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Hearing Judge Described as Strong-Willed, Evenhanded : Profile: Kathleen Kennedy-Powell will dismiss charges when she thinks evidence has been seized improperly, observers say. 'She's not slanted toward the prosecution or defense,' one veteran attorney says.

July 01, 1994|PAUL FELDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kennedy-Powell was appointed to the district attorney's sexual assault unit in 1986 and prosecuted several serial rapists, including one sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for kidnaping 12 schoolgirls.

Since being appointed to the bench by Gov. George Deukmejian, Kennedy-Powell has presided over few prominent cases. The one that probably drew the most public attention was a daylong preliminary hearing in which two men were ordered to stand trial in the savage beating of a Pasadena evangelist, Wallace Tope, who sought to stop looting at a Hollywood shopping center during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Among the issues that she will have to decide in the Simpson case is whether evidence was properly seized from the former football star's estate in the hours after the June 12 slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

In a recent Hollywood drug sales case, Kennedy-Powell encountered a similar issue. She dismissed charges against a defendant whose lawyer successfully argued that Los Angeles police officers should have obtained a search warrant before entering his apartment and finding three ounces of marijuana inside.

Although the police had no arrest or search warrant, the defendant, represented in Kennedy-Powell's court by Beverly Hills defense attorney Michael Chaney, did sign a consent form and a confession before the search was made. "I think she's wonderful," Chaney said Thursday. "She's everything a judge is supposed to be--evenhanded, knowledgeable and restrained."

But Steve Galeria, a police narcotics detective who had testified in court to knocking in the apartment door, said Thursday that Kennedy-Powell's ruling had shocked him. "I think she made a mistake in this particular case," he said. "(But) I have nothing bad to say about her."

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