In her decision Thursday, Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell cited a 1989 California appeals court ruling she found in her research, a decision that was not mentioned in either the defense or prosecution’s briefs.
The judge said the case, People vs. Cain, “although not identical to the circumstances in (the Simpson) case, is more similar than most of the other cases” on the critical issue on which she was ruling: What “exigent circumstances” justify a police search without a warrant.
The Fresno appeals court decision stemmed from the beating and attempted rape of a Merced County woman. When sheriff’s deputies came to the victim’s apartment, “they could hear music coming from the next apartment and could see lights were on, and it was early in the morning,” Kennedy-Powell said, describing the situation outlined in the decision.
She said the officers “knocked on the door, received no answer” and decided there could be an additional victim. They entered the unlocked door and found the defendant passed out and intoxicated. They recovered evidence, she said, including bloodstains and clothing that eventually tied the defendant to the crime for which he later was convicted.
The appeals court upheld that warrantless entry, and Kennedy-Powell said the language in that decision was “particularly helpful” in the Simpson case.
Due weight must be given to the “reasonable inference” an officer’s experience entitles him or her to draw from the facts, she said.
In addition, she said, the appeals court stated that the search “must be strictly circumscribed by the exigencies which justify its initiation.” Kennedy-Powell explained that evidence in the Simpson case showed that the search was legal because it had not exceeded the bounds necessitated by the emergency the officers reasonably perceived.