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.
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