Cmdr. John Cochrane--commanding officer of the destroyer Kinkaid that crashed into a merchant ship in the Strait of Malacca of the Malay Peninsula, killing a sailor and injuring 17 others--was found not guilty of criminal negligence. Cochrane, the first Navy skipper to face a courts-martial for a collision in more than a decade, was acquitted after the eight-day proceeding because the Navy prosecutor failed to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the San Diego-based officer was criminally liable for what occurred aboard his ship last November, said Capt. Richard Reed, a South West Judicial Circuit military judge. "Obviously, I feel a great deal of relief," said Cochrane, 44. "I was exonerated, which shows military justice works. . . ."