A LAWYER’S LIFE by Johnnie Cochran


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The most well-known African-American attorney (and perhaps most well-known attorney, period) of our time spins tales of courtroom drama, racism, and the good life.

Many readers, it seems fair to say, will want the answer to just one question: “Did O.J. do it?” Cochran, the captain of O.J. Simpson’s Dream Team, provides a suitably elusive answer in several parts, which boils down to this: Simpson always insisted, in privileged conversations with his attorney, that he didn’t; the jury found Simpson innocent of the charge of murdering his wife because the state did not prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt; a neo-Nazi cop (who, Cochran alleges, though apparently a “reasonably articulate professional, in fact . . . was a lying thug”) was after Simpson for his own reasons. Granted, Cochran writes of the post-verdict Simpson, “it is fair to say that some of the things he’s said and some of the schemes in which he’s gotten involved were probably not as well thought out as they should have been”—well, that’s no reason to torment the guy or suspect him of doing evil. On O.J., though, Cochran offers less meaningful detail than he does on the celebrated cases of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, along with many other less widely reported trials, even though it was l’affaire Simpson that made him a household name—and apparently added greatly to his wealth, even if Cochran has trouble deciding from one page to the next whether he’s rich or merely comfortable. This hurried memoir may frustrate readers seeking insight into Cochran’s inarguably brilliant legal mind, as there is little here on his education, influences, and formative experiences. Still, Cochran does give some accounting of his working methods, which emphasize “preparation, preparation, and then additional preparation.” As well, he ably explores the depth of racism in American society and the consequent difficulty of African Americans and members of other minority groups to find justice. In doing so, Cochran rises to impassioned eloquence—and Americans who do not know firsthand the truth of his arguments may well feel ashamed after reading this.

A split decision, then, though lawyers-in-training and close students of current events should find value in Cochran’s pages.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2002
ISBN: 0-312-27826-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2002


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