Johnnie Cochran was born in 1937. Initially, he studied business administration. Thurgood’s inspirations and victory in Brown v. Board of Education marked the turning point in Cochran’s career. To him, practicing law became not only a career but also a call. He believed that there were many injustices happening in the courts and he was determined to stop that culture. He went back to a law school at Loyola Marymount University where he pursued a doctorate in Jurist.
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He worked with the government in different capacities before deciding to work as a private lawyer. While working as a private consultant, he managed to help different clients get acquitted of their criminal charges. Most of his clients turned out to be people who had significant influence in society such as Michael Jackson and Sean Combs. One of his criminal cases that stirred mixed reactions from varied pundits was that of Orenthal James Simpson who had been accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend (Blakely, 2007). Cochran was known for his reputation as the first lawyer to challenge criminal offenses conducted by police as well as his ability to successfully articulate his arguments in courtrooms.
The career of Johnnie Cochran
Initially, Cochran had studied for a business administration degree. His desire to practice law was spurred by the inspiration he got from Thurgood Marshall. The triumph in Brown v. Board of Education made Cochran conclude that numerous injustices were being meted on the society. He believed that by practicing law, he would be able to challenge these injustices and ensure that every person was treated with all due respect. He had the conviction that this could only be won through determination and dedication.
After finishing his law studies and satisfying the California bar, Cochran was employed in the criminal division as Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles. He became successful in criminal cases making him decide to open a private law firm where he offered the services as a lawyer. This was in 1965. After working as a private lawyer for about twelve years, he went back and worked with the government in Los Angeles County.
This time, he worked as the Assistant District Attorney (Cochran, Cochran & Fisher, 2003). He became the first black to work in this capacity. He humbled himself and worked with the government despite him being paid a low salary compared to what he got when working in his private firm. Besides, working with the government helped him build his reputation. He used this opportunity to build a strong rapport with the political society, change his personality as well as work internally to bring reforms in the court system.
Having worked as the District Assistant Attorney for five years, Cochran resolved to go back to private practice. This time, he came up with a law firm by the name Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Unlike in the past when he failed to win the Deadwyler case, he managed to win $760,000 for Ron Settles’ family. This was an African-American footballer whose family had been executed by police. Later, in 1990, Cochran; in collaboration with Mitchell and Jenna came up with a strong law firm. The more he became popular, the more the number of clients seeking his assistance in courts increased. Most of his clients were people with influence in the society which included celebrities such as Michael Jackson.
In his career as a private lawyer, Cochran represented numerous clients in criminal cases. Some of his clients included Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Sean Combs, and Abner Louima. In 1993, Michael Jackson was implicated in the child molestation case. The child’s father had gone to court and filed a case claiming that his son had been molested by Jackson. Nevertheless, the court did not file any criminal charges against Michael Jackson, and through Cochran’s arbitration; the matter was solved outside the court (Hammer, 1995). Jackson paid an undisclosed sum of money to the boy and it was organized for Jackson to publicly declare that he was innocent so as to win back the trust his supporters had in him there before.
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Another criminal case that Cochran challenged implicated Orenthal James Simpson with the killings of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Gloves had been found at the scene but when they were brought into the court, they failed to fit into Simpson’s hands. Consequently, Cochran swayed the attorney to acquit his client by claiming that the gloves had proved that he was not liable for the crime. He used the phrase “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” to lure the judge into acquitting Simpson. Later, Simpson was arraigned in court for a civil trial regarding the same killings. Cochran did not represent him this time and he was found guilty.
Assertions by Cochran in the court that police attempted to implicate Simpson with the crime because he was black led to analysts criticizing him. He was accused of using racial tactics in defending his client. However, Cochran defended his sentiments by claiming that the case was not on the subject of race, rather it was concerning reasonable doubt. He claimed that there were many white people that were ready to acknowledge the judgment that was to be made. Cochran’s participation, in this case, led to people directing their anger toward the prosecutor. During Cochran’s burial, Simpson confessed that he owed him his freedom (Bernstein, March 30, 2005). He believed that had Cochran failed to represent him in the court, he could have not been acquitted.
After squabbles emerged between Abner and his first lawyer, he decided to seek for assistance from Cochran. He was a Haitian immigrant who had been brutally sodomized using a broomstick while he was serving a sentence under police detention. Through Cochran’s assistance, Louima got his justice and was given $8.75 million as compensation for damages incurred under police custody.
Sean Combs was charged with the possession of stolen weapons and enticement in 2001. He sought for assistance from Cochran who successfully managed to fight for him. By this time, Cochran had started succumbing to exhaustion caused by criminal cases and he assured Combs that that was the last criminal case he intended to challenge in court (Finz & Chiang, 2005). Despite the case taking seven weeks, Cochran felt tired and was not ready to represent other clients in court. An attempt by Allen Iverson and R. Kelly to seek his assistance did not bear fruits.
It is Cochran’s dedication to ensure that justice prevailed in courts that led to his success in representing most of his clients. Despite some pundits arguing that he was racist, he based his arguments on facts and this made him win acquittals for most of his customers. Before his death, he had managed to come up with one of the biggest and most popular law firms (The Cochran Firm) in America.
Bernstein, A. (2005). Showy, tenacious lawyer Rode Simpson murder trial to fame. The Washington Post. Web.
Blakely, G. (2007). Johnnie Cochran: Attorney and civil rights advocate. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Cochran, J. L., Cochran, J. & Fisher, D. (2003). A lawyer’s life. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Finz, S. & Chiang, H. (2005). Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.: 1937-2005/ famed attorney combined showmanship, activism. Web.
Hammer, S. (1995). Johnnie Cochran speaks his mind. NUVO.