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Interview with Johnnie Cochran

Aired November 11, 2003 - 05:09   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney Johnnie Cochran calls his decades long legal career a journey to justice. his latest book, titled, "A Lawyer's Life," is just out now in paperback form.
Johnnie Cochran is live with us here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Nice to see you again.


Thank you.

HEMMER: How are you?

COCHRAN: I'm doing fine, thank you.

HEMMER: A lot of people are thinking -- look at the sniper trials and think it's not a question of guilty or not guilty, but rather life or death.

Do you see it the same way?

COCHRAN: I think so. I think the lawyers are probably, they can't admit that at this point, but they're trying to save their clients' lives. And I think that Muhammad made a mistake in defending himself early on. He finally realized that and then the lawyers have taken over and the prosecution has now rested. It remains to be seen whether he's going to testify or not. We'll have to see that.

It's interesting, however, though. The judge grants a change of venue in this case and then the cases are set in an area where they start within, what, two weeks of each other. And it's kind of blocked that out because the jurors have been watching everything. The Malvo jurors will have seen everything that's happened in Muhammad's case. It's going to be interesting.

Now, Malvo's lawyers may like that, however, because this, their defense is going to be a form of insanity, that he was being -- that Malvo, the young one, was being controlled by Muhammad.

HEMMER: Right. So do you think a change of venue doesn't matter, then? Is that what you're saying about that?

COCHRAN: I think in this case I think it has been muted by the fact that all the publicity and how the trials were set within 15 miles of each other and it -- so it's close proximity. I think so. HEMMER: Do you see a scenario where Malvo gets death and Muhammad gets life in prison?

COCHRAN: You know, I'd be surprised at that and I think the lawyers would, too. I think that, you know, insanity defenses traditionally haven't worked very well in this country. But what it may do, however, if he's under the influence, if a jury believes that, it may take off -- take the death off of Malvo.

HEMMER: I've got a few more trials I want to get to.


HEMMER: Laci Peterson. You said it recently. In fact, you said it on "Larry King" the other night. Mark Geragos took this case for a reason. Is he holding a trump card, do you believe?

COCHRAN: I think he probably, you know, he's an experienced lawyer. He's doing a lot of television around. He's an experienced lawyer and he wanted this case. So I've got to think he has something up his sleeve. You know, we always hear from the prosecution now these days...

HEMMER: Now, is that a legal comment or is that a P.R. comment?

COCHRAN: Well, I, no, I think it's a little bit of both. I think it's a -- I know how, I know Geragos and I think he probably has -- he believes this is a defensible case. I really believe that.

HEMMER: How hard is it to defend the guy who was in the waters and admitted to being in the waters in the same place where his wife's body was found?

COCHRAN: Well, it's difficult because, you know, there's, you know, everybody -- I don't want to use the term rush to judgment -- everybody assumes the husband is the suspect and is probably guilty. And obviously, as you mentioned, he's in the waters generally where the body is found.

But it's a circumstantial evidence case and, you know, there's not going to be anyone who says hey, I saw this guy do it. And there may be some reasonable explanations for many of the things.

HEMMER: Kobe Bryant, a week ago, November 4, you said, and I'm quoting now, "I think Kobe will ultimately be acquitted."


HEMMER: Convinced of that?

COCHRAN: I still believe that. I believe he really will be acquitted. I think that the prosecution made a mistake in filing these charges. This case is one in which, I think it's a mistake. I really do. And I think that when the chips are all over, he will be acquitted.

HEMMER: Well, you've learned a little something about representing celebrities in big time trials.


HEMMER: When was the last time you talked with O.J. Simpson?

COCHRAN: I talked to him, I guess it was earlier this year. I talked to him right at the beginning of this year.

HEMMER: Yes? What's he doing?

COCHRAN: He's in Miami. He's still raising those kids down there. And, you know, he's doing all right.

HEMMER: This coming June marks the 10 year mark when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in L.A. Your book, it came out several months ago, but I want to pull a quote from it, if I could here. "It was probably the subject," the O.J. Simpson trial, "of more conversations and arguments than any subject since the Vietnam War. At the end of that trial, not one of the participants walked out of that courthouse the same person he had been only months earlier."

How have you changed?

COCHRAN: I think it made me probably more aware of some of the divisions in the country, that two Americans, depending upon their background, could see the exact same facts and come to an opposite conclusion. I mean in good faith they could do that. I think it provided us an opportunity to talk about things, maybe understand each other better. I think it gave me perhaps a forum to speak out on various issues, and I've tried to do that and to talk about the cases and the cases that have formed my life.

So it's been that kind of an experience.

HEMMER: Plan on having more contact with O.J.?

COCHRAN: You know, if it comes up. I certainly hope he never gets in trouble again.

HEMMER: You know what people say, though, that -- I mean people have an opinion on this matter.

COCHRAN: They have strong opinions.

HEMMER: How often are you asked whether you think O.J. Simpson was guilty or not?

COCHRAN: Pretty often. You know, I think in many conversations, and even after 10 years we were still asked that question. And I always answer the same. You know, I wasn't there. He's always maintained his innocence. There was a lot of evidence that made us believe he was innocent and that, and the jury so found that he was -- that he was not guilty, at any rate.

HEMMER: Good to see you, Johnnie Cochran. COCHRAN: It's great seeing you.

HEMMER: We'll talk again, OK?


HEMMER: We'll run the gamut for more cases when we come back.

COCHRAN: I'll enjoy it.

HEMMER: All right.



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