The past two weeks have been filled with unsettling events. Pope John Paul II passed away on April 2; Terri Schiavo died on March 31 after a 15-year struggle over her feeding tube and the family inviting Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. to come and support them; and an earthquake in Indonesia has taken the lives of 1,000 residents.
But the death of Johnnie Cochran on March 29 from a brain tumor also saddened many of us.
Attorney Cochran’s ties to Chicago came about five years ago when he and former city corporation counsel James Montgomery became partners. Mr. Montgomery, in an interview on WVON, stated the firm will continue and the name will not change. “Johnnie would settle a case and make part of the settlement include changes in the institution that was involved.
The news reports since his death focused on the O.J. Simpson [case], and the famous line, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” but friends say Mr. Cochran cared more about the “No Js,” the unknown people.
Here in Chicago, Cochran and Montgomery’s clients included Anthony Porter, an Illinois inmate who was released and filed suit seeking damages for wrongful conviction; Rodney Watt, a Highland Park policeman who was fired because he spoke out about racial profiling; Rashidi Wheeler, a Northwestern University football player who died during drills in 2001; and they obtained an $18-million settlement for the family of Latonya Haggerty, an unarmed woman shot to death by Chicago police in 1999.
Some other more celebrated clients of Cochran included former Black Panther Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt; white truck driver in L.A. Reginald Denny; Michael Jackson, in a 1993 arranged settlement with a boy who accused the singer of molesting him; Abner Louima, who was assaulted in 1997 with a stick to his rectum by N.Y. police; Sean “Puffy” Combs; “Different Strokes” actor Todd Bridges; rappers Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dog.
Johnnie Cochran was born (in my own mother’s hometown and the hometown of O.J. Simpson’s mother) Shreveport, La. on Oct. 2, 1937. He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1949. He is survived by his wife, Dale; son, Jonathan; two daughters, Tiffany and Melodie; his father, Johnnie Cochran Sr.; and two sisters, Martha and Pearl. Mr. Cochran’s funeral was held on Wednesday, April 6. Besides law partner James Montgomery, other notables such as Rev. Jackson Sr. and Minister Louis Farrakhan were some of the Chicago contingent in attendance.