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Johnnie Cochran: OJs and No Js

Getty Images / WireImage / Bob Riha Jr.

Johnnie Cochran: OJs and No Js

Sixteen years ago today, America was transfixed by a slow moving, white Ford Bronco creeping down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles pursued by a phalanx of police vehicles and news helicopters. The owner of the vehicle would be arrested in his driveway and charged with murder.

One of his first actions thereafter was to hire attorney Johnnie Cochran. In the media frenzy surrounding what would become the criminal trial of the century, Cochran would emerge as perhaps its most memorable figure, delivering the famous line, "If it does not fit, you must acquit."
 

Fond of rhymes, Cochran liked to remind people that he worked "not only for the O.J.s but also the no Js." Though later known for his celebrity client roster that included Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Jim Brown and Snoop Dogg, Cochran did spend a lot of time defending the have-nots. Long before he was appearing on Court TV, he'd become the first African-American Assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles County, and spent the early years of his private practice waging difficult-to-win civil rights and police brutality suits.

Of all his high profile cases, Cochran maintained he was most proud of winning the freedom of former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, who had been wrongfully convicted of murder and kidnapping and had spent 27 years behind bars.

Active in charity circles, Cochran helped fund a UCLA scholarship, a low-income housing project and a legal academy on the East coast. Clearly, there was more to his story than the client with the slow moving car and the ill-fitting glove.