Pennsylvania Trial Litigation, Criminal Appeals, Post-Conviction, and Innocence Lititgation

Michael Saunders served 16 years for murder before DNA proved his innocence

If you or a loved one is under investigation, has been arrested, or has been formally charged by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvnaia with a felony or misdemeanor, you need an experienced and dedicated litigator to defend your or your loved one's rights throughout the trial process.  


Likewise, if you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime in state or federal court, and believe your (or their) guilty plea, trial, or punishment (e.g., probation, jail time, or prison sentence) was or is unfair or unconstitutional, knowing what stepts to take to vacate a guilty plea, a criminal conviction, or a particular punishment is a complex task that requires an experienced post-trial and appellate litigator.  Likewise, if you or a loved one are in prison, but you (or they) are innocent, proving your or their innocence with DNA or non-DNA evidence is a monumental undertaking that requires an experienced litigator with courtroom, investigative, forensic, writing, and innocence expertise. 


The Cooley Law Office is dedicated to providing top-notch representation for those seeking trial representation, post-trial (direct appeal) representation, post-conviction representation, and representation to file a clemency petition before the Pennsylvania Pardon's Board.  The Cooley Law Office has significant experience litigating serious felonies, including death penalty cases, murders, sexual assaults, kidnappings, robberies, DUIs, and other felonies, as well as seeking DNA testing for innocent prisoners.  The Cooley Law Office also has unique experience preparing clemency petitions and arguing before the Pardon's Board.  The Cooley Law Office has offices in Pittsburgh and litigates state and federal trials, appeals, and post-conviction petitions across the Commonwealth.  Mr. Cooley litigates cases in the Common Pleas Court, Superior Court, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as well as the Federal District Courts in the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.


As an experience public interest attorney before entering private practice, Mr. Cooley offers affordable and reasonable prices for trial, appellate, and post-conviction litigation.  The Cooley Law Office accepts CREDIT CARD payments.  Payments can easily be made over the internet, which eliminates the hassel of checks and money orders. 


Jonathan Barr served 20 years for murder before DNA proved his innocence

The Cooley Law Office offers a comprehensive approach trial, post-trial matters,  criminal appeals, post-convicition litigation, and clemency applications be it for state court defendants or federal court defendants.  We know what options are out there, and we help clients identify which options best fit their needs.  As a firm practicing exclusively in the fields of criminal defensewe can design a roadmap that will move your case forward in the right direction. 


Craig M. Cooley is a former Investigator with the Appellate Defender's Office in Chicago, Assistant Federal Defender in Las Vegas, and Staff Attorney with the New York Innocence Project. Mr. Cooley has investigated and litigated significant felony, death penalty, and innocence cases for the last 20 years.  He has helped prove the innocence of more than a dozen wrongly convicted men with DNA and non-DNA evidence as a law student, investigator, and attorney.


Mr. Cooley's areas of practice are:

  • Trial work: From arraingment, through trial, to post-trial matters
  • Direct appeals: From state and federal criminal convictions
  • Post-conviction litigation and investigation: Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions 
  • Post-conviction DNA testing and challenging forensic identificaiton evidence (e.g., bitemarks, fingerrprinting, firearms, hair evidence)
  • Federal habeas corpus: State prisoners attacking state convictions  (28 U.S.C. 2254)
  • Federal post-conviction: Federal prisoners attacking federal convictions (28 U.S.C. 2255)
  • Clemency petitions: Inmates serving LWOP or lenghty sentences who've changed and want released from prison because of their rehabilitation and stellar prison record

While trial work involves minimal writing (as compared to appellate and post-conviction litigation), Mr. Cooley's appellate and post-conviction written work product can be reviewed here by reading motions, appellate briefs, PCRA motions, and federal habeas petitions he's written, filed, and argued. 

Watch an Episode of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom featuring Mr. Cooley's longtime client Pedro Reynoso (above).  Pedro has been in prison since March 1994 for a July 23, 1991 double-murder in Philadelphia.  Pedro, though, was in the Dominican Republic on July 23, 1991 and he has 13 people to place him in the Domincian Republic on this day.  Jason Flom and his Now This team do an excellent job providing a concise narrative of Pedro's compelling and substantial innocence claim.  

Andrew Swainson, center, with Mr. Cooley's co-counsel, Nilam Sanghvi, left, and Nate Andrisani after Andrew Swaison's murder conviction was overturned on June 12, 2020, and he was released from prison after serving 32-years for a murder he didn't commit.  Mr. Cooley represented Andrew for 13 years - from 2007 until his exoneration and release on June 12, 2020.  The Pennsylvania Innocence Project (Nilam Sanghvi) and MorganLewis (Nate Andrisani) also provided invaluable representation for several years. 

Arguing before the Pardon's Board on 12/20/19 on Pedro's Reynoso's behalf

Embracing John Kunco outside of Westmoreland County Jail after being released from prison for the first time in 27 years


Please listen to the Undiclosed Podcast featuring my client, John Brookins's, case from Bucks County (PA).  John has been in prison since June 1991 for the December 20, 1990 murder of Shelia Ginsberg.  However, there's substantial evidence implicating Shelia's daughter, Sharon Ginsberg, with Shelia's murder.  Most notably, six people testified on John's behalf at his 1992 trial and said Sharon had confessed to murdering her mother.  



Sedrick Courtney served 15 years for robbery before DNA proved his innocence

In terms of his post-conviction and innocence litigation, Mr. Cooley has investigated and worked on the following DNA and non-DNA exonerations and illegl conviction cases as a law student, investigator, or attorney:

  • Leroy Orange  (IL 2003) (investigator)
  • Lawerence McKinney (TN 2009)
  • Ronnie Milligan (NV 2010) (represented while at LV-CHU; overturned first-degree murder and death sentence; represented)
  • Jonathan Barr (IL 2011) (represented while at IP; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • James Hardens (IL 2011) (represented by Univ. of Chicago Exoneration Project; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Robert Taylor (IL 2011) (represented by NWU's Center on Wrongful Convictions; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Robert Veal (IL 2011) (represented by Valorem Law Group; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Shainne Sharp (IL 2011) (represented by private counsel; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Michael Saunders (IL 2011) (represented while at IP; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Terrill Swift (IL 2011) (represented by NWU's Center on Wrongful Convictions; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Harold Richardson (IL 2011) (represented by Univ. of Chicago Exoneration Project; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Vincent Thames (IL 2011) (represented by Valorem Law Group; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Sedrick Courtney (OK 2012) (represented while at IP; robbery DNA exoneration)
  • Willie Grimes (NC 2012) (represented while at NCCAI; rape non-DNA exoneration)
  • Larry Lamb (NC 2013) (represented while at NCCAI; murder non-DNA exoneration)
  • Randy Mills (TN 2014) (represented while at IP; overturned child sexual assault conviction w/ DNA evidence)
  • Ricky Lee Nelson (TN 2014) (represented while at IP; used serology evidence to produce time-served plea deal regarding underlying rape conviction)
  • Lewis Fogle (PA 2015) (represented while at IP; located physical evidence; represented by IP Staff Atty, Karen Thompson; rape-murder DNA exoneration)
  • Kevin Siehl (PA 2016) (represented while at IP; represented by Federal Public Defender, Lisa Freeland; first-degree murder conviction overturned due to Brady violation)
  • Anthony Wright (PA 2016) (wrote allocatur petition that resulted in the DNA testing that proved Mr. Wright's innocence; represented by Peter Neufeld and Samuel Silver at re-trial; rape-murder DNA exoneration) 
  • Henry Surpris (NC 2016) (North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned robbery conviction based on significant Brady violations and prosecutorial misconduct; resulted in ADA's firing and reprimand from the NC State Bar)
  • John Kunco (PA 2018) (represented while at IP; represented by IP Staff Atty, Karen Thompson; rape DNA exoneration)
  • Johnny Tallbear (OK 2018) (represented while at IP; located physical evidence; represented by IP Staff Atty, Karen Thompson; murder DNA exoneration)
  • Perry Lott (OK 2018) (represented while at IP; found physical evidence; represented by IP Staff Atty, Karen Thompson; rape DNA exoneation)
  • Kevin Vietmeier (PA 2019) (represented; overturned corruption of a minor conviction based on newly-discovered facts)
  • Arthur Johnson (PA 2020) (represented; Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned 2009 first-degree murder conviction based on Bruton violation)
  • Andrew Swainson (PA 2020) (represented for 13 years [2007 to 2020]; overturned first-degree murder conviction based on signficant Brady violations and a strong innocence claim) 
  • Jayquon Massey (PA 2021) (represented; Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned 2008 first-degree murder conviction based on trial counsel ineffectiveness claim)
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