- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Johnnie Cochran, who became a legal superstar after helping clear O.J. Simpson during a sensational murder trial in which he uttered the famous quote “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” died yesterday. He was 67.

Mr. Cochran died of an inoperable brain tumor at his home in Los Angeles, his family said. Mr. Cochran, who was diagnosed with the tumor in December 2003, was surrounded by his wife, Dale, and two sisters when he died.

“Certainly, Johnnie’s career will be noted as one marked by ‘celebrity’ cases and clientele,” his family said. “But he and his family were most proud of the work he did on behalf of those in the community.”

The “if it doesn’t fit” phrase has been quoted and parodied in the years since the trial. It derived from a moment during which Simpson tried on a pair of bloodstained gloves to show jurors they did not fit.

Soon after, jurors found the Hall of Fame football star not guilty of the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

“Johnnie is what’s good about the law,” Simpson said in a telephone interview from Florida. “I don’t think I’d be home today without Johnnie.”

Michael Jackson, whom Mr. Cochran represented more than a decade ago when a 13-year-old boy accused the pop star of molesting him, said last night, “Johnnie Cochran was a true gentleman who embodied class, brilliance, honesty and integrity. His fight for justice transcended color, age or economic status.”

For Mr. Cochran, Simpson’s acquittal was the crowning achievement in a career notable for victories, often in cases with racial themes. He was a black man known for championing the causes of black defendants. Some of them, like Simpson, were famous, but more often than not they were unknowns.

“The clients I’ve cared about the most are the No Js, the ones who nobody knows,” said Mr. Cochran, who proudly displayed copies in his office of the multimillion-dollar checks he won for ordinary citizens who said they were abused by police.

After Simpson’s acquittal, Mr. Cochran was endlessly parodied in films and TV shows. In “Lethal Weapon 4,” comedian Chris Rock plays a policeman who advises a criminal suspect that he has a right to an attorney, then warns him: “If you get Johnnie Cochran, I’ll kill you.”

The flamboyant Mr. Cochran enjoyed that parody so much he even quoted it in his autobiography, “A Lawyer’s Life.”

Mr. Cochran was born Oct. 2, 1937, in Shreveport, La., the great-grandson of slaves, grandson of a sharecropper and son of an insurance salesman. He came to Los Angeles with his family in 1949, and became one of two dozen black students integrated into Los Angeles High School in the 1950s.

After graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Mr. Cochran earned a law degree from Loyola University. He spent two years in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office before establishing his own practice.

Although he frequently took police departments on in court, Mr. Cochran denied being anti-police and supported the decision of his only son, Jonathan, to join the California Highway Patrol.

He remained a beloved figure in the black community, admired as a philanthropist who helped fund a UCLA scholarship, a low-income housing complex and a New Jersey legal academy.

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