Was the OJ Simpson case compromised by a man with a deadly disease?
…Part one of a two part series
Maddogg Guest Writer, OMIG Investigator, T.H. Johnson
On that lazy sun drenched afternoon the patient peered out the window from the tall medical high-rise, and took in the view of the bustling human traffic below in the Los Angeles metropolitan enclave of Century City. Down there is where he felt he wanted to be as morning crossed into afternoon rather than in this doctor’s office, and where he would be immediately after departing this medical examination. There was a nice outdoor restaurant over in Santa Monica that he enjoyed on days like this when he had the time to go there. He decided that he would call his wife and arrange to pick her up and they would go and have lunch together. Those opportunities had become fewer and far in between given his hectic business schedule these days. After all, over 25 years of lawyer-ing had made the man, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., a successful scion in the business and social world of Los Angeles. By now he’d achieved some unique accomplishments, in becoming the attorney for some of the top celebrities in the entertainment industry, as well as winning both top recognition awards for lawyers in the state of California. A few years earlier he’d received the top annual award for civil litigation and a few years after that the Giesler Award, named in recognition of the famous top criminal defense lawyer in California the late Jerry Giesler. This was like winning the California lottery twice, we all know the difficulty of winning it once but to win twice is truly exceptional. In the legal profession it is arguably more difficult in our modern times since most attorneys choose one career line or the other, meaning a civil practice or a criminal practice.
Cochran certainly did not spring to the top of the legal totem pole after leaving law school, he had paid his dues in the trenches fighting police corruption and after a long struggle he started successfully winning cases of police brutality. He’d won the hearts of thousands of Californians as the go to lawyer for civil rights violations when he successfully represented the family of Ron Settles.
Settles was the young phenom, highly touted, southern California high school football player who was suspiciously found dead in his jail cell in the Los Angeles community of Signal Hills after being pulled over for a traffic stop by their local police. Cochran would win close to a million dollar award for the family with that case and they, it is said, gave much of that money to charity in the name of their deceased son.
Cochran years later received the call to represent the brutally beaten white truck driver, Reginald Denny, who almost lost his life in the wake of the riots that occurred in the aftermath of the Simi Valley Court acquittal of Los Angeles police officers involved in the 1991 brutal Rodney King beating.
If it was any consolation, Cochran would win a multi-million dollar personal injury settlement from the city of Los Angeles for Denny because the city’s police had pulled back from securing the intersection where the assault took place. The after effects of the Rodney King brutalizing and the subsequent riots that occurred as a result of the police acquittals in the police enclave of Simi Valley economically devastated Los Angeles and would leave the city numb for a number of years to come.
The George Holliday video recording of the unprofessional conduct of multiple police beating Rodney King with batons while simultanously shocking him with electric tasers went viral all around the world; and the toll as a result: Deaths: 58
* Injuries: 2,383, including 228 critical. Among the injured, 10 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers.
* Fires: More than 7,000 responses.
* Arrests: 12,111
* Damage estimate: $717 million, excluding Long Beach; 5,273 buildings damaged or destroyed, including at least 1,600 severely damaged or burned businesses; 3,100 businesses affected by rioting or looting.
In the smoldering ashes across the city and heightened sense of trepidation with Marines, California National Guard, and the Army securing the streets and businesses by curfew, the images of King being beaten was akin to ripping off a scab concealing the festering racial wounds fueled by police brutality that long plagued the city. No one really knew what it would take for the authorities to recapture the moral high ground in Los Angeles and get the metro’s economy back on track? The solution might be found a year and a half later in the media promulgation of the Simpson trial.
As Cochran waited in the examination room for the return of his doctor he even drifted into somber thought about the few years he’d spent in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. He was a criminal defense or civil plaintiff’s attorney at heart yet he was talked into coming over to the other side as one of the top three officials in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Cochran even had the custom designer license plates for his Rolls Royce convertible with the number 3 emblazoned on it, signifying that as one one of the few assistant D.A.’s, he was the third most powerful attorney in the D.A.’s office.
What lured him into that job in 1978 was the allegation by the head recruiter, John Van de Kamp, the incumbent District Attorney, who told him that Cochran could do more in terms of civil rights to change a corrupt justice system from the inside than he could by being on the outside. With his father, Johnnie L. Cochran senior’s counsel affirming the District Attorney, the junior Cochran decided to accept Van de Kamp’s invitation and take the position. He remained there for three years though his heart was in being a defense or civil plaintiff’s attorney. As he sat there in the doctor’s office he reflected back on the three years he’d spent there as he waited for the doctor to return. It is interesting to note that by the time the murder case would be brought against O.J. Simpson, well before Cochran became a part of Simpson’s defense team, he would play a significant role in that trial.
Cochran while as assistant D.A. from 1978 -1981 helped create the S.I.D. (Special Investigations Division) in the D.A.’s office at a time when they believed it was important to place a prosecutor in every police precinct in the city of Los Angeles. As a result it was Cochran who would assign the actual lead prosecutor in the Simpson trial, Bill Hodgman, to that division. The presiding D.A. of the Simpson trial, Gil Garcetti, would years earlier be assigned to Cochran by Van de Kamp as his administrative assistant. Cochran would also provide the reigning judge in the Simpson trial, Lance Ito, his first job in the D.A.’s office as a member of the gang strike force unit in the D.A.’s office. These relationships may have played a role in the inexplicable conduct and acrimony that played out during the trial in the courtroom between Cochran and Ito from time to time. However, though it was not known at the time there’d be a far more compelling reason for Cochran to find a way of becoming a member of the Simpson defense and maneuvering into the top leadership position of this heretofore all white legal defense team.
As Cochran sat there awaiting the medical results regarding a brain scan related to head aches he’d been experiencing he thought about a pesky mole on the side of his head that he had medically removed. As he looked in the mirror above the desk over cotton balls, bandages, and alcohol he probably pondered whether there’d be any cosmetic advantage of having other moles removed since he had developed a few of the unsightly growths as many people do over the years. He certainly had the financial wherewithal to have any cosmetic changes done that he so desired but maybe humorously thought why change perfection?
There was one growth in particular he thought about, a growing dark mole over his left eye. Maybe he would possibly see about it the next time he visited the doctor since it may call for a bit more cosmetic surgery which was something he could not afford to waste time on right then given his busy schedule. As he pondered this minutia, suddenly the examining room door opened as the doctor returned. “Great”, Cochran thought to himself, “Now I can get dressed and get out of here”. “Well, how about it, Doc?”
The doctor attempted to maintain a pleasant but firm bedside manner, “Well, Johnnie, I have a bit of bad news to share with you”. “We looked at the MRI brain scan regarding the vision problems you’ve been having and we’ve found a tumor called a Glioblastoma”. We ran a test on the mole that we excised from behind your ear and found it to be malignant and suspect the brain tumor might be as well”.
His words caught Cochran by surprise resulting in momentary shock and dismay causing him to sit back in his chair, “My God, then what is the prognosis, Doc?”
“Johnnie, if the brain tumor is malignant then it’s likely it will be terminal due to its inoperable location”. “However, I can say with new experimental medicines now available to treat these tumors it is possible that we can prolong the life of a patient afflicted with malignant Glioblastoma much longer than we could before; nevertheless this is still in our opinion an inoperable and predictable terminal brain disease”. “These type of tumors can be very aggressive and because they create their own blood supply they can grow much faster; however, the new medicine can potentially slow down the growth although it cannot cure the disease. Based upon the location of the tumor within the brain, however, surgery is not an option and why it is terminal”. “Thus, we just don’t know how long”. “You may have ten months or ten years we just don’t know”.
“I’ll leave you now to get dressed and have the nurse come in with a prescription that I’m prescribing for the tumor and to reduce the head aches you’ve been having that we believe is associated with the tumor”. “We want to aggressively treat this affliction so we’ll begin immediately, and have a definite schedule for you starting next week”.
When the doctor left the examination room Cochran simply slumped down in his chair and became melancholy, forgetting about his lunch plans this afternoon with his wife. All of the good thoughts he earlier had simply faded away, as he sat there numb. His life stood still at that moment as if the world for him had just come to an end. Forgetting about all of his immediate planned pleasures, he began to take inventory of his life. The visions of happiness, the houses, the cars, beautiful suits and stylish shoes, all of the physical accouterments of wealth he’d accumulated; all seemed meaningless now, they all simply melted away. Shortly thereafter, he sat up and Cochran began to regain control of himself. His Christian faith had taught him that there was an eternal life that man should strive for and not these material things that so often preoccupy men’s lives. He decided that whatever time he had left it would be spent being as productive as could be. He would get his life in order, and immediately upon saying that to himself something hit him as hard as the news of his terminal cancer. It was a statement made to him by a man he defended 22 years earlier. “DON’T FORGET ME, COCHRAN!” That very last remark would sear itself into the very fibers of his soul, burning into his spirit from that day on. They were the words that came forth at that very moment to remind him of probably the first and arguably most important major trial of his long and illustrious career.
However, with all that he had accomplished and experienced, good and bad, throughout his life those words made him restless. Had he really done all that he could? That very thought always plagued him. Those words, “Don’t forget me, Cochran!”. They burned within him because he knew he had let his guard down and allowed his arrogance as a professional, highly educated renaissance man, trained in the law to supersede the basic Christian principles his parents had taught. As he pondered the course of his life’s journey, he felt remorse for his inability to humble himself. In his mind, he had failed to value the thoughts of those beyond himself. Be humble and not arrogant “fore pride goeth before the fall”, those, his mother’s words, had escaped him.
At the time he felt insulted and embarrassed by a court system he knew was flawed but one he still believed out of common sense and decency could be fair. However, in this case it was not, and once again he would stand there dumbfounded as his client, an innocent man, who he had just witnessed the government frame being led off to jail to begin serving a horrendous sentence of life without parole in prison. Yes, it seared its way into Cochran’s spirit as he looked around at the smirk on the prosecutor and judge’s face. It burned him to the depth of his soul because his non-attorney client had warned him of the outcome and that he should beware of the government’s chicanery. Those thoughts Cochran simply dismissed as typical client paranoia since he knew that the unimpeachable evidence would reign that day. Now, though he was cloaked in one of his fine designer suits, he was made to feel small and stripped nakedly to the bone due to his own naivety. He felt like a fool in the courtroom that day, one that deserved to be called any and everything but a child of God, but as he looked back towards his client being led away, choked up for words all his client would say to the young lawyer was “Don’t forget about me, Cochran!” Though Cochran had never forgot and had done a lot over the last quarter century to assist in his appeals this was the ultimate moment that he would put all on the line to help secure his client’s freedom. Now the final bell had tolled in Cochran’s mind, at the time of his diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, he was shifting into another gear of his life. By now his client had been designated by the global research NGO that paid attention to prisoners and prison conditions around the world, Amnesty International, as the longest political prisoner in the world.
Until his recent release the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, had held that title of the longest political prisoner incarcerated. That was as a result of the many years he was locked away in the isolated penal colony of the racist apartheid regime of South Africa, at its infamous prison on Robben Island. Mandela would write to Cochran’s client upon his release and acknowledge his faith in the incarcerated political prisoner and the principles of freedom he stood for though imprisoned in the United States. Attaining his freedom would require all that Cochran had learned both in private practice as well as his time spent spent as an official in the county prosecutor’s office. This last thought would be most beneficial since Cochran’s pleasant demeanor as a lawyer and sober mind had created many inside allies who were indebted to him for things he had done for them in the past. Now, he tapped into the system from where he’d emerged long before and called upon some of those to return those favors. What he found out as it related to the Simpson case he knew was the kind of information he needed to attain the freedom of his long incarcerated client. In order to pull it off, it meant his willingness to sacrifice all that he had achieved in terms of respectability. However, the Simpson case by the summer of 1994 was setting up to become a celebrity trial, that meant optimistically it would provide the type of platform for Cochran’s strategy. The bigger it got the better it would be for his plan. The Simpson case now was totally under the control of the D.A.’s central operations’ downtown. It’s high profile trial division would set the course for this case, and it looked like the mass media is where Marcia Clark and Gil Garcetti were intentionally guiding it. Now, Cochran had to do all he could to maneuver his way onto Simpson’s defense team.
End of Part one………….
T.H. Johnson is an author and Investigative Team Coordinator for OMIG, the Ocean Medical Investigative Group since 1997. That organization initially became involved with the Simpson case after it’s head doctor and chairman, Dr. Henry S. Johnson, secretly received copies at his south Los Angeles office of the autopsy reports of the decedents, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman in 1996. What was revealed in those autopsy reports was never revealed to the public in the so called media dubbed “trial of the century”. As a result, members of that organization have written several books and a documentary regarding their investigative revelations of hidden evidence in the infamous and corrupt O.J. Simpson murder trial in an attempt to bring the truth in that corrupt infamous trial to global attention. Some of their books and documentary are cited below.
A Few Must Read Books Recommended by the writer with bearing revelations regarding the Simpson Case.