From California beach girl to teacher in a two-room Peruvian schoolhouse, from Harris County Assistant District Attorney to Rusty Hardin friend and colleague, from Governor George Bush’s criminal justice policy director, to judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Cathy Cochran had an adventurous and lucky life. She was propped up by a patient husband, two great daughters, a passel of supportive family and friends, and the hopeful certainty that the glass of life is more than half full.
Cathy was born to Diane Davis and Robert Miles Cochran in Los Angeles, California during WWII. She and her younger brother, Larry, lived many variations of “Father Knows Best” during the halcyon days of their youth. In 1962, she entered Stanford University, where Cathy met David Herasimchuk, whom she married in 1966. They started a family and lived in Peru, Boston, Houston, and Venezuela before finally settling in Houston.
It wasn’t until her mid-thirties that Cathy began studying at the University of Houston Law Center in 1981. Here she discovered the passion of her life–the beauty, integrity, accuracy, and ultimate fairness of the Law. Her first day in class with Professor Newell Blakely and his graciously gruff twinkle set her on the path to becoming a judge. On this path, she was an Assistant District Attorney with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, a visiting professor at U of H Law School, a Criminal Justice Policy Director for Governor George W. Bush, and a consulting attorney for Rusty Hardin and Associates. In addition to collaborating to craft legislation for the State’s Limited Right to Appeal, Cathy authored and edited the second edition of the Texas Rules of Evidence Handbook.
In 2001, Governor Rick Perry appointed Cathy to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and David suggested that since she had taken his name–Herasimchuk–for 35 years–he would take her name– Cochran– for the next 35. Cathy was elected to the Court in 2002 and then re-elected in 2008, serving a total of fourteen years during a time in which the Court began many reforms. The Criminal Justice Section of the Texas State Bar named Cathy Jurist of the Year in 2006. For many years she lectured at the Annual Judicial Conference on recent Court of Criminal Appeals decisions.
Cathy loved the majesty and mystery of the law almost as much as she loved her own family. In retirement, she continued to write legal briefs and she enjoyed her favorite pastimes of gardening, traveling, and reading.
Cathy led a lucky life and will rest peacefully for eternity in her husband’s hand-carved wooden vault. She is survived by her much-cherished husband of 54 years, David Cochran, their two daughters, Hilary Herasimchuk and Christie (and Ed) Kline, grandchildren Courtney and John McDuffie, and Wrigley Kline, her beloved younger brother, Larry (and Frances) Cochran, and the perfect number of cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, and dogs, cats, fish, and turtles. Cathy is in a heaven of wildflowers, resting in peace and leaving memories for all of us to enjoy until we meet her in that garden someday in the future.
Services will be private. Her final resting place will be the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. Arrangements are under the direction of Thomason Funeral Home. For more information and to sign the online registry, please visit thomasonfuneralhome.com.