Johnnie Cochran on the Chandler settlement

Johnnie Cochran was Michael Jackson’s lawyer for part of the Chandler civil lawsuit – significantly, the end. This is an excerpt from his biography where he briefly describes working with MJ and how the settlement was negotiated.

As you will read, there is no mention of extortion, nor is there any mention of a potential criminal trial. There were only negotiations to settle with Larry Feldman. In an article published by Time Magazine just after the settlement, it’s clear there was a tacit agreement that Jordan Chandler would not testify against MJ. This quote by Johnnie backs that up:

“Michael wants to get on with his life,” said his lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, “and let the healing process begin.”

He knew MJ could “get on with his life” because he was safe from Jordan’s testimony…

From Johnnie Cochran’s biography:

Like so many other Americans in late 1993, I was following with interest the growing controversy surrounding musical superstar Michael Jackson. The parents of a boy Michael had befriended alleged that Jackson had betrayed their trust and molested their son. It was a shocking, potentially devastating charge against an entertainer beloved by tens of millions of fans around the world. The allegation fell with particular force in the African American community, where Jackson had long been admired.

Like many superstars, Jackson basically was a prisoner of his own overwhelming celebrity. He relies for advice on a tiny circle of intimate advisers, one of whom is actress Elizabeth Taylor. On December 1, 1993, I received a call from an old friend, Neil Papiano, one of the country’s leading trial lawyers.

“Johnnie,” he said, “I think you’ re going to get a call from one of my clients-perhaps my most famous client, Elizabeth Taylor. She’s very concerned about Michael Jackson, with whom she’s very close. She’s very worried about this whole molestation mess and has asked me who I think would be the best lawyer to represent him. Johnnie,” Neil said, “I told her you would be my choice, that I know you can help this young man. I just didn’t want you to be surprised if she calls.” Neil also was at pains to inform me that his client was to be addressed as “Elizabeth,” never as “Liz.”

I thanked him profusely and tried to pretend I wasn’t anxiously waiting for that call. My blood was up. It wasn’t just the prospect of representing so well known a celebrity. The obvious glee the tabloid press was taking in a superstar’s potential downfall struck me as not just mean-spirited but also dangerous. A few hours later, Jan Thomas, our receptionist, buzzed me. Now calling Jan a “receptionist” is like calling Michael Jordan a “basketball player.” She is our firm’s indispensable one-woman nerve center; she cheers our victories and pricks our pomposities. But that afternoon, even she sounded at least somewhat impressed.

“Boss of mine,” she said in her familiar salutation, “Elizabeth Taylor is on the line, and it’s the Elizabeth Taylor.”

Ms. Taylor was charming, but businesslike, obviously very worried about her friend. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” she said, “and I was wondering if you could come to my house on Friday so that we and some other people involved can confer in person.”

I took her address and agreed to be at her house in a neighborhood overlooking Beverly Hills the following Friday. When I arrived, I was shown into a beautiful living room. Michael’s manager, Sandy Gallin, already was there, along with long-time Jackson confidant Bob Jones, as were attorney Bert Fields and a raft of public relations specialists, including one Washington heavyweight who had flown in for the day. l also spotted both Neil Papiano and my friend Howard Weitzman, who had been representing
Michael in the matter. We milled about and made small talk for a few moments before we were joined by Elizabeth Taylor.

“I want you to represent Michael,” she said to me.

I began asking questions about the case’s posture. However, to my utter astonishment, no one could tell me whether or not a warrant had been issued for Michael Jackson’s arrest. We talked for the next two hours, and it was clear to me that my perspective differed dramatically from that of almost everyone else in the room-except, perhaps, Elizabeth Taylor. What I wanted to know was: What is the status of the criminal investigation, if there is one? Finally, Elizabeth looked at me and said: “Johnnie, I think your question about this warrant is a good one. Can we go back to that?”

“I think we should,” I said. “Look, guys, the first thing I have to do is find out whether there’s a warrant for him and whether I can give him any assurance he won’t be arrested when he steps off the plane in this country.”

“How do we go about finding that out?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well,” I replied, “at three this afternoon, I’ll be meeting downtown with Gil Garcetti, the district attorney, on another matter. I’ll just ask him.”

Elizabeth, who obviously relished a direct solution, smiled, and I knew my position on the case had become a little more solid. An hour later, I spoke with Gil Garcetti and explained that I had been hired to represent Jackson and asked him whether any warrant had been issued. He told me none had. I then asked that, if a warrant ever were obtained, he would contact me and allow me to arrange a dignified surrender, rather than simply arresting Michael. Gil agreed.

Early the next morning Michael Jackson, who was in Europe, telephoned my house. He obviously was relieved, and we hit it off immediately. It was the first of many long telephone chats we have had since. But what impressed me most was the very first thing he said to me. “I am innocent of these charges, Johnnie,” he said emphatically.

I told Michael of my plans to involve my associate Carl Douglas, a former federal public defender, in his case. Carl and Eric Ferrer are two of the best trial lawyers in our firm. Carl is a terrific lawyer with an astonishing capacity for hard work and a willingness to put himself on the line emotionally for his clients. I felt sure he and Michael would like each other, and so they did.

A couple of days later, Carl and I drove to the Santa Monica airport, where Michael’s private helicopter was waiting to fly us to his famous Neverland retreat in Santa Barbara County north of Los Angeles. It is, as the name suggests, a consciously magical place with its vast mansion, private zoo, and dazzling amusement park. There is music everywhere, and, the minute I stepped out of the helicopter, I understood that this whole enchanted environment had been designed to reinforce and maintain the childlike sense of wonder so crucial to Michael’s art. I remember turning to Carl and saying, “We can’t let this young man be taken down. He’s told us he’s innocent.” I also knew that by then the parents of the alleged victim had fired their first attorney, a strident, part-time radio talk show host by the name of Gloria Allred, and hired Larry Feldman, one of the finest trial lawyers in the country.

Feldman is a tall, slender, slightly balding man with chiseled features and a legendary touch with juries. If you want to imagine his courtroom style, picture what Abe Lincoln might have been like if he’d been bar-mitzvahed. Larry is a more than formidable opponent, but I also know that he is a strong practitioner of the same sort of client-centered advocacy in which I believe.

Shortly thereafter Michael appeared at the NAACP’s Image Awards, where his surprise appearance provoked a five-minute standing ovation. Busy with his own career, he had not previously involved himself much in the affairs of the black community. I thought it essential that he see for himself the reservoir of pride and goodwill his people maintained for him. He was touched and, I think, a little surprised. I know that support was a source of comfort and strength to him during his ordeal and, perhaps more important, something for him to ponder afterward.

From a lawyer’s standpoint, Michael was-and is-an ideal client. He is intelligent, articulate, and decisive. Best of all, he solicits counsel when he feels he needs it, listens carefully, and follows reasonable advice to the letter. Larry Feldman and I sat down to negotiate under the auspices of a retired judge we had retained, as California law permits. I’ve never faced a tougher, smarter, or more able adversary. Both Larry and I agreed that it would be in our clients’ best interests to put this matter behind them and allow them to get on with their lives. It was Martin Luther King’s birthday.