Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr.
Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. October 2, 1937 – March 29, 2005) A flamboyant, high-profile lawyer and civil activist Johnnie Cochran was known for his exceptional trial skills in the courtroom and his determined and courageous work as an advocate for victims of police brutality
Born in 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana. his family relocated to Los Angeles in 1949. First in his class at Los Angeles High School in 1955, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in business economics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1959 and a Juris Doctor from the Loyola Law School in 1962.
In his book 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". So despite setbacks and difficulties he dedicated his career to work for what he considered to be right and to challenge what he considered wrong;
In 1963, Cochran took a position as a deputy city attorney in the criminal division in Los Angeles. where he prosecuted one of his first celebrity cases, Lenny Bruce, a comedian who had recently been arrested on charges of obscenity.
Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. . Original painting 2019. Collection of the artist.
Three years later, Cochran opened his own firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans and started to represent members of the black community against police brutality and corruption.
Writing in his book The American Lawyer he stated, "those were extremely difficult cases to win in those days. But what they 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 1978, Cochran returned for five years to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office as its first black assistant district attorney and began to strengthen his ties with the political community, eventually opening the Cochran Law Firm which has grown to have regional offices located in fifteen states.
Cochran generally represented plaintiffs in civil tort cases with great financial success, According to Rev. Jesse Jackson, a call to Johnnie Cochran made "corporations and violators shake." Certainly his polished rhetoric and flamboyant manner in the courtroom earned him great wealth. But, he often liked to say that he worked "not only for the OJs, but also the No Js" and was willing to fight for the underdog, minorities and those wronged in civil rights cases.
During closing arguments in the media frenzy O. J. Simpson trial, Cochran spoke the now infamous line, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" as Simpson struggled to get the blood stained glove found at the crime scene onto his large hand. Other high profile cases that Cochran succeeded in were that of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a broken broomstick while in police custody. Louima was awarded an $8.75 million settlement, the largest police brutality settlement in New York City. And in 2001 Cochran represented and acquitted the famous rapper and record producer Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, indicted on bribery and stolen weapons charges.
Johnnie Cochran died from a brain tumor on March 29, 2005, at his home in Los Angeles. His remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.