Johnnie Cochran was a lawyer, who handled several high profile celebrity cases. He was born on October 2, 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He received his Bachelors’ degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1959. Initially selling insurance policies for a living, Cochran soon began to pursue a degree in law at the Loyola Marymount University School of Law. He passed the California Bar exam in 1963, and took his first job as a deputy city attorney in the criminal division. A few years later, he joined the private practice of a local criminal lawyer named Gerald Lenoir. Shortly after he began working with Lenoir, Cochran decided to establish his own law firm by the name of Cochran, Atkins & Evans.
The first case handled by this young firm was a high profile one, involving the murder of a black man named Leonard Deadwyler. Deadwyler was taking his wife to the delivery room, when he was accosted by the police and shot. The police officers claimed that they had acted in self-defense, but the Deadwyler family pressed charges against the LA Police Department for brutality and racial injustice. Cochran represented the family but lost the case. However, he firmly believed in the cause and a few years later, he took on a similar case. This time, the defendant was Geronimo Pratt, a former member of the Black Panther party, who was accused of murder. Cochran lost this case too, but insisted that the F.B.I. and L.A.P.D. were racially discriminating against and framing Pratt.
By this time, Johnnie Cochran had established himself as a champion for the African Americans. He fought and won a number of notable cases of police brutality and other criminal cases during the 1970s and 1980s. He then decided to rejoin public service, and joined the district attorney’s office at Los Angeles County. He did this in order to enhance his reputation and broaden his political contacts. During his time as a public servant, he had a run in with the police, when his Rolls Royce was stopped by some Los Angeles police officers, who held him at gun point and verbally abused him. Cochran was driving his young daughters at the time, and he did not respond violently to their threats. The officers soon released him after finding out that he worked for the district attorney’s office. Cochran chose not to publicize the incident, but commented that the act was racially motivated.
Cochran then returned to private practice, and took on other high profile cases. One of these was the case of a young black football player named Ron Settles, who was found hanged in his jail cell, after being arrested for over speeding. He won the case of police brutality against Settles while in custody, and the family was awarded $760,000 to settle the case out of court. Another case involved sexual assault against a teenage girl by an off duty L.A. police officer, which was settled for $4.6 million. One of his most famous clients was Michael Jackson. Cochran helped clear his name off child molestation charges against a young boy.
Undoubtedly, the most important case of his career was that of retired basketball player O.J. Simpson, who was accused of the murder of his wife and her friend. He was the leader of a team of high profile lawyers hired to defend Simpson. Cochran managed to gain a full acquittal for Simpson, for which he was criticized in some circles. He became a nationwide celebrity, and received a million dollar advance to write his memoirs. He lived in Los Angeles with his second wife and his father, until his death on March 29, 2005 at the age of 67.