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Cochran’s Clients Gather for L.A. Funeral


AP Special Correspondent


Mourners including Michael Jackson gathered Wednesday for the funeral for Johnnie Cochran Jr.

The service at West Angeles Cathedral was to include remarks from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Jackson, whose molestation trial was in recess, walked slowly into the church with his entourage and attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. Cochran had worked with Jackson when he settled a lawsuit in the 1990s.

The 5,000 attendees were expected to include O.J. Simpson and Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, reflecting Cochran´s work in high-profile civil rights cases and celebrity trials.

Cochran was 67 when he died March 29 of an inoperable brain tumor at his home in Los Angeles. He was diagnosed with the tumor in December 2003.

Colorful and eloquent, he became a legal superstar after helping clear Simpson during a sensational murder trial in which he uttered the famous quote “If it doesn´t fit, you must acquit,” a reference to a glove found at the murder scene.

On Wednesday, the line was on the back of T-shirts being sold for $10 outside the church. The shirts had a picture of Cochran on the front with the words: “Freedom and justice.”

Attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, who worked with Cochran as part of Simpson´s legal “dream team,” were to speak at the funeral.

Former Cochran client Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was tortured by New York police, was also to speak, along with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. In his career, Cochran also represented football great Jim Brown, actor Todd Bridges and rappers Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.

In 1997, Cochran won freedom for Pratt, a former Black Panther who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn´t commit. The attorney called the moment “the happiest day of my life practicing law.”

In a tribute advertisement published in the Los Angeles Times, former colleagues called attention to a lesser-known case _ Cochran´s advocacy for people affected by 1921 race riots in Tulsa, Okla.

“We will continue the struggle in his memory and honor,” said the ad from the Center for Racial Justice. A federal appeals court last year denied an effort to reinstate the group´s lawsuit over the riots, saying the statute of limitations had expired.