Carrie Leonetti


The systematic foreclosure of federal-court review of even the most meritorious federal constitutional challenges of state criminal convictions has made review on the merits of an inmate’s claim that a state court violated the U.S. Constitution in adjudicating a criminal case exceedingly rare. Nonetheless, over the past two terms, the Supreme Court appears to have started down a different road, overlooking potential procedural hurdles in several cases to uphold on the merits state inmates’ claims that their criminal trials were tainted by explicit race discrimination. While these cases taken together seem to suggest that the Court is willing to address egregious and somewhat isolated acts of racial bias in the criminal-justice system, it remains to be seen whether this willingness will extend to more systemic and implicit biases. The hope of this Article is that the Court will continue this line of cases to its logical conclusion with a new jurisprudence that addresses the significant disparate racial impacts in the criminal-justice system even when there is no “smoking gun.”