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Johnnie Cochran bio, OJ Simpson case, career, family, charity, and net worth

Who is Johnnie Cochran?

Johnnie Cochran is an American criminal trial lawyer and a civil activist. He gained international popularity with his controversial defense of several high-profile personalities.

Cochran was a well-honored attorney whose skills inside the courtroom was theatrical.

Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. got recognition for his legal awareness and courtroom skills. He used to solve cases involving celebrities and common men in unusual situations. Let’s say, Johnnie Cochran was one of the best there was at the job.

Johnnie was also a philanthropist. Cochran was the Chairman of the “Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.” It is an organization that economically helped deprived communities.

He had also set up a scholarship at the University of California under his name for African-American students.

Johnnie Cochran quick facts

Full nameJohnnie Lee Cochran, Jr.
Date of birthOctober 2nd, 1937 
Place of birthShreveport, Louisiana, United States
Date of deathMarch 29th, 2005
Place of death              Los Angeles, California
Parents NameJohnnie Cochran Sr. and Hattie Bass Cochran
Marital statusMarried
SpouseBarbara Berry Cochran  (1960 – 1977)


Sylvia Dale (1985 – 2005)

ChildrenFrom Barbara Berry: Melodie Cochran and Tiffany Cochran


From girlfriend, patty: Jonathan Cochran

  • Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Marymount University School of Law
  • Bachelors of Arts degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles
  • High school degree from Los Angeles High School.
  •  Middle school degree from Mount Vernon Middle School
Height169 m
Weight66 kgs
Eye colorBrown
Net worth$8 million

Johnnie Lee early life

When and where was Johnnie Cochran born?

Johnnie Cochran was born on October 2nd, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie childhood

Johnnie Cochran was born to Johnnie Cochran Sr. (1916-2018) and Hattie Bass Cochran. His father was an insurance salesman for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance. At the same time, his mother used to sell Avon’s products.

Cochran’s great grandfather was a slave.

Millions of African-American families shifted to the West Coast due to the ‘Great Migration’ second phase in 1949. Cochran’s family, too, relocated to the West Coast in Los Angeles.

Where did Cochran go to school and university?

Being an African-American during the 1950s still was a tough time. However, Johnnie’s family encouraged him to be independent, well-educated, and unbiased.

Cochran attended public schools and excelled in his curriculums. He completed his middle school from Mount Vernon Middle School.

Johnnie graduated first in his class at the Los Angeles High School.

He completed his BA in Business Economics from the University of California in 1959. After that, Johnnie earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Loyola Law School in 1962.

While in his university years, he was also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Johnnie was also the fraternity’s 45th Laurel Wreath laureate.

Johnnie Cochran relationship

Who was Johnnie’s first wife?

Johnnie Cochran married Barbara Berry Cochran in 1960. Barbara was a primary school teacher.

Did Cochran beat his ex-wife?

Barbara accused Johnnie of having an affair with his long-time lover, Patty Sikora.

Barbara released a book titled “Life After Johnnie Cochran.” In the book, she has opened up about domestic violence by her ex-husband, Cochran.

She has written that Cochran was manipulative and offensive. She claimed that he would beat her every time she confronted him about his affair with Patty.

Who did Cochran marry?

After his divorce from Barbara, Johnnie married Sylvia Dale, a sales analyst, in 1985.

Johnnie Cochran with wife, Sylvia Dale
Johnnie Cochran with his wife, Sylvia Dale.

Cochran children

Cochran has three children. He has two children with Barbara named Tiffany and Melodie. Johnnie has a son named Jonathan with his former girlfriend, Patty.

Johnnie Cochran influences

Thurgood Marshall positively influenced Johnnie Cochran. He admired the legal victory he won in the ‘Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka’s case’ (1954).

It was the case where the Court ruled that,

“US State Laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are constitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.”

This case made Cochran know what he wanted to pursue, so he decided to dedicate his life to practicing law. He felt the need and the power to make a difference by practicing law.

Johnnie road to fame

Johnnie’s road to legal practice was a tough one. He studied, practiced, and also faced some setbacks as a lawyer.

Nevertheless, Johnnie Cochran had vowed never to stop what he was doing, so he continued striving towards his dream.

What made Johnnie Cochran Famous?

Johnnie is famous as the attorney of the defense team of OJ Simpson. Simpson is an ex-football player who got charged with the murder of his ex-wife and her friend.

People know Cochran for dealing with high-profile cases like Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and more. He has also defended many police brutality cases associated with the African-American community.

Johnnie Cochran early career

After passing the bar exam in 1963, Johnnie worked as a deputy city attorney in the criminal division.

His first celebrity case was of Lenny Bruce in 1964. Lenny was a comedian who had got arrested with obscenity charges. By 1966, he entered private practice and opened his own firm Cochran, Atkins & Evans.

Cochran represented an African-American widow to get justice for her husband, Leonard Deadwyler. Leonard got shot and killed by the police officers in May 1966.

Even though Cochran lost the case, he realized that the trial had stirred the black community. It taught him that police brutality was an issue that really could get attention.

By the late 1970s, Johnnie Cochran was a well-known figure in the black community. He had already started to take several high-profile cases involving police brutality.

Cochran peak career

To become “one of the good guys,” Cochran decided to get a pay cut and join the government. He returned to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

He got appointed as the First Assistant District Attorney. With this position, Cochran began strengthening ties with the political community. It was to change the system.

After five years at the government office, Cochran returned to private practice, stronger. He opened the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Law Firm.

He won $760k in the case of Ron Settles, a black college football player. He got and murdered by the Signal Hill Police Department. Ron’s body was found severely beaten and hanging on June 2nd, 1981.

In 1990, Johnnie Cochran joined the firm, Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith in 1997. His Cochran Firm now has regional offices in 15 states of the United States.

Johnnie became so powerful that he could encourage settlement on a case just by his presence.

Johnnie was an advocate for minorities in police brutality and civil rights cases. But, the dramatic trial of the OJ Simpson case brought him more popularity and criticism.

Over the years of his career, Cochran has represented many high-profile personalities. Let’s get in-depth about the most talked-about celebrity cases of Cochran.

OJ Simpson and ‘The Trial of the Century”

Cochran’s most remarkable case was OJ Simpson’s case. Simpson, a former football player, got charged with the double- case. The victims were his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

This case brought him an international spotlight. Johnnie was a part of Simpson’s defense team. The team also included Robert Kardashian, Barry Scheck, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, etc.

Johnnie Cochran with O.J. Simpson

The trial continued for 11 months, starting from January 24th, 1995. During the closing arguments, OJ Simpson was having difficulty wearing the blood-stained glove. The police found it at the crime scene.

It was when Cochran uttered,

‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,’

He denoted that Simpson was not guilty of the double murder case.

In October 1995, the authorities found Simpson found ‘not guilty’ of the crime. Prosecutor Christopher Darden suggested that Cochran had tampered with the glove. He also accused Cochran of persuading the juror of a considerable doubt on the DNA evidence.

If you want to read on the opposition team, read about Marcia Clark here.

How much did Johnnie make from the O.J Simpson trial?

According to mercury.com, Cochran made $5 million to defend OJ Simpson. Rumors have it that OJ Simpson never really fully paid any of The Dream Team’s lawyers.

Why wouldn’t Robert Shapiro talk to F. Lee Bailey or work with Cochran after the OJ Trial?

According to Schiller’s book, American Tragedy, Shapiro was more of a plea bargain lawyer. He wanted OJ to plea bargain to which OJ denied. Shapiro had doubts that OJ may have committed the crime even though he was adamant that he was innocent.

Shapiro brought Cochran and Bailey to the team. Both believed that OJ was innocent.

Later, Cochran led the ‘Dream Team.’ Shapiro fell out with Bailey. Bailey accused Shapiro of leaking information.

Robert Shapiro was not willing to win at all costs as much as Cochran and Bailey did. Meanwhile, Cochran wanted to use the ‘race card.’ He tried to put it into LAPD to frame OJ because he was black, to which Shapiro disagreed.

So, Shapiro separated himself from the “Dream Team.”

Sean Combs

Another famous high-profile case won by Johnnie was Sean Combs (P. Diddy) in 2001. Sean got charged with bribery and stolen weapons. Cochran defended him and won Comb’s freedom.

Cochran retired after his trial in 2002. R. Kelly and Allen Iverson also sought him out, but he declined.

Abner Louima

Another famous case that Cochran has been a part of is of Abner Louima.

Abner Louima was a Haitian man living in Brooklyn. An officer, Justin Volpe, of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had assaulted, brutalized, and sexually abused him.

Abner got $8.75 million for settlement, the largest police brutality settlement in NYC.

Stanley Tookie Williams

Stanley Tookie Williams was a 17-year old kid at that time. He was a founder and leader of an African-American street gang in Los Angeles called ‘Crisps.’

Stanley got charged with robbery in early 1997. Johnnie Cochran helped him get acquitted of all charges in a matter of 10 minutes.

Later, Stanley Tookie Williams was yet again charged for assaulting an APD personnel. Cochran denied representing Williams for his multiple murder trials.

Which case was Cochran’s favorite?

Geronimo Pratt is a military charged with the abduction and murder of an elementary school teacher. Pratt had served 27 years in prison.

People considered his release in 1997 Cochran’s happiest day of his legal practice.

Is Johnnie Cochran an actor?

After the OJ Simpson trial, Johnnie became a commentator for law-related shows. He even hosted his show named, “Johnnie Cochran Tonight” that aired on CourtTV.

There were deals from Hollywood, too. He appeared in sitcoms like “The Hughleys,” “Family Matters,” and many more.

At a time, Cochran had become a parody topic. It was when actor Phil Morris played attorney Jackie Chiles, representing Cochran in “Seinfeld.”

“South Park” also satirized him. The cast portrayed Cochran using the legal strategy called the “Chewbacca defense.” Ving Rhames has portrayed Cochran in the miniseries called “American Tragedy” (2000).

“The Book of Mormon” had also mentioned Johnnie. It is a musical comedy that depicts Cochran being in hell for setting O.J. Simpson free.

Actor Courtney B. Vance also portrayed Cochran in “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” (2016). The actor won the Primetime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.’

Johnnie also attended many TV programs like “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Chris Rock Show,” etc.

Johnnie Cochran books

Cochran has written two books, namely, “Journey to Justice” (1996) and “A Lawyer’s Life” (2012). Some sources also granted $2.5 million to write his memoir.

Thus, Johnnie was very successful. He was able to establish his enterprise, write his books, have his show, and even act on sitcoms. Cochran had the best of all.

Johnnie Lee rewards and recognition

People recognized Johnnie nationally for his high-profile cases. People praised him for his dedication to bringing justice to everyday Americans.

A list of his rewards and recognitions are as follows:

● The first attorney in LA to receive both ‘Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year’ and ‘Criminal Trial of the Year’ awards.

● The National Law Journal’s ‘America’s Trial Lawyer of the Year’ in 1995.

● Time’s ‘Headliners of The Year’ in 1999.

● ‘Top 50 Trial Attorneys of 1999’ in Los Angeles Business Journal.

● Elected as a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates.

● Recognized as one of the ‘Top One Percent of Trial Lawyers in the United States.’

● Inducted into the prestigious ‘International Academy of Trial Lawyers.’

Johnnie Cochran net worth

Cochran’s career as a ‘go-to’ lawyer earned him great wealth.

He owned cars such as Rolls-Royce and Jaguar. He also had several homes in Los Angeles, two apartments in West Hollywood, and a Manhattan condo.

Johnnie Cochran’s net worth before his death was around $8 million. Cochran’s accountant estimated that his net worth would have been $25 – $50 million within 2021 if he were alive.

Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran charity

Johnnie is a well-known philanthropist as well.

He is the chairman of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. It is a publicly funded organization that sought economic developments for various neighborhoods.

He also established the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Scholarship for African-American men at UCLA.

He had also established the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Soaring Eagle Award in 1997. It is awarded to an attorney who pursues excellence. An attorney who has made considerable contributions to the legal profession while inspiring others.

Johnnie Cochran social media

Johnnie does not own any form of social media account since he passed away in 2005. You can find his school and university websites that have his scholarship information.

Johnnie Cochran now

What was the cause of Cochran’s death?

Johnnie Lee got diagnosed with a brain tumor in December 2003. He underwent surgery in April 2004 due to which he remained away from the media.

Sometime after his surgery, he announced that he was feeling good and was in good health. Sadly, Johnnie Cochran passed away on March 29th, 2005, at his home in Los Angeles.

A public viewing of his casket took place on April 4th at the Angelus Funeral Home. The viewing also took place at the Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, on April 5th.

His family held a memorial service at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ on April 6th. His remains were buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

His father and many friends attended Johnnie’s funeral. Former clients, including OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, were also there.

How old was Cochran when he passed away?

Johnnie Cochran was aged 67 when he died.

Johnnie Cochran legacy

Johnnie had successfully influenced so many lives and inspired people. His legacy continues to date.

Los Angeles Unified School District approved renaming Mount Vernon Middle School to Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School in his honor. The school was where Cochran once studied.

In 2007, the authorities renamed three blocks in front of the school as the ‘Johnnie Cochran Vista.’

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center launched Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center in 2007. Cochran’s neurosurgeon, Keith Black, led the research center.

Cochran’s family created The Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Chair in Civil Rights at his alma mater. They placed it at the Loyola Law School of Loyola Marymount University. His footprints also got featured on Northwest Louisiana ‘Walk of Stars.’

If there is anything you’d like to add or think we’ve missed, please feel free to comment below.