Johnnie Cochran, Jr. was born October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana. His father, Johnnie Cochran, Sr., was an insurance salesman. His mother, Hattie Cochran, sold Avon products. When Johnnie was a young child, the Cochrans moved to California. His parents were affluent and emphasized education and a colorblind approach to the world.
Cochran excelled in primary and secondary school. In the mid-1950s, he began studying at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He graduated with his B.A. in 1959. He later attended Loyola Marymount University Law School and graduated in 1962.
After he passed the bar exam, Cochran began working as a deputy criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles. By the mid-1960s, he had entered private practice with Gerald Lenoir. Shortly thereafter, he launched his own firm, called Cochran, Atkins, & Evans.
In 1966, a Black motorist named Leonard Deadwyler was shot and killed by police officer Jerold Bova while trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital. Cochran filed a civil suit against Bova on behalf of the Deadwyler family. He lost the case but was inspired from that point on to take on cases involving unethical police actions against Black individuals.
In the 1970s, Cochran defended the former Black Panther member, Geronimo Pratt. Pratt was accused of murder, convicted, and imprisoned. Cochran maintained his belief that Pratt had been railroaded by the authorities. He continued to push for a retrial. Pratt’s conviction was overturned after two decades. Following Pratt’s release, Cochran oversaw his wrongful imprisonment suit.
Over the ensuing decades, Cochran represented major stars, like Todd Bridges and Michael Jackson. In 1994, he joined five other attorneys to form the “dream team”: the legal defense team of O. J. Simpson. Simpson was on trial for murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
“Trial of the Century”
The O. J. Simpson case was deemed the “trial of the century” in the media. During this case, Simpson was asked to try on the blood-stained gloves that were supposedly used to murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman. When the glove did not fit, Cochran stated, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” a line that has been mimicked in films and TV shows numerous times.
Due to the coverage of the O. J. Simpson trial, Cochran grew to ‘superstar’ status. He was given an advance of $2.5 million to write his memoir. Prior to writing his own story, however, his ex-wife Barbara Cochran Berry wrote her memoir: Life After Johnnie Cochran: Why I Left the Sweetest Talking, Most Successful Black Lawyer in L.A. She accused him of physical and emotional abuse throughout their relationship. His mistress also spoke out against him, claiming similar abuse.
Cochran wrote his memoirs, Journey to Justice (1996) and A Lawyer’s Life (2002). He continued taking on new cases in the 21st century. In 2004, however, he fell ill. Johnnie Cochran died March 29, 2005, from a brain tumor. He was 67 years old.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**]]>