I have felt compelled to write my reaction to the comments of Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday during the Emmys. For those of you that missed it and you may be the fortunate ones because I found it deeply disturbing when he referred to the late Johnnie Cochran as “smiling up at us” this in the context of the awards for the fictionalized O.J. Simpson documentaries that received numerous awards for the TV shows and for some of the actors that portrayed characters in the O.J. Trial.
I realize that many some 20 years after the notorious O.J. Simpson Case the only thing many know about Johnnie Cochran come from the portrayals of him on TV and the media.
I met Johnnie when he was a Prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and yes he was flamboyant then as a Prosecutor. In 1964 as he prosecuted his first celebrity case, Lenny Bruce on Obscenity charges. But the Black Community first became acquainted with him in one of his first losses. He represented a widow who sued police officers who shot and killed her husband Leonard Deadwyler.
Johnnie read everything he could about Thurgood Marshall and concluded “a single dedicated man could use the law to change society”
Johnnie Cochran was a celebrity lawyer he represented Sean Combs, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Jim Brown, Snoop Dogg, Marion Jones. But he became know in the Black Community for successfully representing in the late 70’s the family of Ron Settles a black college football player in a case involving his death at the hands of the Police and later in New York the case of a Haitian immigrant the victim of Police brutality that resulted in a 8.75 million settlement.
Johnnie Cochran returned to the role of prosecutor in 1978 and became the Los Angeles County District Attorneys first Assistant District Attorney. He was appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley and others to the Los Angeles Airport Commission. His boyhood school was renamed Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School and Councilman Herb Wesson named 17th street adjacent after him. In 2007, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center opened the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center and his endowed Chair in Civil Rights continues at his alma mater Loyola Law School.
Cochran liked to say” he worked not only for the O.J.’s but the No Js”. Rev Jesse Jackson referred to him as the “people’s lawyer”. No Johnnie I think you look down on us not up.