Why Are Most Big Cases Tried in Downtown Los Angeles Court?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingNov 07, 2022

This is the main downtown courthouse in Los Angeles County.  There may be approximately 30 courthouses throughout the county; however, the one at 210 West Temple in downtown Los Angeles is what I would characterize as the hub courthouse.

Downtown Los Angeles Court 210 W. Temple

It's the biggest one.  It has the most judges.  It's where all the prosecutors are based; therefore, they usually file prominent severe criminal cases in that courthouse.

The cases that might get some publicity – they want to have it in downtown Los Angeles where most of the head honchos of the District Attorney’s office are stationed.  They're either in the building at 210 W. Temple or across the street in the Hall of Justice. 

For them, meaning the District Attorney's office, which files most of the felony criminal cases in Los Angeles county, they save that courthouse for (1) cases that have jurisdiction surrounding the courthouse; and (2) significant, severe cases that involve celebrities or some political issue are going to be tried at that courthouse.

Also, because (1) they've got their leading group of prosecutors down there, and (2) that particular courthouse is best suited to handle significant cases.  It's got all of the facilities necessary.  It's closest to the county jail.  That's why they try big cases in downtown Los Angeles. Let's review this topic further below.

High Profile Criminal Cases

If you recall, years ago, they had a case where O.J. Simpson was charged with California Penal Code 187 PC murder in 1994.

For political reasons, in my opinion, the District Attorney at that time, instead of trying it in Santa Monica, which was the jurisdiction for the case and it properly would have gotten a conviction, this guy decided to try the case in downtown Los Angeles, maybe for some of the reasons that I'm stating.

Maybe because he figured he could show everybody that he could get a conviction regardless of where the case was tried.  But the bottom line is that downtown Los Angeles is probably known for the best and fairest jury pool.

What is a First-Degree Murder?

California Penal Code 187 PC defines the crime of murder as the unlawful killing of somebody or a fetus with malice aforethought.

Prosecutors will file first-degree murder charges for all premeditated killings and felony murder involving a situation where somebody dies during a rape, carjacking, robbery, or other serious crime.

A first-degree murder conviction could result in a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. If the killing involved torture, lying in wait, or a type of “special circumstance,” the penalties are life in prison without parole or capital punishment.

Prosecutors would file first-degree murder charges if the killing were willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Simply put, it was a planned, intentional act.

What is Capital Murder?

Capital murder is called first-degree murder with special circumstances that involve a broad range of situations, such as killing:

  • a police officer or firefighter;
  • a prosecutor, judge, or elected official;
  • a witness to stop them from testifying;
  • somebody due to their race, religion, or country of origin;
  • for the benefit of a gang or a drive-by shooting;
  • for financial gain;
  • more than one person.

What is Attempted Murder?

California Penal Code 664/187 PC defines the severe crime of attempted murder in either the first or second degree.  As the name of the crime suggests, nobody has to be killed for someone to be charged and convicted of attempted murder.

A crucial defining factor of a PC 664/187 attempted murder case is the intent to kill.  It's important to note that you can be convicted of second-degree murder without intent to kill.

An extremely reckless act that is inherently dangerous to human life could rise to the level of a PC 187 murder charge when someone is killed, even if there were no intent to kill or even hurt anyone.

California Penal Code 664/187 PC Attempted Murder

However, an attempt requires a specific intent to kill.  While someone can be found guilty under other statutes for attempting to carry out a dangerous act, they can't be guilty of attempted murder unless the prosecutor can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they intended to kill one or more victims.

Also, another defining factor of attempted murder is the requirement that someone take a “direct step” toward accomplishing a murder.

For example, it's not enough that somebody intended to kill someone.  They have to take tangible action toward accomplishing their goal before a criminal charge of attempted murder under California Penal Code 664/187 PC can be sustained.

What is tangible action? Perhaps someone shot a gun in the direction of the intended victim. Maybe they stabbed them with a knife.

A common defense for attempted murder is a self-defense argument.  Perhaps someone was attacking you with a knife, a gun, a bat, or another object, and you were forced to defend yourself.

You can't be guilty of attempted murder because you're allowed to defend yourself, especially if someone's trying to harm you.  You can use deadly force to protect yourself.

Perhaps we can use the specific details and evidence to negotiate for a lesser crime that doesn't carry severe penalties. You don't want the attempted murder charge because maybe it's an attempted premeditated murder that comes with a 15 to a life sentence or more, so you need a different charge. 

Perhaps we can negotiate it down to a Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC assault with a deadly weapon.

Need Help from a Criminal Defense Professional?

So, the bottom line is that most big cases will be tried in downtown Los Angeles unless they are not considered high-profile publicity type case and falls in a different jurisdiction.

California Criminal Defense Professional

That particular jurisdiction and the courthouse that handles that area will take it. 

I've handled many cases in all the courts throughout Los Angeles county over the last 30 years. 

If you're looking for the best – someone who has worked for the District Attorney's office and worked for a superior court judge.

I've been a criminal defense attorney defending people just like you since the early 1990s, pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. 

I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm provides a free case evaluation via phone or fill out the contact form.