Mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel feasted on pheasant while under lockup there. Charles Manson, during his murder trial, unsuccessfully dangled string out his jail cell window to smuggle marijuana and a hacksaw. The bodies of Marilyn Monroe, Sharon Tate and Robert F. Kennedy were examined in its basement. For decades, downtown’s Hall of Justice was the stage upon which many of the darker scenes of Los Angeles County history played out, says the Los Angeles Times. The one-stop justice hall, the first of its kind in the country when it opened in 1926, welcomed under its roof the district attorney, public defender, sheriff and coroner. Then it ushered in infamous prisoners and famous visitors, from the bad to the beautiful.
“The place just oozes history,” said one longtime denizen. Today, 12 years after an earthquake shut it down, the hall is home to pigeons and vermin that pass through its broken windows. The crumbs of decaying ceilings and walls cover the floor, and elevator shafts sit feet-deep in stagnant water. Now, a $16-million federal grant to retrofit the building could slip through the county’s hands if it doesn’t approve construction contracts by the end of the year, according to a civil grand jury report, titled “Hall of Justice: The Money Pit?” The county has already filed for an extension, but even with the grant – a fraction of the estimated $200 million needed to revive the building – the building may never reopen.