New Jersey v. Soto et al.

734 A.2d 350, 324 N.J. Super. 66 (1996)

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New Jersey v. Soto et al.

New Jersey Superior Court
734 A.2d 350, 324 N.J. Super. 66 (1996)

Facts

Pedro Soto (defendant) and 16 other defendants of African descent were arrested for violating traffic laws on the New Jersey Turnpike between 1988 and 1991. The defendants moved to suppress the evidence seized during their traffic stops and sought to make out a prima facie case that New Jersey State Police members were selectively enforcing traffic laws. State troopers had the discretion to stop any vehicle they chose. The defendants based their assertions of discriminatory enforcement on statistics. During discovery, both parties used data from traffic tickets, arrest reports, and the like from April 1988 to May 1991 to create a database of stops and arrests between exits 1 and 7A. The defendants created a standard by which to analyze the collected data by conducting a survey of traffic and a survey of traffic violators between the first and third exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. The traffic survey showed that 13.5 percent of 42,706 vehicles had a Black occupant. The violator survey showed that of 2,062 vehicles that were speeding, 306, or around 15 percent, had a Black occupant. At a hearing on the motions to suppress, Dr. John Lamberth testified as an expert that the survey results showed that Blacks represented 46.2 percent of the traffic stops that occurred between the first three exits from 1988 to 1991. This reflected a disparity of 32.7 percent. Dr. Leonard Cupingood, who was critical of the defendants’ statistical evidence, testified for the state. Cupingood asserted that the violator traffic survey lacked key data and asserted, without evidence, that perhaps Black motorists simply drove faster than White motorists. Cupingood disputed that 15 percent was the correct standard and presented evidence from two of his own studies, which were both flawed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Francis, J.)

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