Hall of JusticeOct 27th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
In the early hours of August 5th, 1962, screen star Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home. Later that same day, her body was brought to the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles for an autopsy. I only learned that factoid a couple of years ago and immediately became fascinated with the building. Upon doing further research, I became even more enthralled with the structure thanks to its long-standing connection to L.A.’s criminal element and dark underbelly. Figuring the place would be perfect for a Haunted Hollywood post, I set out to stalk it last fall. I was obviously having a blond moment that day, though, and mistakenly stalked the Los Angeles County Hall of Records instead. But this year I got it right!
The Hall of Justice was designed in 1925 by the Allied Architects Association and, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy website, is “the oldest surviving government building” in L.A.’s Civic Center.
The granite exterior of the Beaux Arts-style structure is comprised of four identical facades.
The 14-story building was originally constructed to house the Los Angeles county court and jail facilities. Upon its completion, it contained 750 jail cells, 17 courtrooms, a morgue, and office space for court employees and law enforcement officers.
The top four floors of the structure housed the jail facilities, which, at one point or another, were home to some of the city’s most notorious criminals including Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Bugsy Siegel. A few celebrities also did time there, such as Evel Knievel, who was jailed on assault charges (and famously hired twenty limousines to transport each of the inmates who were released the same day he was) and Robert Mitchum, who, as detailed in this Los Angeles magazine post, served an almost sixty-day sentence for smoking marijuana.
Countless famous trials took place at the Hall of Justice, as well, including those of Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Charlie Chaplin. Oh, if those walls could talk!
The morgue facilities were housed in the Hall of Justice’s basement. It was there that Marilyn’s autopsy was conducted by deputy coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who determined the star’s cause of death as probable suicide from acute barbiturate poisoning. That determination has been disputed by fans, armchair detectives and conspiracy theorists alike ever since. So much so that District Attorney John Van de Kamp ordered a review of Marilyn’s death in 1982. The resulting 29-page report on the matter, which took three and a half months to compile, stated that “no credible evidence” of foul play was found. Doubters and theories continue to abound, though.
Dr. Noguchi also performed the autopsy of Robert F. Kennedy at the Hall of Justice on June 6th, 1968.
The Hall of Justice was severely damaged during the Northridge earthquake in 1994 and was subsequently shuttered for the two decades following. Beginning in 2004, the building underwent a massive 10-year, $231-million restoration and finally re-opened in late 2014. While many historic décor elements were left intact, including the ornate columned loggia, several areas were gutted. The morgue where Marilyn’s autopsy was conducted was a casualty of the renovation. The majority of the courtrooms and jail cells were also removed. One block of cells, which is said to include the cell where both Manson and Sirhan Sirhan were incarcerated, was kept intact and moved to the basement (yes, the same basement where Marilyn was autopsied) and will eventually be part of a public exhibit. You can check out some great pre-renovation photos of the building here (man, I would have loved to have toured it during that time!) and some fabulous post-renovation photos here.
The Hall of Justice is also a filming location!
The building was featured numerous times in establishing shots on the television series Perry Mason.
And it appeared each week in the Season 3 and 4 opening credits of Get Smart.
The building was also featured in The Big Fix, The Distinguished Gentleman and Absolute Power, none of which I had copies of with which to make screen captures for this post.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Hall of Justice is located at 211 West Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles.