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Earthquake: Courthouse Rock

“God has spoken!” Timothy McGhee jokingly quipped to a downtown Superior Court room when the earthquake struck at 11:40 a.m. today. McGhee, the convicted triple murderer and Atwater Village street-gang leader, was testifying on the witness stand about his role in a 2005 jail riot when his attorney, H. Clay Jacke, asked him how he could tell the direction from which riot cops were charging to quell the rebellion. Was it, Jacke asked, “a matter of sight or of sound?”

Earthquake: Courthouse Rock

QUAKE BREAK AT CIVIC CENTER MALL

Suddenly the floor shook and the enormous lighting grid above the courtroom swayed for several sickening seconds. After what seemed a long interval, Judge David S. Wesley announced, “Folks, we’re going to take a recess now – will the jurors please follow me.” McGhee was escorted out by bailiffs.

For the rest of us, the walk down to the street nine floors below went fairly smooth. A sheriff’s deputy held the ninth-floor stairwell door and assured everyone that the building was on rollers. Outside, though, people milled about only a few feet from the 19-story structure, some asking where their offices were supposed to evacuate to, while others blithely made cell phone calls. Things were a little more organized a few blocks away at the Civic Center Mall, where monitors with signs for Juror Services and different departments of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and Kenneth Hahn Administration Building offices held signs to shepherd flocks of workers and visitors alike. The big winner was the mall’s Starbucks, whose line stretched out the door even longer than usual.

Earthquake: Courthouse Rock

A DAY ON THE MALL

Earthquake: Courthouse Rock

OUTSIDE THE CRIMINAL COURTS BUILDING (SUPERIOR COURT)

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