Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr. 1937–2005

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COCHRAN, Johnnie L., Jr. 1937–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, LA; died of a brain tumor March 29, 2005, in Los Angeles, CA. Lawyer and author. Cochran was a high-profile attorney known for defending such well-known people as Black Panther member Elmer Pratt and football player O. J. Simpson. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1959 before studying law at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1962. Hired by the city of Los Angeles's attorney's office, he worked on small cases before gaining some attention for filing an obscenity lawsuit against comedian Lenny Bruce, which Cochran lost. In 1966, he helped found and became a partner in his own firm, Cochran, Atkins, and Evans, where he specialized in brutality cases and in 1972 was on the defense team for Pratt, who had been charged with murdering a school teacher. Although Pratt was convicted, in 1997 Cochran convinced a judge to release him on grounds that important evidence had been concealed by the prosecution. Most of Cochran's fame came in the 1990s, when he became known as a defense attorney who took on cases for famous celebrities, such as the 1994 Michael Jackson trial in which the attorney successfully got the pop singer acquitted of child molestation charges. The next year, Cochran was on the team of lawyers who defended former football star O. J. Simpson, who had been charged with killing his former wife and her friend. During the trial, much of which was televised, Cochran managed to raise reasonable doubt in the jury's minds, accusing a police investigator and witness of racism and declaring that a key piece of evidence—a glove found at the scene—did not fit Simpson's hand. Simpson was found innocent in criminal court. More recently, in 2001, Cochran successfully defended rap star Sean Combs, who had been charged with illegal weapons possession. Often parodied for his flamboyant use of language and clever defense maneuvers, Cochran took the jibes in stride and noted that his success in big cases such as Simpson's allowed him to pursue less profitable cases defending people who had little money for legal fees. Founding the Cochran Firm in 1997, Cochran was not ashamed of spending lavishly on himself, and became a familiar face as a television host for Court TV and other programs. He was the author of two autobiographies: Journey to Justice (1996) and A Lawyer's Life (2002).



Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr., and Tim Rutten, Journey to Justice, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr., and Tim Rutten, A Lawyer's Life, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.


New York Times, March 30, 2005, p. A19.

Times (London, England), March 31, 2005, p. 59.

Washington Post, March 30, 2005, pp. A1, A5.

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Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr. 1937–2005

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