LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jackie Lacey was sworn in as Los Angeles County's new district attorney Monday, becoming the first new top prosecutor in a dozen years and the first woman and first African-American to hold the post since it was created in 1850.
Her predecessor, Steve Cooley, administered the oath of office Monday in front of an audience that included four of the five previous district attorneys.
In her acceptance speech, Lacey paid tribute to her parents, who left Georgia for California to escape racism, and portrayed herself as an emblem of what can be accomplished.
"For today the voters of this county allowed us to witness that it is possible for a girl from a working class neighborhood ... who was educated in a public school ... and worked her way up from the bottom, can become the district attorney of the largest prosecutorial office in the nation," Lacey said. "How cool is that?"
An audience of more than 1,000 roared their approval and gave her a standing ovation.
She vowed, "I will make decisions that are in the best interests of justice."
At 55, Lacey, a native of Los Angeles, has spent most of her working life in the district attorney's office.
With a law degree from the University of Southern California, she joined the office in 1986. She and her husband, David, have two adult children.
Cooley brought along Lacey as his successor, moving her up in rank until she was his chief deputy overseeing day-to-day operations of the office and cases filed for prosecution.
She oversaw a number of new crime-fighting programs and helped create alternative sentencing courts to deal with nonviolent offenders.
Lacey, who was elected with 55 percent of the vote, will oversee the nation's largest prosecutorial office with more than 1,000 lawyers, 300 investigators and 800 support staff employees. With its proximity to Hollywood, the office frequently draws celebrity cases.
During Cooley's tenure, the office prosecuted such high-profile defendants as Robert Blake, Phil Spector and Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray.
Blake was acquitted of his wife's murder, and it took two trials to convict Spector in the death of an actress. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sent to prison for four years.