Friday, April 08, 2005

If The Glove Fits .....

Well, let's see what the venerable old L.A. Weekly is writing about me:

"Johnnie Cochran was a good lawyer."

Get no argument from me there.

"He knew how to try cases, and win. And pocket tidy fees."

Say amen, brother.

"But a champion of civil rights? Well, sometimes."

Say what?!

"Cochran was, in fact, more a masterful opportunist than a principled advocate. After a stint in the City Attorney's Office in the '60s, he made a name for himself getting money fo clients who'd been wrongfully beaten by the LAPD's notoriously brutal cops. There the Cochran legend arose: He wasn't simply a savvy courtroom peformer (which, in truth, he was) but also a civil rights advocate who bravely pioneered turf no other lawyer had the courage or insight to broach. That fiction ..."

Fiction? Fiction?!

"... That fiction helped Cochran buy his first Rolls-Royce, and helped obscure the truth that Hugh Manes, a white lawyer with the bark of a drill sergeant and a bulldog's bite, had labored since the 1950s to establish a person's right to sue the police and obtain compensation for his wounds.

"It was the false murder conviction of Geronimo Pratt, however, that furnished Cochran with the mantle of righteousness in which he cloaked himself in the years after he won an acquittal for O.J. Simpson. Simpson brought notoriety and wealth, but it wasn't the kind of verdict that could earn you a place in the pantheon of civil rights."


"It was more on the order of trading one kind of injustice for another: The LAPD got away with beating Rodney King; freeing O.J. settled the score."

So what? Isn't that still justice, no matter how you look at it? The obit continues:

"Pratt was different. At his 1972 trial, the ex-Black Panther had been framed by his accuser, Julius Butler, as part of an LAPD-FBI conspiracy to put Pratt behind bars. Back then, Cochran didn't have the evidence to expose Butler. Twenty-six years later, however, he did, and in an Orange County courtroom, he got a second chance to attack Butler's credibility. This time Butler's lies collapsed under Cochran's skillful filleting, and the judge freed Pratt. Here was a genuine civil rights victory.

"Yet Cochran was never content with these facts alone. He felt compelled to place himself in the entire 27-year storyline of Pratt's trial, conviction, incarceration, and appeals up and down state and federal courts, as if he'd been a rock of faithfulness throughout Pratt's ordeal."

Uh-oh .....

"In truth, beginning with the original trial, Cochran's role had been somewhat less abiding and heroic than he claimed. Pratt's chief counsel had been Charles Hollopeter ...."

Hollopeter! Ha! That name always cracked me up. Hollopeter.

"... a seasoned defense attorney, who put on such a capable defense that the jury was hung throughout ten days of deliberations before it finally reached its verdict. Hollopeter had been on the case for a year and a half before Cochran joined the defense -- only after Hollopeter asked the judge to appoint a black lawyer to corral Panther alibi witnesses who were refusing to cooperate with the white lawyer."


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