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Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr.

Cochran, Johnnie L., Jr.

October 2, 1937
March 29, 2005

Johnnie Cochran, a lawyer, civil libertarian, and philanthropist, gained national recognition as a defense lawyer in O. J. Simpson's murder trial. Cochran was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. His family later moved to Los Angeles, where he attended public schools before attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA; B.A., 1959) and Loyola Marymount University School of Law (J.D., 1962).

Cochran began his public career in 1963 as a deputy city attorney for the city of Los Angeles. After entering private practice in 1965, Cochran returned to public service in 1978 to become the first African-American assistant district attorney of Los Angeles County. He returned to private practice in the early 1980s, eventually becoming the only Los Angeles attorney to receive both the Criminal Trial Lawyer of the Year and the Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year awards. In 2001, after heading several law firms, he founded The Cochran Firm, a bicoastal conglomerate devoted to personal injury and civil law. He was also involved with various legal teams exploring the issue of reparation for slavery and worked with the Innocence Project, which contests wrongful convictions using DNA evidence.

Among the influences on Cochran's career are Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr.particularly King's belief that one must question the "official" version of events. Cochran represented (and successfully defended) many high-profile personalities, including Michael Jackson, Jim Brown, and Tupac Shakur. His media involvement included both print and television appearances (the latter as both newscaster and anchor). Cochran wrote Journey to Justice (1996), Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt (2000), and A Lawyer's Life (2002).

Cochran served as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the Inner Circle of Advocates. His many awards included National Law Journal 's Trial Lawyer of the Year (1995), the Arizona Civil Liberties Union's Lifetime Achievement Award (2001), and the Association of Manhattan's Autistic Children's Humanitarian Award (2001). He established university scholarships at UCLA, the University of New Mexico, and Southern University, and funded and dedicated several community projects. Cochran died of a brain tumor in 2005 at the age of sixty-seven.

See also Jackson, Michael; King, Martin Luther, Jr.; Marshall, Thurgood; Simpson, O. J.


Cochran, Johnnie, with David Fisher. A Lawyer's Life. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002.

Londin, Jesse. "Johnnie Cochran." Available from <>.

"Johnnie Cochran." In Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 39, edited by Ashyia Henderson. Detroit: Gale, 2003.

"Johnnie Cochran." In Notable Black American Men, edited by Jessie Carney Smith. Detroit: Gale, 1998.

helen r. houston (1996)
Updated by author 2005

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