Cochran: Conciliator, Facilitator

Johnnie Cochran, who died Tuesday of an inoperable brain tumor at 67, uttered one of the most famous lines ever heard in a courtroom.

At the height of O.J. Simpson's murder trial, he said of a glove that was in evidence, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

But, what many people may not realize about Cochran is that he was able to overcome differences among the lawyers on O.J. Simpson's famous "dream team" during Simpson's trial, according to Harvard legal scholar and fellow dream teamer Alan Dershowitz.

"There were a lot of tensions," Dershowitz tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm . "The dream team was a nightmare team for awhile, and Johnnie's sense of humor and style was able to smooth many of those things over."

Not only that, says Dershowitz, but, "What really made him special was his ability to connect with other lawyers. He was a team player. For example, that famous line…he didn't write it. He borrowed it from one of the lawyers on the case. Much of the strategy for the case regarding DNA was developed by Barry Scheck. I helped organize a lot of the legal issues around the case.

"Johnnie knew what he knew and knew what he didn't know. He was able to work together with lots of lawyers with big egos to only use the interest of the client as the governing phenomenon.

"Many of today's lawyers don't do that. They like to see themselves as the Lone Ranger going into the court alone, and the client suffers as a result. He kind of created team defense and team offense.

"He also taught a generation of students how you can use the law to promote social justice, to promote racial equality and to promote civil rights. He inspired many of today's law students."

Dershowitz says he and Cochran "never talked about" whether they felt Simpson had committed the slayings he was charged with but, "The important point is that Johnnie provided O.J. Simpson the best possible defense that he could have received, and he did it aggressively, by putting the police of Los Angeles on trial for their misconduct.

"And in the end, the verdict of the jury was as much that the police were guilty of misconduct as that O.J. Simpson was not guilty."

Dershowitz added that Cochran's experience with Los Angeles juries enabled him to "strike the appropriate balance between putting the police on trial and defending his own client."
  • Dan Collins

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