Johnnie L Cochran, Jr. (October 2, 1937 – March 29, 2005)
Legal Figure. He was best known for successfully defending Football star O.J. Simpson from 1994 to 1995 on double homicide charges as part of Simpson’s “Dream Team.” Cochran, who originally was from Shreveport, Louisiana, moved to Los Angeles, California, at a young age with his family. Cochran was a graduate of UCLA and received his law degree from Loyola Marymount University. Although he is best known for defending celebrities such as Simpson, Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, and Michael Jackson, he was actually a personal injuries attorney and specialized in tort cases. Since 1966 he represented many clients in cases of personal injury and malpractice through his highly successful nationwide law firm that is in many different states. Before starting his firm in 1966, Cochran worked in the L.A. County D.A.’s Criminal Division in which he worked with future Simpson judge Lance Ito.
In April 2004, Cochran underwent surgery, which led to his staying away from the media. Shortly thereafter, he told the New York Post he was feeling well, and that he was in good health. He died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 from a brain tumor, which was originally diagnosed in December 2003.
Public viewing of his casket was conducted on April 4 and April 5 and a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church on April 8, 2005 in Shreveport. His remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. The funeral was attended by numerous former clients and friends. Among them were O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, actress Angela Bassett, Gloria Allred, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Abner Louima, and others.
On May 31, 2005, about two months after Cochran’s death, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its opinion on Tory v. Cochran. The court ruled 7–2 that in light of Cochran’s death, an injunction limiting the demonstrations of Ulysses Tory “amounts to an overly broad prior restraint upon speech”. Two justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said that Cochran’s death made it unnecessary for the court to rule. Lower courts, before Cochran died, held that Tory could not make any public comments about Johnnie Cochran in any way.
In honor of Cochran, on January 24, 2006, Los Angeles Unified School District officials unanimously approved the renaming of Mount Vernon Middle School, Cochran’s boyhood middle school, to Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School, saying he was an “extraordinary, superb lawyer with movie-star celebrity status.” There have been mixed reactions about the board of education’s decision, primarily because of Cochran’s work as a lawyer. For instance, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson has expressed her disappointment with the decision, although she called Cochran “a great defense attorney.” Since the school was renamed, others have voiced their ideas of naming a street after Cochran. City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr. wanted the city to rename a section of 17th Street, which runs in the front entrance of the school that the city approved to Johnnie Cochran Vista. Wesson also felt that Cochran was “a great attorney and a great role model who contributed to this community.”
In 2007, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles opened the new Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center, a research center headed by noted neurosurgeon Keith Black, who had been Cochran’s doctor.
- October, 02, 1937
- Shreveport, Louisiana
- March, 29, 2005
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- brain tumor