Was Johnnie Cochran The Greatest Criminal Attorney Of All Time?

by Criminal Defence Blawg on February 26, 2013

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Is he the best? Or Just the Most Famous?

Johnnie Cochran will always be best remembered as the criminal attorney who defended O.J. Simpson in the most publicly presented murder case in the history of the world. Back when Simpson was on trial for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, televised trials were a relatively new type of programming. It was the daily broadcast of the O.J. Simpson trial that gave Johnnie Cochran his greatest notoriety.

How He Became a Household Name

Johnnie Cochran built his law practice from humble beginnings to a network of more than twenty offices scattered across the country. He gained a reputation by successfully prosecuting cases against police brutality and misdeeds. His most famous such case was when he won a huge verdict against the city of Los Angeles for the brutal beating of Reginald Denny.

Cochran also gained fame for taking on the criminal cases of such famous defendants as Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Jim Brown. All of those cases built his reputation as an attorney who new how to win trials, but it was not until he was chosen as the lead defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson case, that he became a common name in every American household.

Assembling a team of the top attorneys such as Robert Shapiro and F.Lee Bailey, Cochran was able to mount a defense that convinced the jury to acquit O.J. Simpson of murder. Whether winning the most publicized criminal case in recent history makes Cochran the greatest criminal attorney of all time is a matter of opinion.

Is He the Best?

Other equally, or more talented criminal lawyers such as Gerry Spence, Roy Black and Bruce Cutler, have impeccable and very impressive records. They too command the highest fees and are sought after by all of those who can afford to hire the best criminal lawyers in the world.

Johnnie Cochran was a very flamboyant performer in the court room. He was a dramatic actor, a preacher and a master communicator. The secret to his success was being able to capture the attention of the jury and convince them of his client’s innocence.

When Cochran uttered his most famous line after O.J. Simpson struggled to put on a glove,” If it does not fit, you must acquit,” he essentially had the jury in the palm of his hand. That memorable moment was bolstered by the intense cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, including the total degradation of Officer Mark Fuhrman’s testimony.

During the days when Johnnie Cochran was plastered on our television sets every day, he became a common subject for parody. Shows like Saturday Night Live, South Park and Mad TV, all took turns at the public figure that Cochran seemed to relish. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than Cochran was at the top of the list.

Cochran was great for very public trials, but he would not be considered the best at defending high ranking corporate executives who committed fraud, scammed people out of their life savings or profited through insider trading. Cochran was the best for his particular specialty, but not the best among all criminal lawyers and areas of criminal defense.

Peter Wendt is a lawyer turned freelance journalist living and working in Austin, TX.  While he is an admirer of Johnnie Cochran’s work, Peter knows that there are tons of other amazing lawyers out there, such as these Philadelphia Defense Attorneys.

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal law blogger at CriminalDefenceBlawg
Criminal Defence Blawg is a criminal law blog, sharing legal expertise and intelligence from the UK, US, Australia and beyond. Contributions from those who share great legal information. Want to get published? Contact us today.
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