A Lawyer’s Life

A Lawyer’s Life – Book Review

Robert Fleming

by Johnnie Cochran with David Fisher Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin’s Press, October 2002 $25.95, ISBN 0-312-27826-8

The name Johnnie Cochran will most likely always be linked to that of former pro football player and pitchman O. J. Simpson, who was acquitted of killing his wife, in what has come to be known as the “Trial of the Century.” It is a link that Cochran, who defended Simpson and a host of others in high-profile criminal cases, has tried to sever but to no avail. Going to some lengths in his previous work Journey to Juustice, and now his latest volume, A Lawyer’s Life, Cochran has tried to put the racially polarizing outcome of the case in some perspective.

At the very start of the book, Cochran describes his life, pre-O.J. Simpson: “I had an interesting and extremely successful legal practice, a strong marriage to a very bright and beautiful woman, I enjoyed a position of prestige and power within my community, and I had all the material possessions I needed to make me a very happy man. Life was good.”

But all that was before the 1995 trial, which Cochran calls “the sea change of my life.” With the verdict and all the attendant publicity, everything changed for Cochran and the other principals involved in the trial. For Cochran, it meant instant recognition, personal attacks, even wider support in the black community and more opportunity for him to practice law. Whites found him intriguing, articulate and flamboyant, but were forced begrudgingly to admit his brilliance.

In A Lawyer’s Life, Cochran is very careful not to rehash much of his family history or the criminal and civil cases he defended in the early 1960s that formed the core of his first book. Instead, he charges ahead with many of his most notable post-Simpson cases after a fast, efficient recap of the highlights of the ex-football star’s murder trial. He is adamant in his belief that Simpson was truthful when he said he didn’t kill his wife, noting that all of his testimony checked out, and that some details have never been made public.

An enthralling, provocative book, Lawyer’s Life takes on more thematic heft when Cochran details many of the more challenging cases he has faced in career, induding Jim Brown, Puff Daddy, Reginald Denny, Amadou Diallo, Snoop Dogg, Patrick Dorismond, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Abner Louima, Geronimo Pratt and Tupac Shakur. His recounting of the New York City police abuse cases are especially riveting, containing enough behind-the-scenes facts to get the reader’s blood boiling all over again.

A self-proclaimed street lawyer, Cochran, despite all of the trappings of fame and wealth, is portrayed here as a man of deep convictions and principles. He, unlike many of his white counterparts, has found a way to make his life count, something that comes across mightily in this well-done, insightful collection of introspection and reminiscence that will make every black American proud that this accomplished legal eagle exists in these troubled times.

–Robert Fleming is a frequent contributor to BIBR.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Cox, Matthews & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group