Michael Hanline

Michael Hanline (C), with California Innocence Project Director Justin Brooks (L), and Associate Director Alex Simpson at Hanline’s release from custody on November 24, 2014.


Charges Expected to be Dismissed in California Innocence Project Hanline Case

After 36 years in prison, Michael Hanline is longest wrongful incarceration in California history

VENTURA, April 21, 2015 – The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is expected to dismiss the charges against California Innocence Project client Michael Hanline on April 22, citing a lack of evidence to continue prosecution. In November, a Superior Court judge overturned Hanline’s 1978 murder conviction after the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law filed a petition alleging the prosecution withheld evidence of his innocence. Additionally, new DNA testing on evidence at the crime scene failed to connect Hanline to the crime.

The hearing is scheduled on April 22 at 1:30  p.m. in Courtroom 13 before Judge Jeffrey Bennett.

Hanline was wrongfully convicted of the shooting death of victim J.T. McGarry in 1980. At the time, prosecutors argued Hanline was jealous of McGarry because the two were romantically involved with the same woman, and that Hanline and an accomplice killed McGarry in revenge. Hanline always claimed others were responsible for the murder, and that he had been wrongfully accused.

The California Innocence Project began looking into Hanline’s case in 1999, the year the project was founded, and fought for years to obtain evidence from the 1978 murder. In 2010, a federal magistrate ruled that his conviction should be overturned. Unfortunately, another federal judge overruled the reversal. Hanline’s case seemed to be over, and his only other option appeared to be the granting of clemency from the Governor. His case was one of the California 12—a dozen cases where innocence clemency petitions were presented to Governor Brown 22 months ago after a 712-mile Innocence March from San Diego to Sacramento by lawyers from the California Innocence Project.

“It is impossible for anyone except Mike Hanline to truly understand what it’s like to lose 36 years of your life to the criminal justice system,” said Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project and one of the lawyers who walked in the Innocence March.

“In 1978, Mike Hanline lived in a world without cell phones, computers, or the Internet. Gas was 65 cents a gallon, a cup of coffee was 25 cents, and there were no Starbucks. He has a lot of adjusting to do, but I’m thrilled he is going to get a chance to do it. He is an innocent man who deserves to live out his life a free man,” Brooks said.

“We are fortunate we got the cooperation of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office on this case,” said Alex Simpson, Associate Director of the California Innocence Project and the attorney who argued the petition. “Mistakes were made many years ago, but they were willing to help us and remedy those mistakes.”

Michael Hanline Released After 36 Years Wrongful Imprisonment

About the California Innocence Project

The California Innocence Project is a California Western School of Law clinical program dedicated to the release of wrongfully convicted inmates and providing an outstanding educational experience for students enrolled in the clinic. The California Innocence Project receives approximately 2,000 claims from inmates each year and has earned the exoneration of 15 wrongfully convicted clients since its inception.


California Western School of Law is the independent, ABA/AALS-accredited San Diego law school that prepares graduates for the practice of law through a carefully sequenced program of study combining traditional legal theory with hands-on learning in real and simulated client environments.

For five years in a row, California Western has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and Honor Roll with Distinction, in recognition of the school’s numerous community-focused projects including the California Innocence Project, Community Law Projects, Mediation Clinic, Bail Project, and more. Students, faculty, and staff yearly donate more than 20,000 pro bono and service hours to nonprofits, clinical programs, and law offices.

Read more stories of success on our website, www.CaliforniaWestern.edu.