Marcia Clark: 'Guilt By Association'

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I listened to the last stragglers chatter their way out of the office. As the door snicked closed behind them, silence filled the air. I was tired, but I wasn't ready to go home. This was my favorite part of the day, when I had the whole DA's office to myself. No phones, no friends, no cops to distract me. I exhaled and looked out the window at the view that never got old. The streetlights had blinked on, and the jagged outline of the downtown L.A. office buildings glowed against the encroaching darkness. From my perch on the eighteenth floor of the Criminal Courts Building, I could see all the way from the main cop shop, the Police Administration Building, to the theaters at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and all the streets and sidewalks in between. The irony of being in the middle of those two extremes still made me smile. Just having an office with a window was a coup — let alone one with a spectacular view. But the fact that it had come with my transfer into Special Trials — the unit I'd worked my ass off to get into for seven years — made it a delicious victory.

Not that I'd minded working the routine felonies during my stints in the smaller Van Nuys and Compton branch courts. Seeing the same defendants come back to the fold with a new case every couple of years gave the job a kind of homey, family feeling. Sure, it was a weird, dysfunctional, and largely criminal family, but still. So it wasn't as though I was miserable when I worked the outlying courts. It just wasn't for me. From the moment I'd heard of the Special Trials Unit, based in the hub of the DA's office downtown, I'd known it was where I wanted to be. I'd been warned by the senior prosecutors in the branch courts about the long hours, the marathon-?length trials, the public scrutiny, and the endless pressure I'd face in the unit. I didn't tell them that, for me, that was the allure. And being in the unit was even better than I'd imagined. On almost every case, I got to work with great cops and the best lawyers — for both the prosecution and the defense — I'd ever seen. Far from a detraction, the intensity of the job was exhilarating. Too often in life a long-?desired goal, once achieved, turns out to be much less than expected — as they say, "Be careful what you wish for." Not this time. Getting into Special Trials was all I'd hoped for and then some, and I savored that fact at least once a day.

I tried to drag my mind back down to the supplemental reports — updates on the investigation — that had been added to the case file during the last month, but the words were blurring on the page. I leaned back in my chair, hoping to catch a second wind, and watched the cars crawl down Main Street. The sky had darkened, and clouds were moving in.

I could tell my second wind wasn't going to arrive anytime soon. I decided to admit defeat and pack it in for the night. I got up, stretched, walked over to the table next to the window where I'd dropped my briefcase, and brought it over to my desk. I threw in five of the files — wishful thinking, I knew — picked up my purse, and grabbed my coat off the hook on the back of the door. I swung into my jacket and slung the strap of my briefcase over my shoulder, then reached into my coat pocket and flipped off the safety on my palm-?size .22 Beretta. Then I kicked out the doorstop and headed down the hall toward the bank of elevators as my office door clicked shut behind me.

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