Law partner of Johnnie Cochran
Jock Smith, 63, who was a law partner with the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., died Sunday of an apparent heart attack while watching television at his home in Montgomery, Ala., said his law partner Sam Cherry.
Smith won what the National Law Journal called America's largest civil verdict in 2004, a $1.6-billion judgment against Southwestern Life Insurance and one of its agents. The suit was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount for a mother of three who alleged she paid the agent thousands of dollars for an insurance policy that didn't exist.
Smith also was one of the attorneys who got a $700-million settlement with Monsanto, Pharmacia and Solutia in 2003 for residents of Anniston, Ala., affected by pollution from a plant manufacturing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, next to a low-income neighborhood.
"Jock was a lawyer who had a passion for representing people he called 'the least of these,' " Cherry said.
Born in 1948, Smith grew up in New York, where his late father, Jacob Smith, was a lawyer. In 1970 he graduated from what is now Tuskegee University, then earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He spent a year in New York and returned to Alabama in 1974 to work in the state attorney general's office. He left in 1977 to open a law practice in Tuskegee, Ala.
He did both civil and criminal work but built his reputation as a plaintiff lawyer. He gained a national reputation in 2000 when he won an $80-million judgment against Orkin for an elderly woman who alleged her home was destroyed by termites. He became friends with Cochran when he visited Montgomery in 1996 and later became a partner and eventually president of Cochran Firm, the national law practice that Cochran built after helping gain the acquittal of O.J. Simpson on murder charges.
Malam Bacai Sanha
President of Guinea-Bissau
Malam Bacai Sanha, 64, who was elected president of Guinea-Bissau on Africa's western coast in 2009 after the previous leader was assassinated, died Monday in Paris after a lengthy hospitalization.
No immediate cause was given, but Sanha was known to have diabetes and had undergone medical treatment in France and Senegal during his time in office.
Since independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has been wracked by coups and has become one of the main transit points for drug traffickers ferrying cocaine to Europe.
Sanha won a 2009 presidential election after the death of former President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, a peaceful transition of power that marked a rare bright spot for the country.
Sanha began his political career as the head of the youth wing of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, or PAIGC — the body that fought for the country's independence. He went on to become a member of its executive committee, and then served as governor of a province.
Sanha was thrown to the fore after Vieira's March 2009 assassination, when the president was gunned down inside his home. The circumstances of Vieira's death have never been fully illuminated, but many speculated that his killing was related to issues surrounding drug trafficking.
In recent years, Guinea-Bissau has become a hub for drug smuggling. Cocaine is flown from South America to the archipelago of islands that dot the country's coastline. The drugs are then moved to Europe by boats and by carriers who ingest the drugs and attempt to carry them north on commercial flights. Sanha had pledged to combat the flow of narcotics.
-- Los Angeles Times wire reports