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What Johnnie Cochran Really Thought About O.J.

It was late, nearing midnight, during O.J. Simpson's murder trial in Los Angeles. Simpson's lead attorney, Johnnie Cochran, had promised me an interview but had warned that we'd have to squeeze it in during off-hours. There weren't many off hours during the insanity of the Trial of the Century.

"Meet me at the office late," Cochran said.

How late, I asked.

"Doesn't matter," Cochran replied. "No matter how late you come, I'll be there."

Forty midnights in a row at the office had left the lawyer in a contemplative mood. The spectacle of the Simpson matter had long since ceased to impress or appall. Every bit of legal strategy and media manipulation had been combed over so incessantly that there really weren't many questions left to ask. So I asked the only question I was really curious about.

"Do you think he did it?" Defense lawyers usually recoil from that question. They either go off the record and say, "Of course he did it, but that doesn't matter, that's not my concern," or they issue some vague ritual denial all fluffed up with incantations about the sanctity of our legal system and every man's right to a vigorous defense.

Cochran by this point was well past ritual. So he dished, off the record, of course. Cochran died in 2005, so, by tradition of the craft, those comments are now fair game.

"There's something wrong with him," Cochran said, and he talked about other clients he'd had who somehow managed to persuade themselves that they hadn't done what they actually had done.

Simpson was a big star, a hero to some, a talented person. But, said Cochran, "I wouldn't believe him if he told me the sun was coming up again tomorrow morning."

And then the lawyer went back to work on a defense so wonderfully constructed that it got off a guy who had done a truly terrible deed.


By Marc Fisher |  December 6, 2008; 12:17 PM ET
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Comments

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"by tradition of the craft, those comments are now fair game"

Uh . . . I have never heard of such a tradition.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | December 6, 2008 3:40 PM


Notwithstanding the fact that Johnny Cochran may not have been Supreme Court material, I just have a hard time believing he would, or even the most incompetent lawyer would, during the course of a trial, state in so many words to any third party, much less a reporter, that his client was a liar and/or a nut case.

That just doesn't ring true with me.

My thoughts.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | December 6, 2008 3:55 PM

Wow, Fisher. Fair game? I had to click on this just to see if you would really go this low, and look, you did. Just which craft's tradition are you following? This gives journalism a bad name and seems beneath the Post. Way to print something that no one can remotely verify or follow up on. Just oozing with credibility these days, aren't you.

Posted by: esmerelda123 | December 6, 2008 4:13 PM

You guys did not hear OJ's "apology" to the Judge. Such a self serving self deluded performance seems to confirm Corchran's opinion of him. Also, y'all can't believe he did not do it, can you?

Posted by: ehardwick | December 6, 2008 4:33 PM

Lots of dead men get quoted without accountability. If journalists have a different standard, I'd like to hear about it.

The OJ story sounds like a classic Greek tradgedy - hubris brings low the great who began to believe too strongly in their own PR.

Posted by: j2hess | December 6, 2008 4:49 PM

This blog topic is about as bad as the author's title:

"RAW FISH" - It stinks so bad!!! I dont believe a word of it. This is about as bad as the blog on waste in the DC I.T. shop.

Fisher must not have enough material to be insightful anymore.

Posted by: fourtimesblessed | December 6, 2008 4:53 PM

Sorry, Mr. Fisher, I don't buy your story. In fact, if what you printed was true, you'd've been on the talk shows the minute Cochran died. Pretty lame.

Posted by: shoveit | December 6, 2008 5:06 PM

And another thing---how do I change my posted name "shoveit?" I mistyped, it's supposed to be shovelit (which is my actual middle name). Shoveit sounds crude.

Posted by: shoveit | December 6, 2008 5:08 PM

Cut Fisher some slack here.

The time to come out with this is right now - after Simpson is sentenced. That way there is very little chance of swaying the jury, the judge, etc.

Sounds like Cochran thought Simpson was a pathological liar.

That sounds about right.

Posted by: HillMan | December 6, 2008 5:28 PM

To Bitter_Bill: Journalistic ethics allow for quotes from a person who spoke off the record, and who is now dead, to be published, unless the person requests otherwise. Just because you have never heard of this practice doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't acceptable.

Posted by: ChristopherCruise | December 6, 2008 6:51 PM

Just sign out and then re-sign in as shovelit@whatever.com

Posted by: charley42 | December 6, 2008 6:52 PM

Although I believe Simpson is an arrogant, cold-blooded monster who would do or say anything to accomplish his ends, I am surprised and disappointed such an article was approved by the editors.

However, the fact that it did -- and that Fish is obviously well paid for such -- prompts me to submit my candid interviews with JFK, MLK, Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin... Napoleon...

Posted by: saj_pratt | December 6, 2008 7:24 PM

Dead men tell lies.

Posted by: robert26 | December 6, 2008 7:41 PM

Johnnie Cochran was no dummy.
He was an excellent student of humans and their psychological odd-ball behavior.
He performed his duty with great care, but he had no illusions.
This says nothing about whether O. J. did the deed; instead it is a comment on his personal impression of the man.
And right on the money, I'd say.
O. J. Simpson has always lived in a swirl of self-indulgent excusatory thought processes.
Otherwise, he'd be unable to live with his bloody, demonic side.
There is no question in my mind that he committed the bloody deed, then blocked it out because he couldn't live with that knowledge otherwise.
How else could he have written "If I Did It"?
Even his ghost writer talked about encountering the block in his memory.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | December 6, 2008 8:36 PM

For a look behind the scenes of the 1995 trial and the dynamics at play that led to the not-guilty verdicts and the profound long-term impact that trial has had on judges, the media and public understanding of the courts, please read my new book, "Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O. J. Simpson" (www.anatomyofatrial.com), just released by the University of Missouri Press.

Posted by: jerrianne | December 7, 2008 8:58 AM

Nowhere does Marc write that Cochran said he believed OJ committed the crime. As defense lawyers do, Cochran spoke around giving a direct answer by telling of clients he knew were guilty of "terrible deed[s]," yet denied their guilt.

I agree wholeheartedly with Cochran -- there is truly something wrong with OJ. His arrogance aside, that is one scary individual.

Posted by: ziggygz | December 8, 2008 2:16 PM

Hello Mr. Fisher

You made your weekly salary by writing about one dead person and a living legend. You are not smart. If I were you, I will do one a time so that you can have contined income. Times are tough and you need this job.

Posted by: TAXED | December 8, 2008 3:11 PM

How incredibly tacky. You should be replace Fischer, and your editor too.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 10, 2008 3:26 PM

Mr. Fisher, a great epilog.

Mr. Cochran had made his mark representing several men that no one would aid.

Mr. Cochran was one of the best defense trial lawyers in America.

Barry Scheck, F. Lee Bailey, and many with-their legal team truly brought-out Assistant State's Attorneys Marsha Clark’s and other deficiencies culminating in Mr. Fong's and Mr. Furman's admissions of intercessions.

With-out Mr. Simpson taking the witness stand, Mr. Cochran's famous expression; If the gloves do not fit, you cannot convict.

What a marvelous lawyer.

Thanks for your good works.

The Post continues to reach beyond the ordinary.

Keep up your in-dept reporting and analysis.

Posted by: eglobegus | December 11, 2008 3:35 AM

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