Johnnie Cochran, The FBI, and The Distant Traveler in the OJ Simpson Trial

Maddogg Guest Writer and OMIG Investigative Researcher, T.H. Johnson

Volume 2 in a series entitled THE DISTANT TRAVELER

cochran and simpson

By September 1995 Johnnie Cochran was from a public perspective in full visible control of the legal defense team of OJ Simpson.  In conjunction with Barry Scheck, Cochran was the primary individual that issued a subpoena to have FBI agent Fred Whitehurst come to Los Angeles to testify in the Simpson trial regarding the significance of a complaint alleging perjury of another FBI agent, Roger Martz, a little over a month earlier during the last week of July.

Barry scheck and johnnie cochran

Johnnie Cochran (right) and lawyer, DNA expert, Barry Scheck (left)

Whitehurst was demanded in the subpoena served on him by the defense to testify about the allegations made in a complaint he had signed and filed with the USDOJ-Office of the Inspector General.

Frederic whitehurst and FBI badge (2)

Special Agent, Frederic Whitehurst, Ph.d Chemist, and noted FBI explosive expert was demoted to paint chips examiner in the Quantico, VA laboratory for bucking his superiors as a whistle blower causing embarrassment to the FBI’s brand.   His going outside internal mechanisms to address allegations of laboratory incompetence and malfeasance did not bode well for Whitehurst’s career and after filing over 200 USDOJ-OIG complaints regarding laboratory misconduct he and the FBI would reach a financial settlement in return for his departure.

This complaint involved a man who appeared, based on prior conduct in a 1990 trial, to be an habitual liar on the witness stand.  He was special agent Roger Martz, and though he had no academic background or degrees in Chemistry via the internal politics of the FBI he had been appointed Chief of the Chemistry laboratory at Quantico, VA.   Martz had acted as an expert witness in the Simpson trial and though called by the defense his testimony was geared to diminishing certain laboratory outcomes that now favored the prosecution.  Eventually, out of frustration the defense would petition the court to have Martz allowed to be treated by them as a hostile witness.

roger martz

FBI Special Agent, Roger Martz, giving testimony during the Simpson trial as an expert witness on the topic of EDTA and whether it had been found by him as a contaminant in the blood collected at the crime scene belonging to O.J. Simpson. 

Martz had previously given false testimony about research he allegedly performed inside the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia concerning the Florida Death Row appeal trial of convicted defendant George Trepal.  Martz was roundly criticized by the court for an extraordinary level of incompetency in his expert testimony during that trial.   Although the formal decision had not been rendered yet in writing, in all probability the senior heads at the FBI were aware of his poor performance during the Trepal trial.  They should have known because other members of the FBI sitting in the courtroom were noted to gasp regarding the misleading research conclusions Martz was offering.  Those expressions of frustration were loud enough for on-lookers of the proceeding to notice.

FBI shield

Thus, Simpson’s trial was not the first time that agent Martz had given such incompetent testimony potentially embarrassing the FBI.   Hence, if Whitehurst had taken the witness stand the level of damage done to the integrity of the FBI’s brand could have been immeasurable destroying their credibility for years to come and erasing their name as one of the most preeminent investigative agencies in the world.


Director Louis Freeh in charge of the FBI at the time of the Simpson trial.

The FBI’s director Louis Freeh was already in the spotlight regarding other decisions made in FBI criminal engagements some with their own level of potential embarrassment notably the lethal engagement at Ruby Ridge along with false testimony given after the 1993 New York City first World Trade Center Bombing.

1993 world trade center bombing

Thus, in the aftermath of Martiz’s testimony in the Simpson trial it draws one to conclude that the individual  FBI officials would choose to go to California to attempt to work out some mutual agreement where the FBI would avoid embarrassment was very selective and well thought out.    FBI officials would choose Stephen Robinson, a black man who was allegedly a friend of the director, Louis Freeh, since working together in the US District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Stephen C. Robinson - partner at Skadden Arps...020411

FBI Senior Counsel Steven Robinson sent to stop Whitehurst from testifying

Robinson was undoubtedly a capable individual and cited as being the FBI’s senior counsel; however, we believe he was sent not simply for his legal prowess and capability but because they needed someone that would give them the best chance of gaining an intimate inside relationship with who by now was the lead defense counsel in the Simpson trial, another black man named Johnnie Cochran.

O.J. Simpson (L), Johnnie Cochran Jr. (C) and Robe
 (L), Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Robert Shapiro (R) 

We know the benefit that the FBI received in protecting the integrity of their brand by ultimately keeping Whitehurst from taking the witness stand, the question is what was the quid pro quo benefit that Cochran received?  Our suspicion is that in order to get beyond the overt visage of professional posturing to a more privately intimate interaction the two men probably exchanged signals to present the opportunity for that invisible door to open.

masonic ritual (2)

We’ve always felt that Cochran knew the level of malfeasance that the LADA’s office was capable of engaging.   He had received that signal 19 years earlier when the re-elected DA, John Van de Kamp ultimately convinced Cochran that he should accept his invitation to become a part of his staff as one of three Assistant District Attorneys, making him the 3rd most powerful figure in the DA’s office in 1978.

John Van de Kamp LADA (2)  Los Angeles County District Attorney, John Van de Kamp,

Van de Kamp along with Cochran’s father, Johnnie Cochran, Sr, convinced  Johnnie Cochran, Jr, that more change could be made from the inside versus Cochran attempting to do so from the outside.  Thus, with this arsenal of knowledge of the inner-workings of the DA’s office now under his belt a quarter century later, I believe that Cochran was on course to reverse the insult he’d experienced at the hands of the FBI when his client was convicted in 1972 and sentenced to life without parole on trumped up fictitious charges. In accordance with the FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover’s corrupt COINTELPRO initiative a young naive lawyer named Johnnie Cochran would see his client who he’d previously accused of being overly paranoid marched off to prison.   His client’s last words as he was taken through the door by bailiffs would be “don’t forget me, Cochran”.   That message seared its way into the brain of this excellent young attorney who felt that he had miserably failed his client.  No matter how successful he would become over the span of his illustrious career Johnnie Cochran was continuously haunted by those last words of his client in 1972 as he reflects on that event in his book regarding the Simpson case, JOURNEY TO JUSTICE.   His actions to demur in regard to the Distant Traveler’s recommendation that the defense test the alleged contaminated blood of Simpson felt to the Traveler that it had fell on deaf ears.  I argue that it did not, but too premature in 1994 to reveal the level of malfeasance that already had occurred in the Simpson case.  Revealing the cover up, planting of evidence so soon would have destroyed what appeared to be Cochran’s master plan to use that malfeasance hopefully to secure the freedom of his unjustly imprisoned client.


Thus, in September of 1995 the table may have been set for the ultimate acquittal that would come two years later in 1997 for one of Cochran’s first celebrated clients long forgotten.  The Minister of Defense for the southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party, Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt by his release upon final appeal in 1997 had been unjustly locked away for 29 years and designated by the international prison monitoring NGOs as being the longest political prisoner incarcerated in the world that by now had exceeded the 27 years of Nelson Mandela locked away on South Africa’s Robben Island Penal Colony for his struggle against apartheid.

Former Black Panther Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, left, is joined by attorney Johnnie Cochran during a sidewalk news conference outside the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 1998.    Pratt is protesting an appeal by Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti that could return him to prison for a 1968 robbery and murder. 

The pieces continue to fall into place as to how Cochran and Pratt’s personal lawyer, Stuart Hanlon from San Francisco, supported by Cochran over the life of Pratt’s imprisonment were able to secure Pratt’s ultimate release.   Not only was Cochran able to get every judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County barred from hearing Pratt’s final appeal, but ultimately would secure damage awards from both the FBI and Los Angeles County for close to $4 million dollars for their joint participation in framing Geronimo Pratt.  I believe that LADA Gil Garcetti’s appeal to have Pratt returned to prison was just a faint to cover himself.  By this time Cochran not only had the malfeasance of the FBI’s Roger Martz in his hip pocket but he had the original information that would have exonerated Simpson when the case first began in June of 1994.  Cochran knew that sworn officers of the court had changed the last time on the phone records of when Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson was last known to be alive.   If his ex-wife were alive at 11PM then Simpson was entering a chauffeured limousine carrying him to LAX to catch an 11:45 PM flight to Chicago thus Simpson could not have killed her.  The publicly stated time of the last phone call would change 3 times before Simpson’s trial, from 11PM, to 10:17 PM and finally pushed further back to 09:37 PM.  The latter time would be entered by stipulation, including one for which Cochran would reluctantly agree to enter himself on July 06, 1995 as seen in the clip below.

Did Cochran agree to participate and become deeper involved in this malfeasance knowing it could destroy his career in order to free Geronimo Pratt?  This was always a question that remained on my mind in the latter 90s when we discovered the DA using a judge time and time again to seal or abet the removal of documents that would have put a completely different spin on the Simpson trial and in all probability exonerate OJ Simpson of guilt in the public’s mind.   However, it appeared that Gil Garcetti’s office had free reign over Judge John H. Reid who not only inexplicably abetted the removal from the public record the unseen telephone records of Juditha Brown, he concealed additional evidence that pointed to a better candidate for this crime than O.J. Simpson by sealing the transcript testimony of Deputy DA Lea D’Agostino.   Whether she intended to bring Garcetti down we will never know since Garcetti’s office once again got Judge John Reid to seal anything that D’Agostino may have said or written regarding the person she discovered that was related to the Simpson  case.

Retired Judge John H. Reid, of the Los Angeles County Superior Court aided and abetted the cover up of documents in and related to the OJ Simpson case by request of D.A. Gil Garcetti’s Office.  In this case, it was the permanent removal of the phone records along with all evidence in the Simpson case file granted to a deputy D.A. of  Gil Garcetti’s Office.

The actual Exhibit 35 telephone record held in Simpson’s case file would have either supported the stipulation agreed to behind closed doors of the final time of 09:37 PM allowing that evidence to avoid jury examination, or it did not support the stipulation.  As far as our investigation is concerned the highway conditions, traffic volume and density, exacerbated by on-going HOV highway construction does not support a final phone call of 09:37 PM but it does support an 11 PM final telephone call.  The final call to Simpson’s ex-wife allegedly finally occurred once his in-laws the Brown family drove from Brentwood (North West Los Angeles) to the far end of Orange County, CA to their residence at Dana Point.  This was normally a 90 minute to two hour journey, and given the testimony by Mezzaluna Restaurant employees of a Brown departure around 08:45 PM, the stipulation now reduced it to an approximate 45 minute journey, which in all likelihood was impossible.  Nevertheless, the Superior court has rejected all requests to compel the phone company to replace that evidence back into the Simpson case file.

dagostino lea dda the dragon ladyjudge reid seals lea DAgostinos 001

Once again upon request all information provided to his office regarding a violent individual in close proximity to O.J. Simpson’s wife provided by deputy L.A. District Attorney, Lea D’Agostino was sealed by request of DA Gil Garcetti’s Ofiice.

However, by 2000 the world would be apprised that Cochran had brain cancer the mystery is did he know well before that date that he had an inoperable brain tumor that would ultimately cause his death?

johnnie cochran

If he knew of it even before becoming involved with the Simpson defense is it possible that he had already faced the realities associated with his mortality.  His greatest moral goal may have been by all means at his disposal to secure the release of his first celebrated client, Geronimo Pratt.   The epilogue of this whole affair is that it was the Simpson case which became the conduit to allow Cochran the opportunity to potentially reveal the malfeasance of the Superior Court and law enforcement officials of Los Angeles County.   Several of the principal prosecutors in the photo below in some way engaged in looking the other way, or outright participating in suppressing evidence that favored Simpson’s innocence.  However, none of the attorneys on either side could have predicted the wild card which would later come.   It would be the exposure of a lying FBI agent by other FBI agents who filed a mandatory formal complaint with the US Justice Department.  The undoing of this continued cover up is still pending regarding contaminated blood that appeared to be planted to frame Simpson because the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Justice had failed to honor our FOIA requests to provide copies of that complaint to us.  We do, however, have enough in terms of interviews and documents that support the fact that the FBI knowingly allowed an incompetent liar to commit perjury wearing the banner of the FBI in the most televised trial of the 20th Century.   In due time, we are certain at OMIG, that we will attain the empirical evidence that we always seek to affirm the strong circumstantial evidence of our on-going investigation into this infamous sordid affair the press has dubbed “the trial of the century”.

OJ Simpson Trial

The knowledge of this predictable malfeasance in all probability was why Cochran clandestinely worked so hard on the fringes though he denied it to get on the Simpson defense team and to navigate his entry into first position.   However, the malfeasance of the FBI agent committing perjury was a gift to Cochran beyond his control but one nonetheless that may have stiffened his objective of securing the release of Geronimo Pratt.

Carl Douglas and Johnnie Cochran

The essence of Martz’s appearance can be attributed to everyone seeking pecuniary gain at the expense of the truth and justice.  Both sides attempted to suppress the actual truth brought into their midst exactly nine months to a year earlier before discovery in the Simpson case even got under way.  That ultimate truth was brought from a thousand miles away by the Distant Traveler.    The information given to him by an anonymous source within the LAPD about the contaminated Simpson blood planted by police had allegedly come out of a collection vial and was contaminated with a heavily concentrated preservative EDTA.

Distant Traveler in the OJ Case

This fact attempted to be concealed not only by the prosecution, was initially ignored by the defense, and again intentionally concealed in the perjury by an FBI agent named Roger Martz.   It would become its undoing by a ruthlessly principled man and member of the FBI by the name of Frederic Whitehurst.   The FBI, by the time of the arrival of the black FBI attorney, Steven Robinson, knew that dealing with Whitehurst was a no-win proposition for them to gamble.  The only gamble left was between Robinson and Cochran in order to salvage its integrity brought to the brink of destruction by Martz.  However, Martz was not the only FBI agent who lied in the Simpson trial he was simply the only one that got caught by his own peers in the FBI and turned over to the Office of the Inspector General.

frederic whitehurst white shirt (2)  The dilemma that the FBI faced with an intransigent Whitehurst is the ultimate reason, in my opinion, that a black man had been sent to negotiate with Johnnie Cochran in an effort to keep the FBI’s integrity in tact.   Nevertheless, that meeting itself would in all probability had not occurred except for others in the Los Angeles D.A.’s office attempting to diminish the integrity of the information carried by the Distant Traveler.  Even though he had returned to his home base a thousand miles away the impact of what he continued to deliver from an anonymous source inside the LAPD continued to stand up and could not be denied even by the FBI.

Cochrans funeral

Thus, the quid pro quo we believe that Cochran attained was a guarantee of the release from all of those years in prison of his client, Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt whose promise he had honored before his death, the guarantee that he would not be forgotten by Cochran.

T.H. Johnson is the investigative team coordinator at OMIG (Ocean Medical Investigative Group) and coordinates the efforts of all staff researchers in the matter of the PEOPLE V. OJ SIMPSON.  He is also an author of three books associated with their Simpson investigation and the producer of and the documentary film SERPENTS RISING: An Independent Investigation of the Simpson Murder Trial.

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