Opening a new front in the battle over racial profiling in New Jersey, a state appeals court ruled that four persons serving time for drug offenses after traffic stops by state troopers may use evidence of racial profiling to appeal or reopen their cases.
The Week Online reported last week on that state's release of more than 90,000 documents detailing racial profiling practices and NJ officials' belated efforts to stop it, as well as the impact it could have on cases involving traffic stops (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/162.html#njprofiling).
State courts had previously said only that defendants facing their initial trial could present evidence of racial profiling.
The court of appeals rejected arguments from state lawyers that because defendants had not previously raised the issue they should not be allowed to now. It similarly rejected the state's effort to block appeals by defendants who had pleaded guilty.
Attorney General John S. Farmer said last week that the state may have to drop some criminal cases. His office will also attempt to settle civil suits filed by detained but not arrested motorists and by black and Hispanic state troopers who said they were forced to engage in racial profiling.
Now, with state court rulings that allow both defendants facing trial and those appealing their cases to bring evidence that racial profiling played a role in their cases, the reverberations from more than a decade of discriminatory policing fueled by the war on drugs promise to roil the New Jersey courts for years to come.
In a related story, the ACLU has released a report finding that racial profiling has taken place in Philadelphia. Visit http://www.msnbc.com/local/wcau/377376.asp for further information.
(Note: DRCNet is preparing to re-releasing the entire 91,000 page New Jersey Racial Profiling Archive on our web site over the next few days. Stay tuned, and check our home page at http://www.stopthedrugwar.org for breaking news on this project.)