Duncan v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court concluded in the landmark case that the sixth Amendment guarantees trial by jury in criminal cases and it’s fundamental to the American scheme of justice. States are mandated to provide such trials, the high court found…”
A documentary movie – A Crime On The Bayou produced by Nancy Buirski was based on the true-life story of Gary Duncan. In the documentary made by Duncan he said they wanted to use him as an example to other Blacks.
After his freedom, he became close friends with Attorney Richard Sobol helping him in getting justice to to those legally oppressed till Sobol’s death.