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Attorney Johnnie Cochran took on highly publicized police brutality cases and famously defended such celebrity clients as Michael Jackson and O. J. Simpson.
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Speaking to the jury, Cochran concluded: "If you don't speak out, if you don't stand up, if you don't do what's right, this kind of conduct will continue on forever." After deliberating only four hours, the mostly black jury found Simpson not guilty on all counts.
Observers called Cochran's remarks the "race card," and some castigated the attorney for proceeding in this manner. Cochran offered no apologies for his strategy,
claiming that his scenario represented the truth as he saw it. "I think race plays a part of everything in America, let alone this trial," he maintained in a Newsweek interview. "That's one of the problems in America. People don't want to face up to the fact that we do have some racial divisions."
After handling the post-trial publicity, Cochran returned to other cases, including civil litigation against Simpson, which forced the ex-football star to pay a hefty settlement to the Brown and Goldman families. The trial has had its impact on Cochran's life. Once a celebrity lawyer only in Los Angeles, he is now a celebrity lawyer across America, receiving a million-dollar advance to write his memoirs and a hefty fee for any personal appearances he makes. Cochran has had his share of negative publicity, however. His first wife, Barbara Cochran Berry, wrote a memoir during the Simpson trial in which she accused Cochran of abuse and infidelity. Cochran's longtime mistress, Patricia Cochran, also claims to be writing her own memoir. "I did a lot of stupid things," Cochran admitted in Essence when asked about his private life. "I paid a price with my eldest daughter and with my [first] marriage. I would like young lawyers not to make the mistakes I made."
Married for a second time, Cochran lives in a luxurious home with a commanding view of the Los Angeles basin. His father, whom he calls "the Chief," lives with him. He has written a book, Journey to Justice, and took part in a daily show for the Court TV channel. Cochran left Court TV in 1999 to create The Cochran Firm, one of the largest personal injury law firms in America. Cochran died of a brain tumor on March 29, 2005 at the age of 67.
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Learn more about black history's most esteemed legal professionals, from African-American pioneers such as George Washington Williams and Constance Baker Motley, to legendary Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Thurgood Marshall, to high-profile Harvard grads Barack and Michelle Obama, and many more. Explore our list of famous black lawyers, including full biographies, photo galleries and videos, only on Biography.com.
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