Johnnie Cochran biography- Trial lawyer of OJ Simpson case

Who is Johnnie Cochran?

Johnnie Cochran was an American criminal trial lawyer and civil activist who gained international recognition for his controversial defense of high-profile personalities. Cochran’s legal skills were theatrical, and he was widely honored for his outstanding performance in courtrooms.

Born as Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr., Johnnie is a unisex name of Hebrew origin, an alternate spelling of Johnna, which means “God is gracious.” He was renowned for his legal awareness and courtroom skills, handling cases for celebrities and common people in unusual situations.

Besides his legal career, Cochran was a philanthropist and served as Chairman of the “Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone,” an organization that economically aided deprived communities. He also established a scholarship at the University of California to financially assist African-American students.

Despite his passing in 2005, Johnnie Cochran’s legacy lives on as a prominent figure in the legal profession and a strong advocate for civil rights.

Johnnie Cochran biography

Quick facts

Full nameJohnnie Lee Cochran, Jr.
BirthdayOctober 2, 1937
BirthplaceShreveport, Louisiana, USA
DeathMarch 29, 2005
Last residenceLos Angeles, California, USA
Age67 years old
TraitsPositive: Tactful, charismatic, and kind
Negative: Indecisive, self-indulgent, and superficial
Parents NameJohnnie Cochran Sr.,
Hattie Bass Cochran
SiblingsNo information
Marital statusMarried
SpouseBarbara Berry Cochran (1960 – 1977),
Sylvia Dale (1985 – 2005)
ChildrenMelodie Cochran,
Tiffany Cochran,
Jonathan Cochran
EducationJuris Doctor degree from Loyola Marymount University School of Law,
Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Economics from the University of California,
High school degree from Los Angeles High School,
Middle school degree from Mount Vernon Middle School
ProfessionTrial lawyer
Net worthUSD 8 million
Social mediaNone
Height1.70 m
Eye colorBrown

Early life

Childhood photo of Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran, the renowned criminal trial lawyer, and civil rights activist, was born on October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Johnnie Cochran Sr. and Hattie Bass Cochran.

Interestingly, Cochran’s great-grandfather was a slave, and his family’s experiences during slavery and segregation significantly shaped his life and career. In 1949, millions of African-American families moved to the West Coast due to the ‘Great Migration.’ As a result, Cochran’s family also relocated to Los Angeles, where he received his education.

Despite the challenges faced by African-Americans during the 1950s, Cochran’s family encouraged him to be independent, well-educated, and unbiased. As a result, he attended public schools and excelled in his academics.

He graduated first in his class from Los Angeles High School and completed his middle school at Mount Vernon Middle School. Johnnie Cochran earned his BA in Business Economics from the University of California in 1959 and his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School in 1962.

During his university years, Cochran was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, a predominantly African-American fraternity. He was even the fraternity’s 45th Laurel Wreath laureate, a prestigious honor.

Cochran’s early life and childhood experiences, coupled with his exceptional education, paved the way for his future success as a legal advocate and champion of civil rights.

Cochran fought for justice for all, regardless of their background or social status, and he successfully defended numerous high-profile clients, including OJ Simpson, Sean Combs, and Michael Jackson.

In addition to his legal career, Cochran was a philanthropist who served as Chairman of the “Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone,” an organization that economically aided deprived communities. He also established a scholarship for African-American students at the University of California in his name to provide financial assistance to those in need.


Johnnie’s father, Johnnie Cochran Sr., was an insurance salesman. He, born in 1916 and passed away in 2018 at the age of 102, was a successful insurance salesman for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance.

Johnnie Cochran with his father

Hattie Bass Cochran was an Avon saleswoman. She was born in 1914 and passed away in 2002. Hattie was a dedicated Avon saleswoman who instilled the importance of hard work and independence in her children.

Johnnie Cochran Jr was the eldest of five children. He had two sisters, Pearl Cochran Salter and Betty Cochran, and two brothers, Leon Cochran and Larry Cochran.

Cochran often credited his parents and siblings for his success, noting that their support and encouragement were instrumental. Despite their modest background, Cochran’s family was deeply involved in their community and instilled in their children the importance of giving back.

Cochran’s parents and siblings also participated in civil rights and community organizations, including the NAACP.

Johnnie Cochran relationships

Johnnie Cochran was married twice in his lifetime.

Cochran’s first marriage was to Barbara Jean Berry in 1960, shortly after he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School. The couple had three children together, Jonathan, Tiffany, and Melodie, before they divorced in 1977.

In 1985, Cochran married his second wife, Sylvia Dale Mason, a music industry executive. The couple was married until Cochran’s death in 2005 and had two children together, a son named Cochran Mason and a daughter named Autumn Cochran.

In addition to his marriages, Cochran was known for his romantic relationships with several high-profile women, including singer Natalie Cole and actress Cicely Tyson.

Barbara Cochran

Johnnie Cochran

Barbara was a primary school teacher, and the couple went on to have three children together, Jonathan, Tiffany, and Melodie.

However, their marriage was not without its troubles. In 1977, Barbara accused Johnnie of having an affair with his long-time lover, Patty Sikora. The accusation led to their divorce, which was reportedly contentious, with Barbara receiving a substantial settlement.

After their divorce, Barbara released a book titled “Life After Johnnie Cochran,” in which she opened up about her life with the prominent lawyer. In the book, Barbara alleged that Johnnie was manipulative, abusive, and physically violent toward her. She claimed that he would beat her every time she confronted him about his affair with Patty, which ultimately led to the breakdown of their marriage.

Barbara’s book was met with mixed reactions, with some questioning the veracity of her claims, while others applauded her for speaking out about domestic violence.

Sylvia Dale

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

Sylvia was a music industry executive, and the couple went on to have two children together, a son named Cochran Mason and a daughter named Autumn Cochran.

Sylvia was a significant support system for Johnnie, particularly during his high-profile cases, such as the O.J. Simpson trial, in which he famously defended the former football player accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. Sylvia was by Johnnie’s side throughout the trial, offering him emotional support and helping him manage the intense media attention.

Johnnie and Sylvia’s marriage lasted until Johnnie died in 2005 from a brain tumor. After his passing, Sylvia continued to be involved in the legal community, promoting justice and equality, particularly for women and minorities.


Johnnie Cochran had three children during his lifetime. He had two daughters, Tiffany Cochran and Melodie Cochran, with his first wife, Barbara Berry Cochran, and a son named Jonathan Cochran with his former girlfriend, Patty Sikora.

Tiffany Cochran, Johnnie’s eldest daughter, is a public relations manager and national brand manager for The Cochran Firm. She is married to Javarro Edwards and has a daughter named Emerson Ambrose. Tiffany also supports the Johnnie L. Cochran Brain Tumor Center at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, there is no information on Melodie Cochran.

His son, Jonathan Cochran, was born from his affair with Patty Sikora. He is married to Cheryl Sneathern, and his mother, Patty, filed a lawsuit against him in 2016 for making him purchase a home without giving him the title or deed.


Johnnie Cochran’s journey to becoming a renowned criminal trial lawyer and civil rights activist was challenging. He faced setbacks and struggles, but his unwavering determination kept him going, and he eventually made his mark in the legal world.

Cochran became a household name after his involvement in the O.J. Simpson trial as part of the defense team. However, his career spanned several decades and involved numerous high-profile cases, including representing Michael Jackson and Snoop Dogg and cases involving police brutality against the African-American community.

After passing the bar exam in 1963, Cochran worked as a deputy city attorney in the criminal division. He took on his first celebrity case in 1964, defending comedian Lenny Bruce on obscenity charges. In 1966, he entered private practice and founded his law firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans.

One of Cochran’s early cases involved representing an African-American widow seeking justice for her husband, Leonard Deadwyler, who was shot and killed by police officers in 1966. Although he ultimately lost the case, Cochran realized that the trial had brought attention to the issue of police brutality in the black community.

By the late 1970s, Cochran had become a well-known figure in the black community, taking on several high-profile cases involving police brutality. He even took a pay cut to join the government and served as the First Assistant District Attorney to strengthen ties with the political community and effect change within the system.

Cochran eventually returned to private practice, founding the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Law Firm. He won a $760k settlement in the case of Ron Settles, a black college football player murdered by the Signal Hill Police Department in 1981.

Over the years, Cochran became known for his ability to encourage settlements on cases just by his presence, and he opened regional offices of his Cochran Firm in 15 states across the United States. Cochran’s advocacy for minorities in police brutality and civil rights cases earned him widespread recognition and respect, although the O.J. Simpson trial brought additional popularity and criticism.

OJ Simpson trial

Johnnie Cochran with O.J. Simpson

Johnnie Cochran’s most notable case was his involvement in the O.J. Simpson trial, which brought him international recognition. Simpson, a former football player, was charged with the double murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

Cochran was a part of Simpson’s defense team, which included several other high-profile lawyers such as Robert Kardashian, Barry Scheck, Robert Shapiro, and Alan Dershowitz. The trial lasted for 11 months, beginning on January 24th, 1995.

During the closing arguments, Cochran famously uttered, ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,’ referring to the blood-stained glove found at the crime scene that Simpson struggled to put on. Cochran used this as evidence that Simpson was not guilty of the double murder.

In October 1995, Simpson was found ‘not guilty’ of the crime. However, prosecutor Christopher Darden suggested that Cochran had tampered with the glove and accused him of persuading the jurors to doubt the DNA evidence.

According to reports, Cochran earned $5 million for defending O.J. Simpson in the trial, although rumors suggest that Simpson never fully paid any of the lawyers on his defense team.

Michael Jackson

Johnnie Cochran had also defended the famous pop star Michael Jackson when he was alleged of child molestation back in 1993 and 1994. Michael denied the allegations. 

This trial took place shortly before the OJ Simpson trial.

After the case settlement, Cochran commented that the resolution of the Michael Jackson case was in no way an admission of guilt. Instead, he said that Michael is an innocent man who does not intend to destroy his career and life by rumors.

Johnnie Cochran 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.

Johnnie Cochran 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.

Johnnie Cochran 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.

acting career

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


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 Cochran 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

Johnnie Cochran

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

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

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 was a well-known philanthropist as well.

He was 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 cause of 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.

Johnnie Cochran was aged 67 when he died.

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


Did Cochran beat his ex-wife?

Yes, Johnnie Cochran beat his wife whenever she confronted him about his extramarital affair with Patty Sikora.

How did Johnnie Cochran die?

Johnnie Cochran died of an inoperable brain tumor.

How old was Johnnie Cochran when he died?

Johnnie Cochran was 67 years old when he died.

Is Johnnie Cochran still alive?

No, Johnnie Cochran is not alive. He died on March 29, 2005.

Did Johnnie Cochran represent Michael Jackson?

Yes, Johnnie Cochran represented Michael Jackson against allegations of child molestation in 1993 and 1994.

What is Johnnie Cochran famous for?

Johnnie is famous as one of the lawyers of OJ Simpson’s defense team. Simpson is an ex-football player who got charged with the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. He is a prominent lawyer who has dealt with high-profile police brutality cases involving the African American community.

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

Cochran made USD 5 million from the OJ Simpson trial. However, rumors existed that OJ Simpson never fully paid any of The Dream Team’s lawyers.

What is Johnnie Cochran’s net worth?

Johnnie had a net worth of USD 8 million at his death.

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

Robert Shapiro did not work with F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran after the O.J. Simpson trial due to tensions and disagreements during the trial, personal conflicts, and differences in legal philosophy. Shapiro disagreed with the focus on race and inflammatory rhetoric used during the trial and felt that Cochran was taking credit for the trial’s outcome.

Which case was Cochran’s favorite?

Yes, that’s correct. Geronimo Pratt was a former Black Panther Party member who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 27 years in prison before his release in 1997. Cochran worked tirelessly to prove Pratt’s innocence, and his release was considered one of Cochran’s most significant victories in his legal career. Cochran regarded Pratt’s release as one of the happiest days of his life.

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