Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Johnny on the Spot

"I'm sort of the legal gunslinger, the celebrity lawyer."

That's how Johnny Cochran described himself in one of his two memoirs, A Lawyer's Life. The flashy, soundbite driven lawyer plead guilty to flamboyance and extravagance; nothing wrong with that, those are actually desirable traits for a defense attorney. Indeed, most knew him as the lawyer to the stars like P. Diddy, Michael Jackson, OJ.

But Cochran often took high-profile cases so that he could represent "the No J's ... those cases I've taken in which the chances for getting paid are actually pretty slim."

Like Geronimo Pratt.

Cochran defended the former Black Panther early in his career. In 1972, Pratt was convicted of a '68 Santa Monica homicide; many have maintained prosecutorial misconduct, entirely believable given the merits of the case and the time. For the next 25 years, the "celebrity lawyer" tirelessly worked to overturn this verdict. In 1997, Mr. Cochran was part of the legal team that won Pratt's release.

Those were the cases that Cochran said made him the most proud.