Cochran Dead at 67
Johnnie Cochran Jr., arguably America’s most famous criminal lawyer, died Tuesday.
The attorney, best known for defending O.J. Simpson against double-murder charges in the 1990s, was 67.
MSNBC reported Cochran’s death early Tuesday afternoon. “He had had a brain tumor, and he had gone through a long process of dealing with it,” attorney Rikki Klieman, legal analyst for NBC’s Today show and expert on E! News’ own The Michael Jackson Trial, told the cable network.
Cochran had been ill for years with a rare brain disorder that caused his tumor, per reports. He died at his home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles around 12:30, according to a statement released by his family.
Although he was already a famous figure in legal circles in the 1980s, the legal eagle became a superstar during Simpson’s sensational murder trial in the early 1990s. His signature line from the trial, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” became a catchphrase, and his lawyering helped clear his best-known client on murder charges.
Simpson’s current attorney, Yale Galanter, released a statement just hours after the former football star learned of Cochran’s passing.
“O.J. Simpson sends his deepest regrets and sympathies to Johnnie Cochran’s family and loved ones,” Galanter said. “Johnnie and O.J. were friends before the trial and remained friendly after the trial. O.J. sends his sincerest condolences. Johnnie was a true friend.”
Simpson himself told CNN Tuesday that he loved Cochran as a “good Christian man.”
“I knew him as that…he was a great guy,” Simpson added.
Simpson told the cable news outlet he last saw his former lawyer at an Los Angeles Lakers game. He said Cochran seemed in good spirits despite his serious medical condition at the time.
Although Cochran was well-known before the O.J. trial, television coverage of the case made him a star overnight. He went on to become part of America’s collective subconscious–inspiring several entertainment sketches on shows like Saturday Night Live.
He is also the inspiration for one of Seinfeld’s most beloved recurring characters, Jackie Chiles, Kramer’s fast-talking attorney on the 1990s sitcom.
Cochran even appeared as himself in the film Showtime and did the occasional cameo on televsion shows like The Hughleys.
Some in the television news industry credit Cochran’s theatrics, in part, with the rise of Court TV and cable news’ subsequent infatuation with celebrity lawyers and legal analysis as entertainment.
Before he was stricken with his brain tumor, Cochran had been working on a variety of cases, including a large-scale effort for African-American slavery reparations.
The UCLA grad’s last criminal law case was successfully defending Sean “P. Diddy” Combs on weapons charges in New York in 2000.
Over his career, Cochran represented serveral big names from the entertainment world, including actor Todd Bridges on attempted murder charges, Tupac Shakur on a weapons charge and Snoop Dogg on a murder rap.
Cochran is survived by his son Jonathan Cochran and his daughters, Tiffany Cochran Edwards and Melodie. His wife and two sisters were with him at the time of his death.