CNN O.J. Simpson Trial


Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran talks exclusively with CNN

From CNN's "Burden of Proof"

September 30, 1995
Web posted at 12:50 p.m. EDT

MR. COSSACK: The attorneys have done their part. The case of the People of California versus Orinthal James Simpson is now in the hands of the jury.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Hello and welcome to this very special addition of Burden of Proof.

MR. COSSACK: We're very glad you joined us because we want to take a moment and tell you about our show. Greta and I are going to spend 30 minutes every weekday looking at the most important and most controversial legal issues, issues that affect all of us.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be on Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, but we're on right now because the Simpson jury has just received the case and we have an exclusive with Johnnie Cochran.

MR. COSSACK: Also, here in the studio, we've brought together lawyers and Simpson trial watchers as our so-called jury. Now to our special guest, lead Simpson defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Johnnie, thanks for joining Greta and myself.

MR. COCHRAN: It's my pleasure.

MR. COSSACK: And, Johnnie, I'm going to ask you the tough one right off at the beginning. You know, you have received a tremendous amount of praise for that closing argument, but a lot of criticism, too. People say that you didn't play the race card, you played the race deck. What have you got to say about that?

MR. COCHRAN: What I'd answer is this, Roger. Basically, in America, it's very, very difficult for, I think, any African-American to play the race card (257K AIFF sound or 257K WAV sound). What we did was played the credibility card throughout. We had to go where the evidence led us. We did not create Mark Fuhrman, we did not create the other detectives, we didn't create the problems in this case. We went where the evidence led us and we hopefully legally and ethically, responsibly discussed that with this jury. And so, that's what we tried to do.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Johnnie, I've been in your chair a number of times and it's tough being in that defense chair during that prosecution closing argument. Marcia Clark or Christopher Darden must have said something that made you want to slide under the table. What was the worst thing they said?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, not really so much. I mean, Greta, you know how that is. You can't get up, but you noticed today we probably objected more than you've ever seen in any time in history. Marcia was right at the line, and perhaps over the line, from the standpoint of vouching for the evidence and vouching for there being no conspiracy. We felt very concerned.

I was concerned once I saw the montage of the videotape at the very end. I was concerned about that. We argued against it; I knew it was coming, and that was probably perhaps the toughest moment. The good news for us was that right before that, she had this big chart which was going to show her a mountain of evidence, and at the end she said to the jurors, "Well, you won't have this back in the jury room, so if you want to take notes, now's the time." Not one person lifted a pencil, and so I felt that she knew then that it was time to get this case to the jury.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But what about when she mentioned the gloves? You know, when she said if the defense has those gloves that O.J. Simpson is wearing in those photos, why didn't they bring them to court? I mean, that must have been a tough time for the defense when she asked that question.

MR. COCHRAN: Well, you know, not really so tough because once again, I had reminded the jurors already of the instruction the defense doesn't have to prove anything, we don't have to show who else did this or whatever. But it was a tough question, but I thought I'd covered that, Greta, in my argument by indicating that there's no indication that when Nicole Brown Simpson made this purchase in December of 1990, that these were even Aris lights. In fact, the style number is a different number. There's no indication they were ever given to O.J. So I'm counting on the jury to remember all those kind of things.

There's one thing I'd like to say with regard to everything that happened today. She didn't answer the 15 questions ( Sights and sounds of the O.J. Simpson Trial: Mr. Cochran's 15 questions for the jury).

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, let me ask you this. Part of what you've received some criticism about is that comparison of Fuhrman to Hitler. Now, I've known you for a lot of years and you've been my friend for a lot of years, and if there's a person I know that is not anti-Semetic, it's Johnnie Cochran. But you did receive some criticism about that. Talk to me and tell us what you meant by that.

MR. COCHRAN: I'm glad you asked that question, Roger, absolutely. Let me tell you, I've been a long-time friend of Israel; in fact, as you probably know, Roger, I've been to Israel twice. I've been to Yadva Shim (ph), the Holocaust Memorial in Israel. But what I alluded to in my argument in a passing reference was that totalitarianism left unchecked will lead to the greatest excesses. In fact, I said it led to World War II, not to mention these six million horrible deaths.
But what people don't realize and what the evidence is is that we have evidence that Mark Fuhrman was a member also of the Nazi Party, so it wasn't that big a leap. What I was saying was that when he says he wants to burn or bomb all African-Americans, that's equally reprehensible and doesn't demean or in any way show an insensitivity toward the number of the Jewish people who lost their lives.
I was saying that it's wrong there and it would be wrong for this man, who has the power over people that he's supposed to protect and to serve, and it was just in that passing reference that I made. I'm totally opposed to totalitarianism and I was really concerned and upset people would mis-take that. My motives were absolutely pure from that standpoint.
In fact, in talking about this with the members of the team, Barry Scheck, Peter Nufeld (ph), they're all Jewish. And so, you know, I think you can understand, Roger, that no offense was meant. And I want you to know that all oppressed people share each other's pain and all of us really understand that and I hope people will come to know that.

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, why do you have guards suddenly from the Nation of Islam? Is there a particular problem? What was the problem there?

MR. COCHRAN: No. What had happened was, we've had a number of threats throughout and I had a head of security who was a former District Attorney's investigator, and these gentlemen came in. They're very, very qualified and had nothing to do with any religious beliefs or anything like that. They were just protecting us and getting us to court and back and forth, and they've done a real superb job. No other message was meant to be sent at all.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, what was the high point for you during the course of trial? You must have had some great days where all you lawyers went back to the hotel and shook hands and were excited.

MR. COCHRAN: Oh, we had a lot of those kind of days. You know, we remained really up. I think that probably one of the defining moments of the trial, Greta, was the day when Chris Darden asked O.J. Simpson to put on those gloves. That was a pretty big day in our lives.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Had you had him put the gloves on before that privately?

MR. COCHRAN: No, we hadn't, but I -- during the break, I had tried them on along with Bob Shapiro and we knew those gloves wouldn't fit him. We knew they weren't his gloves, number one, but we tried them on and we knew they weren't going to fit. But Darden, for some reason, wanted to do that.

I felt also that the day when Barry Scheck, the many days Barry Scheck cross-examined Dennis Fung (ph) kind of set the tone for what we were going to do in this case, also.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what was the worst day then?

MR. COCHRAN: Oh, you know, as you look back on the days, let me see if I can think of a worst day. It's hard to say. I think early on. I think the day that we found out that there had been a tape of Rosa Lopez that we never knew about and there were all these accusations that we were trying to hide evidence, something that we would never do. That was a tough day, but we bounced back.

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, if you had to do it all over again, would you have given such a detailed opening statement articulating Rosa Lopez and Marianne Gurgis (ph)? You know, those were the ones that they were able to point to you and say, "Where were those witnesses"?

MR. COCHRAN: Probably not, Roger. You know how it is. It's very unusual that a defense lawyer makes an opening statement at all at the beginning of the case. In this case, however, I thought it was imperative. I had said early on that the prosecution was going to have the fight of their lives, and I think they now acknowledge they did. I felt it was important to make an opening statement as detailed as possible.
I wouldn't have made it as detailed, but remember this, Roger. I said, in my opening statement, "This is what we expect the evidence to show. What I say is not evidence; it's a guide or a roadmap." And so, I was able to say at the end, "I never promised you the glove demonstration, I never promised you all these other wonderful things, the Fuhrman tapes that came along."
So there are a lot of things that we gave them that I didn't promise, but from a standpoint of ethics and doing the right thing, when a witness like Marianne Gurgis has had problems with the law, you make a judgment and you don't call her, as with the other witnesses. And so, some witnesses, quite frankly, weren't necessary because we didn't want to open any doors.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, what happened to Rosa Lopez? We never heard her testimony before the jury. What was the decision?

MR. COCHRAN: We made a concerted decision that some of us wanted to call her via tape, others didn't. One thing about Rosa Lopez to her credit, and I have a lot of respect for this lady. She never wavered from having seen that Bronco there after 10:00 o'clock on Sunday evening, June 12th.

The problem was, there was this cross-examination by Christopher which some would term effective, others would term more like harassing. It was really, really tough. She was asked questions like her name and her age and whether she'd given other names. It was really, really tough.

And because there was a language problem, you may remember that we had two or three different interpreters because there was a problem in the interpretation. It just didn't come across well when I saw the tape, and I just felt overall we were doing very well with the witnesses and I felt it wasn't really necessary. But I think that I still believe she's a credible witness.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: . Let me recap what has happened. Judge Lance Ito has given the Simpson case to the jury. After the weekend, the jury will begin deliberating.
Johnnie, there's been some criticism about O.J. Simpson's speech that he gave when he waived his right to testify. I'm one of the few that doesn't think there's a problem, but a lot of people disagree with the two of us. What do you have to say about that?

MR. COCHRAN: I thought it was entirely appropriate. You know, the judge decided he wanted to take a waiver. Mr. Simpson wanted to just express that, why he was not testifying. And so, some people felt that he was using this as some kind of a stage or whatever, but --

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But did you plan it? Was it rehearsed hoping that it would get somehow leaked back to the jury or was this O.J. Simpson being spontaneous?

MR. COCHRAN: This was O.J. Simpson primarily being spontaneous. I went over and I told him, "The judge is going to take a waiver from you." He said, "Okay." And he stood up and he had some things he wanted to say and he said them spontaneously. Greta, you know, here's a man who's been in custody since June 17th and everybody, you know, has an opinion about his guilt or innocence. He never gets to say anything and I think he used the opportunity and I think it was entirely appropriate. The jury was not there and he just addressed the judge in a very brief fashion and sat down.

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, let me ask you something. You've known Chris Darden a long time before this trial; isn't that correct?

MR. COCHRAN: Yes, that's correct.

MR. COSSACK: Now, is your relationship with him, is it all over? Is it irreparably harmed? How did you end up?

MR. COCHRAN: No. We ended up very well(313K AIFF sound or 312K WAV sound). In fact, you'll be pleased to know, Roger, that we could fight real hard, but I saw him, of all places, in the men's room today during a break. We washed our hands and then shook hands and then kind of hugged each other and wished each luck because I think it's important that we conduct ourselves as professionals. We could fight very hard, we're on opposite sides of the issue, but you come out of the case with respect for each other. I think that's very important.

MR. COSSACK: Well, do you think you'll ever have that respect and that kind of relationship with Marcia Clark?

MR. COCHRAN: I saw Marcia Clark afterwards, too. She's a fine lawyer. She's a tough, tough opponent and I have a lot of respect for her from a standpoint of her abilities. I saw her as we were leaving the building today and we both wished each other well, also.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, didn't you intentionally, though, push her buttons during the course of the trial, and doesn't a good trial lawyer try to rattle the other side? I mean, in all honesty --

MR. COSSACK: And, Johnnie, you tell the truth on this one. I've known you too long. You did push her buttons a few times.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: And you did the same thing to Christopher Darden, too.

MR. COCHRAN: Well, on occasion, you have to do that. I mean, I think if you see -- if you know certain things that your opponent will react to, you try to use those things, and on occasion, we did do that, but I think that's, of course, fair game. I'm sure they tried to - - they did that to me, also, I'm sure, on occasion.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor, has a question for you.


MR. ZELDIN: Johnnie, deciding whether to put a client on the stand or not is always the toughest one, as I think it. Tell me what your assessment of the impact of Simpson's not testifying will be on this jury?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think it's really hard to say, Michael. You know, it was a very, very tough decision in this case. He is a very, very articulate, persuasive individual as you've seen when he tried the gloves on, when he made the statement last week. The problem in this case is the scope of cross-examination. The judge would have allowed them to keep him up there for two weeks. They would have talked about every possible thing in his life. It wasn't just a question of that.
So we had to weigh that and we weighed it in favor of not putting him up there. We felt, however, though, after we had the Fuhrman tapes, after some of our other evidence had come in so well, after the testimony of Dr. Henry Lee, we felt that we had a reasonable doubt and it moved toward demonstrating this man was innocent and it wasn't really necessary; that if we prolonged the case for another two weeks, this jury very well may have rebelled and we would end up with a mistrial.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, no good lawyer fails to rehearse a client for cross-examination just in case. How much cross- examination rehearsal did O.J. Simpson undergo and who did it?

MR. COCHRAN: A lot and several of us and several outsiders who shall remain nameless were involved, also, in that process.

MR. COSSACK: But, Johnnie, you know you could have put him up first. You know, you didn't have to wait until the end when the jury was tired, as you say. You could have put him up there. You remember he said 100 percent not guilty? Sounded to me like a man who wanted to get up there and tell the story. What about it?

MR. COCHRAN: And to the very end, he really, really did. But, you know, Roger, you don't know a lot about the case at the very beginning of your case. You've got to see how it comes in and so, generally, when the defendant testifies, it's right at the very end and that's what would have happened here had it been necessary for him to testify. We just felt it wasn't necessary, and I hope we made the right decision. You never know until you get that jury verdict back in.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, lots of times you have to lean on your client when you don't think a client should testify. Did you have to do any leaning on O.J. Simpson?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, we did, for a long period of time, and, of course, he came around at the end. I mean, he listened to us and we felt it was appropriate. He understood what would happen in cross- examination from the standpoint of we would try to protect him if we thought there'd be improper questions, but the scope was going to go back. They were going to go back 18, 19 years, and I thought that would have been unfortunate and unfair.

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, we have Lisa Kemler with us, another pretty good attorney, represented Lorena Bobbitt.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Successfully.

MR. COSSACK: Successfully represented her. She has a question for you.

MS. KEMLER: Well, Johnnie, I'd like to ask you, you know, all of us defense attorneys, there's always some piece of evidence in the case that we know is going to be difficult to overcome and you've got to figure out a way to deal with it. What do you think was the most damaging piece of evidence against O.J. Simpson?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, it's hard to say the most damaging piece, but I thought we had to really deal with the so-called blood evidence originally, and I give great, great credit to Barry Scheck, Peter Nufeld, and Bob Blasier. They did a remarkable job with this science evidence. You know, Los Angeles will not be the same in a positive nature of the police department because that police department and that lab have some real problems, and I think they did a wonderful job in addressing the so-called DNA, PCR technology, RFLP.
I think that in much of the scientific evidence, the forensic evidence, we did a much better job than people really thought. I think also that from a standpoint of the defense case, I think that our timeline shattered the prosecution's timeline and whether or not Mr. Simpson had the opportunity.

MR. COSSACK: Johnnie, we have a little surprise for you. Lisa Kemler, you've just been selected as the jury foreperson in the Simpson trial, so get together with your jury , we're going to ask you for your verdict.

MR. COCHRAN: All right.

MR. COSSACK: Okay, Lisa. Have you reached your verdict? What say you one, what say you all?

MS. KEMLER: Well, I don't know if it's good or bad, but we're hung three-three.

MR. COSSACK: Three-three.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, we have a criminal defense attorney here, Steve Salky, who says the verdict's going to be guilty and he's done a lot of defense work. He's got a question for you.


MR. SALKY: Well, Johnnie, there's a lot of blood and if you don't buy the planting theory, how do you think that jury can reach any other verdict other than guilty?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think it's a good question, Steve, but I think what happens is the jury's going to be really concerned about cross-contamination. Remember the testimony of Kalan Yamuchy (ph), how he opened Mr. Simpson's reference vial, Vannatter taking the blood back out there. There's so many suspicious things that went on in this case and the planning. We actually believe that we showed that there was EDTA on the back gate and on the socks. The socks weren't there, the gloves don't fit. If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

MR. COSSACK: Hey, Johnnie, would you take a hung jury? MR. COCHRAN: You know, that's better than one of the other options, but I want -- Roger, we want a not guilty.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, why in the world didn't the prosecution use that chase, that slow-speed chase? It had in it money, a passport, a fake beard. There must have been some reason. You guys must have spooked them about it somehow.

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think what happened near the end, we were trying to turn their witnesses to our side, and I think you saw that with several of the witnesses. I think there was another side to it. O.J. Simpson wrote some letters in which he may have appeared suicidal, but he always, always maintained his innocence, and I think they were concerned about that, that he always said, "I'm innocent. I didn't commit these crimes."

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But how would that have been related to the Bronco chase? I mean, they still have the passport, the money, and the fake beard.

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think they had some things they might have been able to use, but I think along with this, he was saying, "Look, I can't believe everybody's setting me up and doing this to me. Here are these letters I wrote. Here's what really happened here," and I think it would have caused a lot of other evidence to come in. And they made a decision not to call -- not to go into that.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But how does the Bronco invite the letters?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think that what happened was, the Bronco so-called slow-speed chase followed up on the letters having been written earlier that day. So I think they'd be part and parcel, the letters, the resulting going to Nicole Brown Simpson's grave. That's where he was going, and then you know when the police were after him, he was heading north on the 405 towards his residence. We were prepared for that.

MR. COSSACK: Hey, Johnnie, do you think the cameras in the courtroom helped you or hurt you and would you have them in there again if you had to do this all over again?

MR. COCHRAN: You know, Roger, it's very, very, very intrusive, but let me tell you something. I would probably, in this particular case, have the cameras in the courtroom and not for so many of the altruistic reasons of the public's right to know and it's been a great civics lesson for America and all that sort of thing. For the real simple reason of some of the rulings we got in this case. If we had not had cameras there, I think it would have been a lot worse for us.

MR. COSSACK: Are you saying you think the cameras kept Judge Ito a little more on the straight and narrow?

MR. COCHRAN: Well, I think the cameras caused some more reflection on certain things and that's something we've felt for some time. I think that that was the reason why we believed that cameras were overall better for us in this particular case.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think you would have had the McKinny (ph) tapes if you hadn't had cameras in the courtroom?

MR. COCHRAN: Possibly not, Greta. We had so many people coming forward with information. They didn't come directly through television, but because the television made it easier for us. I'll tell you though, there were times when witnesses came forward because they saw it on television. There was information we garnered by virtue of people seeing it, on both sides, the prosecution as well as the defense.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Thanks for joining us for this special edition of Burden of Proof. Thank you to our studio jury who spent so many hours with us here today, and a special thanks to a very tired, I'm sure, Johnnie Cochran.

MR. COCHRAN: My pleasure.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: And thank you for watching.

MR. COSSACK: And you want to be here Monday for our official debut in our regular time slot and that's 12:30 p.m. Eastern. We're going to see you then.


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