Gary Duncan (defendant) was convicted of simple battery by a judge in a Louisiana state court. Under Louisiana law, simple battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and a $300 fine. Duncan sought trial by jury, but the Louisiana constitution granted jury trials only in cases in which capital punishment or imprisonment at hard labor could be imposed. Duncan's request was denied, and he was convicted and sentenced to sixty days in prison and a fine of $150. Duncan appealed and brought suit against the State of Louisiana, alleging an infringement of his constitutional right to a jury trial.