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Court: Santa Clara Superior Court Appointed:Aug. 10, 1989 Date of Birth: May 20, 1948 Previous Judicial Experience: Elected to Municipal Court Jan. 3, 1983 Law Degree:UCLA School of Law, 1973 When he campaigned against an incumbent judge almost two decades ago, Kevin Murphy promised he’d dole out a more conservative brand of justice than the Jerry Brown appointee occupying the seat. Attorneys say Murphy, a former deputy district attorney, has kept his promise. The Santa Clara Superior Court judge is a tough sentencer who doesn’t usually hand out second chances to repeat offenders and probation violators. “I think he is very conservative,” said San Jose defense attorney Philip Pennypacker, “but that doesn’t diminish his ability to be open, impartial and conduct a trial in that fashion.” While Murphy says he prefers to sidestep public attention, he’s presided over some of Santa Clara’s most notorious cases, including the 1997 Nuestra Familia prison gang trial where three were sentenced to death. Most recently, the judge gave a three- year prison sentence to Andrew Burnett for tossing a lap dog named Leo into traffic. Attorneys agree Murphy, who is now handling criminal trials, is meticulous when it comes to the law. An adjunct faculty member at the Santa Clara University School of Law, Murphy says his first love is teaching. And he reads lawyers’ papers and often does outside research before making decisions. “His rulings are by and large bulletproof on appeal. He makes a very good record to support his decision,” said Deputy District Attorney Catherine Constantinides. “I think he even writes them out before he rules. It’s sometimes frustrating to see a judge reading from a ruling because you wonder why you argued, but he wants to be thorough.” Constantinides prosecuted the Nuestra Familia case, a six-year, 21-defendant case that prosecutors say “broke the back” of the notorious prison gang. She said Murphy’s attention to detail and his demanding court schedule, including proceedings on Christmas Eve, could be draining. “Everything was litigated extensively, which at the time was frustrating. Having the luxury of hindsight, I am grateful,” Constantinides said. “He protected the record.” Despite his tough sentences, defense lawyers say he hears them out. “There are some people who have some real negative impressions of him because of his conservativeness. But he always is willing to listen,” said San Jose defense attorney Guerin Provini. Pennypacker said Murphy kept the prosecution from introducing inflammatory evidence in several sex cases he’s handled. “He considers every item of evidence. He pays close attention to very small details. He realizes the impact it could have on the jury,” Pennypacker said. “I know some departments that would have let that evidence in. He wasn’t going to do it.” However, Provini, a former deputy DA who was hired the same day as Murphy, said he “doesn’t give second chances. If you had a person who has had some problems and you are looking for some leniency, he is not your guy.” Provini, who defended one of the Nuestra Familia defendants sentenced to death, said even in such a high-profile murder case, the judge, after examining evidence, was willing to dismiss two of the four murder charges against his client as well as one attempted murder charge. While the trial ended with devastating consequences for his client, “it was moral victory for me as a lawyer,” Provini said. “I appreciated him calling it like he sees it.” In court, Murphy will accommodate scheduling conflicts when he can, but he makes it clear jurors come first. That means he’ll require attorneys to come in early for hearings that must take place out of the jury’s presence rather than have them wait. Some say that can mean a grueling trial schedule, but it endears him to the jury. “He will never keep a jury waiting and they adore that,” Constantinides said. And don’t be late. Attorneys note that the clock in Murphy’s court is five minutes fast and say it’s best not to walk in a second after start time. If a trial starts late due to an attorney’s tardiness, the judge will often mention the attorney by name when explaining the delay to the jury. Murphy’s ascent to the bench is a piece of local courthouse lore. Fred Lucero, the judge he took on in 1982, had initially been put on the superior court by Gov. Brown. After Lucero lost a contested election to John Schatz, Brown named Lucero to the municipal bench. Then Murphy came along, riding a wave of voter disgust with Brown’s judicial picks, and toppled him again. In 1989, Gov. George Deukmejian elevated him to the superior court.

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