Lawyers Cochran, Shapiro make 7-figure book deals

November 15, 1995|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., who repeatedly confounded the legal pundits during his successful defense of O. J. Simpson, stunned the publishing industry yesterday when he signed the most lucrative book contract yet awarded to a participant in the so-called trial of the century.

According to sources involved in the negotiations, the total value of Mr. Cochran's deal with the Ballantine Group, a division of Random House, "slightly exceeds" the $4.2 million advance obtained just last week by prosecutor Marcia Clark. "Let's just say we won again," said a Cochran confidant, who asked not to be identified.

Mr. Cochran's book, "My Journey to Justice: The Autobiography of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.", will be published by Ballantine's One World imprint and is scheduled for release in spring 1997. He has yet to select a collaborator.

Another of Mr. Simpson's defense counsels, Robert Shapiro, also concluded a seven-figure publishing contract yesterday. He will receive $1.5 million from Warner Books for "The Search for Justice: A Defense Attorney's Brief on the O. J. Simpson Case."

Knowledgeable sources said Mr. Shapiro, who will collaborate with free-lance writer Larkin Warren, already has written more than 1,000 pages of his book. It is scheduled for publication in the spring.

Mr. Cochran's and Ms. Clark's contracts are the third- and fourth-richest for a single volume of nonfiction in the history of U.S. publishing. Only Gens. Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf have received more -- $6 million and $5 million, respectively.

Taken together, the advances received by Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Cochran yesterday bring the estimated total already paid by publishers for Simpson-related books to more than $14 million.

"There's a feeding frenzy in progress," said one prominent New York book editor, "and it's not over yet. None of these prices make the slightest sense from a financial standpoint.

"Schwarzkopf's book didn't come close to making back its advance. Now that he's taken himself out of the presidential race, it doesn't look like Powell's will either," said the editor, whose company was an unsuccessful bidder for Ms. Clark's manuscript.

"I'm not sure what Cochran and Clark will tell us about the state of American justice, but these deals speak volumes about the state of American publishing. I'm stunned."

Clearly, however, Ballantine took a different view. Its One World division is the nation's foremost publisher of books by and about blacks. It also is one of the few publishing houses in New York with a significant number of black editors, including Cheryl D. Woodruff, the imprint's associate publisher, who will edit Mr. Cochran's autobiography.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Cochran explained that One World's black focus, while not decisive, was an important factor in his decision. "The book I have in mind," he said, "is very important to me. I want to remind people that the battle to uphold justice and against injustice is never ending, and that one person really can make a difference."

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