Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran

Infobox Person
name=Johnnie Cochran

birth_date= birth date|mf=yes|1937|10|2|mf=y
birth_place= Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
death_date= death date and age|mf=yes|2005|3|29|1937|10|2
death_place= Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California

Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.The middle initial, L, does not stand for anything. [ Showy, Tenacious Lawyer Rode Simpson Murder Trial to Fame] by Adam Bernstein, "The Washington Post", March 30, 2005, retrieved April 17, 2006.] (October 2, 1937ndash March 29, 2005) was an American lawyer perhaps best known for his leadership in the legal defense of O. J. Simpson, who was charged with the murder of his former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. [ Famed attorney Johnnie Cochran dead] by DeClamecy, Dree, Wilson, Stan, Philips, Eric, "", March 30, 2005, retrieved April 20, 2005.] Cochran also represented Sean Combs (during his trial on gun and bribery charges), Michael Jackson, actor Todd Bridges, [ Famous clients mourn Johnnie Cochran at funeral in L.A.] by Linda Deutsch, "The Union Tribune", April 6, 2005, retrieved April 18, 2005.] football player Jim Brown, rappers Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, [ Celebrity Lawyer Johnnie Cochran Dies at 67] by Mike O'Sullivan, "Voice of America", March 30, 2005, retrieved April 18, 2005.] and Reginald Oliver Denny, the trucker beaten by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He also defended athlete Marion Jones when she faced charges of doping during her high school track career.cite news|accessdate=
title=Until now, Jones had been steadfast in doping denials
author=Patrick, Dick
work=USA Today
date=October 5, 2007
] Cochran was known for his skill in the courtroom and his prominence as an early advocate for victims of alleged police abuse.

Early life

Cochran completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA and earned his law degree at Loyola Marymount University School of Law (now Loyola Law School) in Los Angeles. [ [ LLS | Alumni Profiles | Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. '62 ] ] He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

Legal practice

Inspired by Thurgood Marshall and the legal victory he won in "Brown v. Board of Education," Johnnie Cochran decided to dedicate his life to practicing law. Cochran felt his career was a calling, a double opportunity to work for what he considered to be right and to challenge what he considered wrong; he could make a difference by practicing law. In "A Lawyer's Life", Cochran wrote:

:"I read everything that I could find about Thurgood Marshall and confirmed that a single dedicated man could use the law to change society."

Despite setbacks as a lawyer, Cochran vowed not to cease what he was doing, saying "I made this commitment and I must fulfill it." [ BIBR talks to Johnnie Cochran - Interview] by Robert Flemming, "Black Issues Book Review", Nov-Dec 2002, retrieved April 23, 2006.]

Cochran took a job in Los Angeles as a Deputy City Attorney in the criminal division, [ Johnnie Cochran] by Jared Grimmer, "University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law", 2000, retrieved April 20, 2006.] after he passed the California bar in 1963. Two years later, he entered private practice and soon opened his own firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans. In his first notable case, Cochran represented a widow who sued several police officers who had shot and killed her husband. Though Cochran lost the case for his client, Mrs. Leonard Deadwyler, it became a turning point in his career. Rather than seeing the case as a defeat, Cochran realized that the trial itself had awakened the African-American community. In reference to the loss, Cochran wrote, "Those were extremely difficult cases to win in those days. But what Deadwyler confirmed for me was that this issue of police abuse really galvanized the minority community. It taught me that these cases could really get attention" in "The American Lawyer"." By the late 1970s, Cochran had established his reputation in the black community. He was litigating a number of high-profile police brutality and criminal cases.

Los Angeles County District Attorney's office

In 1978 Cochran joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office as its first African-American Assistant District Attorney. Though he took a pay cut to do so, joining the government was his way of becoming "one of the good guys, one of the very top rung." He began to strengthen his ties with the political community, alter his image and work from within to change the system. [ Johnnie Cochran, the Attorney On the People's Defense Team] by Kevin Merida, "The Washington Post", March 31, 2005, retrieved April 22, 2006.]

Five years later, Cochran returned to private practice, reinventing himself as "the best in the West" by opening the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. law firm. In contrast to his early loss in the Deadwyler case, Cochran won $760,000 for the family of Ron Settles, a black college football player who, his family claimed, was murdered by the police. In 1990 he joined a succeeding firm, Cochran, Mitchell & Jenna. [ [ Johnnie Cochran - Trial Attorney] by "", retrieved April 22, 2006.]

Even though Johnnie Cochran is no longer alive, he has twenty six offices located in fifteen states. Those states are of the following; Miami FL, Dothan AL, Tuskegee AL, Atlanta GA, Huntsville AL, Burmingham AL, Mobile AL, New Orleans LA (2), Metairie LA, Houston TX, Dallas TX, Memphis TN, St. Louis MO, Chicago IL, West Farmington Hills MI, Washington D.C., Philadelphia PA, New York NY, Las Vegas NV, Los Angeles CA, San Jose CA, Oakland CA, Sacramento CA, Shreveport LA, and Jackson MS. [ [http://www.cochranfirm,com/] by Tiffaney Hicks, retrieved October 05, 2008.]

Tort reform

Cochran opposed tort reform [Johnnie Cochran tort reform interview by "Sky News Network", retrieved May 4, 2006.] and in most of his cases represented plaintiffs in tort actions. He founded The Cochran Firm, a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases and has grown through mergers and partnerships to have offices in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. Because of his success as a lawyer, Cochran could encourage settlement simply by his presence on a case.Obituary: Johnnie Cochran] by Rupert Cornwell, "The (London) Independent", March 31, 2005, retrieved April 17, 2005.] According to Jesse Jackson, a call to Johnnie Cochran made "corporations and violators shake."

Johnnie Cochran's well-honed rhetoric and flamboyance [ Remembering Johnnie Cochran] by "Greater Boston", WGBH, broadcasted April 1, 2005.] in the courtroom has been described as theatrical. His practice as a lawyer earned him great wealth. He was said to have earned $40 million ($1 million a year) in trying cases. With his earnings, he bought and drove cars such as a Jaguar and a Rolls-Royce, and he wore expensive suits. Cochran owned homes in Los Angeles, two apartments in West Hollywood, and a condo in Manhattan. In 2001, Cochran's accountant estimated that within five years the attorney would be worth $25-50 million. [ [ Through The Cracks] by Jeffrey Meitrodt and Mark Schleifstein, "The Times-Picayune", March 27, 2001, retrieved April 29, 2006.] Cochran was also well known for his philanthropyFact|date=May 2008.


Cochran had achieved a reputation as the "go-to" lawyer for the rich and famous, as well as the poor. It was the controversial and dramatic trial of O.J. Simpson, nevertheless, that made Cochran widely known, with opinions of him ranging widely.

Cochran often liked to say that he worked "not only for the OJs, but also the No Js". In other words, he enjoyed defending or suing in the name of those who did not have much in terms of fame or wealth. The most glorious moment as a lawyer, in Cochran's opinion, was when he won the freedom of Geronimo Pratt. Cochran considered the release "the happiest day" of his legal practice.

When Cochran died in 2005, family and friends proclaimed they "were most proud of the work he did on behalf of those in the community" rather than those with wealth and might. In the words of Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, Cochran "was willing to fight for the underdog." Reverend Jesse Jackson believed Cochran was the "people's lawyer." Magic Johnson proclaimed Cochran was known "...for representing O.J. [Simpson] and Michael [Jackson] , but he was bigger and better than that." Cochran would have been pleased to know that he was even described as the Thurgood Marshall of his era.

Michael Jackson

In 1993, Cochran represented singer Michael Jackson in a case of allegations of child molestation. No criminal charges were filed by the police. The father of the child making allegations filed a civil suit against Jackson. Jackson and the family settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

O.J. Simpson

During closing arguments in the Simpson trial, Cochran uttered the now famous phrase, " [I] f it doesn't fit, you must acquit." He used the phrase as a way to try to persuade the jury that O.J. Simpson could not have murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, because the murderer's gloves did not fit him. According to a number of legal analysts, the phrase was pivotal to the trial. Since Cochran declared, " [I] f it doesn't fit, you must acquit," the phrase has been widely repeated.

Johnnie Cochran was criticized by some for bringing up the issue of race. Cochran told the mainly black Simpson jury that police officers were trying to frame O.J. Simpson because of his race. Robert Shapiro, co-counsel on the Simpson defense team, accused Cochran of dealing the "race card" "from the bottom of the deck." In response, Cochran replied it was "not a case about race, it is a case about reasonable doubt...", noting "there are a lot of white people who are willing to accept this verdict." [ [ Johnnie Cochran speaks his mind] by Steve Hammer, "NUVO", October 19, 1995, retrieved May 4, 2006.] Cochran's effective representation of a man many believed to be guilty generated hostility toward the attorney. At Cochran's funeral, O.J. Simpson expressed his belief that, without Cochran, he would not have been free.

Abner Louima

Cochran successfully represented Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a broomstick while in police custody. Louima was awarded a $8.75 million settlement, the largest police brutality settlement in New York City. Tension broke out between Louima's original lawyers, and the new team headed by Cochran. The former team felt that Cochran and his colleagues were trying to take control of the entire trial. [ [,noel,26469,5.html The Louima Millions] by Peter Noel, "The Village Voice", July 18 - 24, 2001, retrieved April 18, 2005.]

ean "Diddy" Combs

:See the Sean Combs article.

In 2000, Sean "Diddy" Combs was indicted on stolen weapons charges as well as bribery. Soon thereafter, Combs hired Cochran. Cochran effectively fought for Combs' freedom, with Combs winning an acquittal. [ [ `Puffy' Combs Indicted On Stolen Weapons Charge; Atty. Johnnie Cochran Joins His Legal Team] by "Jet", January 31, 2000, retrieved April 23, 2006.] At Johnnie Cochran's funeral, Combs said Cochran saved his life.

In 2002, Cochran promised Combs this would be Cochran's last criminal case. After that trial, he retired from criminal cases due to their exhausting nature. Though the trial lasted only five to seven weeks, it became too much for Cochran. After the trial, Cochran declined to represent R. Kelly and Allen Iverson in criminal cases where they asked for his defense.

Popular culture

As a result of Cochran's record in high-profile trials, popular culture has enshrined him as representative of a successful lawyer. Chris Rock's character, Detective Butters, advised a suspect in "Lethal Weapon 4" that he had the right to an attorney, but "If you get Johnnie Cochran, I’ll kill you!". Individuals from Bernie Mac in , to Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" as well as rapper Too Short, 1997's "Jackie Brown", Tommy Davidson in the film "Woo" and Wyclef Jean in his song "Thug Angels", have all touted Cochran as their solution in a jam.

In the episode Chef Aid of TV Show South Park, Johnnie Cochran is hired by a record company who sues the character Chef for harassment. In his closing arguement he employs the Chewbacca defense, a parody of his closing statement in the Simpson trial; "If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests"

In the TV show "Angel", the evil law firm, Wolfram and Hart, is mostly composed of demons and daemonic familiars, and is "the law firm that Johnnie Cochran is too ethical to join". Actor Denzel Washington interviewed Cochran as part of his research for the movie "Philadelphia" [ [,2540,29,00.html cigarficionado] ] . Augustus Gibbons uses Jon E. Cochran as a false identity when visiting Ice Cube's character in military prison, in . A Johnnie Cochran parody appeared in the revamp of Batman: The Animated series, The New Batman Adventures, appearing in Joker's Millions as Joker's lawyer, stating 'If the Defendant is filled with glee, he must go free' and in 'Over the Edge' as the lawyer of Harley Quinn,The Mad Hatter, The Riddler and Arnold Wesker, stating that 'If the victims are on a spree, Wayne must pay the fee'. Cochran was also parodied in the form of attorney Jackie Chiles on "Seinfeld".

Cochran himself took these parodies in stride, discussing them in his autobiography, "A Lawyer’s Life". Furthermore, he appeared in "The Hughleys", "Family Matters", "The Howard Stern Show", "Arli$$","CHiPs '99", "Bamboozled", "Showtime" and "JAG".

After the Simpson trial, Cochran himself was a frequent commentator on law-related television shows. In addition to being featured on television shows, he hosted his own show, "Johnnie Cochran Tonight", on CourtTV. With the Simpson fame also came movie deals. [ [ Johnnie Cochran to be MLK speaker] by Robert J. Sales, "Massachusetts Institute of Technology", January 10, 2001, retrieved May 11, 2006.]


Johnnie Cochran died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 from a brain tumor. [ [ superstar Johnnie Cochran dead at 67] by "The Associated Press", March 30, 2005, retrieved April 18, 2005.] In April 2004, Cochran underwent surgery, which led to him staying away from the media. Shortly thereafter, he told the New York Post he was feeling well, and that he was in good health.

Public viewing of his casket was conducted on April 4 and April 5 and a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church on April 8, 2005 in Shreveport. The remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. The funeral was attended by numerous former clients and friends. Among them were Michael Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, Sean "Diddy" Combs, O.J. Simpson, Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, actress Angela Bassett, Gloria Allred, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Abner Louima, and others.On May 31, 2005, about two months after Cochran's death, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its opinion on "Tory v. Cochran." It found that due to Cochran's death, a restriction on Ulysses Tory's defamatory speech regarding Cochran was no longer required. Lower courts, before Cochran died, held that Tory could not make any public comments about Johnnie Cochran in any way. [ [ Cochran ruling only narrow free-speech victory] by Tony Mauro, "First Amendment Center", June 1, 2005, retrieved April 29, 2006.] In honor of Cochran, on January 24, 2006, Los Angeles Unified School District officials unanimously approved the renaming of Mount Vernon Middle School, Cochran's boyhood middle school, to Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School, saying he was an "extraordinary, superb lawyer with movie-star celebrity status." There have been mixed reactions about the board of education's decision, primarily because of Cochran's work as a lawyer. For instance, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson has expressed her disappointment with the decision, although she called Cochran "a great defense attorney." [ [ Middle school renamed after Johnnie Cochran] by "Reuters", Jan. 26, 2006, retrieved April 29, 2006.] Since the school was renamed, others have voiced their ideas of naming a street after Cochran. City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr. wants the city to rename a section of 17th Street, because he feels Cochran was "a great attorney and a great role model who contributed to this community." [ [ A School, and Maybe a Street, for Cochran] by Cynthia H. Cho, "Los Angeles Times", Feb. 21, 2006, retrieved April 29, 2006.]


External links

* [ The Cochran Firm's website]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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