It has taken a decade, but the mainstream press has already started to warm to Cochran. You hear less talk about how stupid the inaccurately described "all-black" Simpson jury was. The experts who never watched the trial have now read enough books about it that they have an understanding of just how one-sided the lawyering was.

Dream Team vs. Clark and Darden? It was a complete blowout. It was Holmes vs. Ali.

The American media embraced Marcia Clark and Chris Darden, the unwitting accomplices in O.J.'s run for freedom, and overlooked or made excuses for their incompetence. Clark and Darden were portrayed as victims. Geraldo and Co. couldn't wait for Clark and Darden to join the O.J. experts' buffet line that gave every Simpson/Cochran critic with a law degree a 30-minute TV show.

Meanwhile, Johnnie was Jackie Chiles, a jive-talking villain.

Black people loved Johnnie when it wasn't popular. And for a brief moment, we liked O.J. We had fantasies about his innocence. We thought when it was all over, he might throw on a FUBU shirt, come down to the barbershop and talk a little SC football. We wanted O.J. to be Geronimo.

But we quickly accepted that Johnnie Cochran was our hero. O.J. was just a tool, a prop.

When Johnnie was out promoting his book, "A Lawyer's Life," and came through Kansas City, I spent most of the afternoon with him. We met at Gates BBQ in the 'hood. O.J. Simpson's name never came up. We talked about Geronimo Pratt and good barbecue and what it was like to have so many demands on your time and how na´ve people are about police work.

Johnnie didn't dislike the police. He just recognized that the police, like all people with power, need to be challenged, watched and ... well, policed.

It's an obvious point. And the American media should've been the first to recognize it.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com.



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