Common Ground Relief Building In The 9th Ward New Orleans

Common Ground Relief's mission is to create resilient Gulf Coast Communities that are environmentally sustainable, financially viable and personally cohesive. We fulfill this mission by helping residents build assets that support community transformation and renewal.

Calvin Duncan Fundraiser

In 1985, a New Orleans Ninth Ward resident by the name of Calvin Duncan was wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to life without parole, probation or suspension of sentence. He was imprisoned for over 28 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for a crime he did not commit. Today we have the opportunity to help Calvin Duncan restore a historic home that was donated to him by a friend in 2012. The house is a beautiful century old wood frame house that can provide Mr. Duncan with a wonderful home and a sense of security. In addition, the house has enough space to include a small living area for recently released prisoners for who Mr. Duncan plans to mentor.

To help Mr. Duncan realize his dream of home ownership and to help mentor the formerly incarcerated, we need your help to raise funds for the project. We ask you to consider a donation to help us secure funds for permits, purchase building materials, pay skilled construction workers and offset any construction management costs. Any amount of money helps. All donations are tax deductible and will go directly at the restoration of Mr. Duncan's home.


To donate click on the button at the top of the page or to the right. Under Program select "Other" and type in Calvin Duncan.

To donate by check, please mail a check payable to Common Ground Relief, Inc to the address below. Please let us know that you would like the proceeds to go to the Calvin Duncan project.

Common Ground Relief
1800 Deslonde Street
New Orleans, LA 70117

Calvin Duncan Bio

I was wrongly accused of murder in 1985 and sentenced to life without parole, probation or suspension of sentence. Consequently, I was imprisoned for 28 1/2 years for a crime that I did not commit.

My family could not afford an attorney to represent me at trial so I went with a court appointed attorney. At that time court-appointed attroneys were overworked and had very little resources to investigate capital cases. Immediately after I was arrested I tried learning the law in order to protect my rights and to make sure that I received a fair trial. The first pro se legal document that I submitted to the court was titled, "Motion for a Law Book". But with a 9th grade education the little that I learned could not save me.

In 1986 I was sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana to serve out the rest of my natural life in prison.

In order to find evidence to convince a court that I did not commit the crime, I wrote countless letters to state and federal agencies asking for the documents that they had concerning my case. I wrote to countless organizations seeking their help. I donated my plasma to pay for the documents and I saved up the prison wages that I earned, which ranged from 4 cents to 20 cents per hour, to pay for the documents. But I could not do the investigation my case needed.

In 2003, the Innocence Project New Orleans accepted my case.

During their investigation they discovered documents that showed that the State of Louisiana's case against me was not true. On January 7, 2011, after having served nearly three decades in prison, I accepted a plea offer for my release. I was released that day.

While in prison I earned my G.E.D.I worked as a paralegal (referred to at the prison as "inmate counsel substitutes") for 23 years. For 19 of those years, I worked as a paralegal for the guys sentenced to death on Louisiana's Death Row. I taught law classes for 15 years and I taught G.E.D. class for 7 years.

I worked on hundreds of cases, and I was successful in winning the freedom for some of my fellow prisoners, thanks to God. I worked on Wilbert Rideau's case. He had been in prison for more than 43 years. After he was released he authored a book, "In the Place of Justice", where he wrote,

"Calvin Duncan, the most brilliant legal mind in Angola, did the legal research necessary for my case....I thank Calvin for his legal aid, which helped free me."

While in prison, I also initiated the litigation that culminated in an 8-1 victory in the United States Supreme Court in Juan Smith v Burl Cain, and the vacation of Mr. Smith's death sentence.

Upon my release I immediately began working as a paralegal at the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project, a non-profit organization that represents defendants sentenced to death. I am the Education Coordinator for the Louisiana Coalition for Alternative to the Death Penalty Speakers Bureau department ( I am a voluntary coordinator for two programs at Tulane University, ALLIES and PAPERS for PRISONERS. ( I am also pursuing a bachelors degree in paralegal from Tulane University.

A friend of mine donated the house at 1317 Feliciana Street in New Orleans to me. The house is over 100 years old and had been abandoned for a number of years as well as having been flooded during Hurricane Katrina. I don't have the funds to renovate it. Therefore, I wrote Common Ground Relief for help and they have agreed to help me.

Calvin Duncan

Additional Information

» Floor Plan
» Support Letter

View photos of Calvin's house from start to finish.

Calvin Duncan's House