Opinion of the Court
confidence in it." State v. Alvarado, 221 N. J. Super. 324, 328, 534 A. 2d 440, 442 (1987). Just as public confidence in criminal justice is undermined by a conviction in a trial where racial discrimination has occurred in jury selection, so is public confidence undermined where a defendant, assisted by racially discriminatory peremptory strikes, obtains an acquittal.6
The fact that a defendant's use of discriminatory peremptory challenges harms the jurors and the community does not end our equal protection inquiry. Racial discrimination, although repugnant in all contexts, violates the Constitution only when it is attributable to state action. See Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis, 407 U. S. 163, 172 (1972). Thus, the second question that must be answered is whether a criminal defendant's exercise of a peremptory challenge constitutes state action for purposes of the Equal Protection Clause.
Until Edmonson, the cases decided by this Court that presented the problem of racially discriminatory peremptory challenges involved assertions of discrimination by a prosecutor, a quintessential state actor. In Edmonson, by contrast, the contested peremptory challenges were exercised by a private defendant in a civil action. In order to determine whether state action was present in that setting, the
6 The experience of many state jurisdictions has led to the recognition that a race-based peremptory challenge, regardless of who exercises it, harms not only the challenged juror, but the entire community. Acting pursuant to their state constitutions, state courts have ruled that criminal defendants have no greater license to violate the equal protection rights of prospective jurors than have prosecutors. See, e. g., State v. Levinson, 71 Haw. 492, 795 P. 2d 845 (1990); People v. Kern, 149 App. Div. 2d 187, 545 N. Y. S. 2d 4 (1989), aff'd, 75 N. Y. 2d 638, 555 N. Y. S. 2d 647 (1990); State v. Alvarado, 221 N. J. Super. 324, 534 A. 2d 440 (1987); State v. Neil, 457 So. 2d 481 (Fla. 1984); Commonwealth v. Soares, 377 Mass. 461, 387 N. E. 2d 499, cert. denied, 444 U. S. 881 (1979); People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal. 3d 258, 583 P. 2d 748 (1978).Page: Index Previous 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Next
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