The clients I’ve cared about most are the ‘No-Js,’ the ones who nobody knows.
Johnnie Cochran was one of the most successful American lawyers of his age. His fame rests almost entirely on his defence of the American football player and film actor OJ “the Juice” Simpson who was arrested on a double murder charge in 1994.
The trial created a worldwide media sensation and Cochrane’s courtroom tactics were well suited to the media age. In the TV drama, The People v. O. J. Simpson, Cochran was played by the actor Courtney B. Vance.
Born in Louisiana and the son of an insurance salesman and an Avon lady Johnnie Cochran fought many legal cases during his career but none so famous as the trial of OJ Simpson. Together with fellow defence lawyers Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian – father of the famous reality TV clan – they became known as The Dream Team.
A crucial bit of evidence in the 1995 trial turned on a glove. Cochran declaring famously to the jury, “If it does not fit, you must acquit.” In a scene of high drama, Simpson seemed unable to put the gloves on in court. Along with recorded evidence of a policemen and key witness for the prosecution betraying racial prejudice – this was a key moment that helped ensure Simpson’s acquittal, despite overwhelming forensic evidence suggesting the contrary.
Prior to the O.J. trial, Johnny had been successful a a go-to lawyer for the rich, but was also noted for his commitment to defend the have-nots. The Reverend Jesse Jackson described him as “the people’s lawyer.”
One of Johnny’s proudest moments was achieving the freedom of Geronimo Pratt, a civil rights activist who served 27 years in prison on a murder charge that the lawyer succeeded in making void.
Johnny freely admitted to enjoying being paid well by wealthy clients and the opportunity it afforded him to provide legal support to the “No– Js,” where the chances of being paid were “pretty slim” but the reward was beyond price.