Craig M. Cooley

Craig M. Cooley is a solo practitioner and sole proprietor of Cooley Law Office, which has offices in Cary, North Carolina and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He started Cooley Law Office in June 2013.  


Since 2020, Mr. Cooley has overturned eight first- or second-degree murder convictions - where his clients were serving life in prison without the possibility of parole: (1) Arthur Johnson's (February 2020; Philadelphia County); (2) Andrew Swainson's (June 2020; Philadelphia County); (3) Jayquon Massey's (July 2021; Allegheny County); (4) Rafiq Dixon's (April 2022; Philadelphia County); (5) Marvin Robinson's (January 2023; Dauphin County);  (6) Donta Regusters (August 2023; Philadelphia County); (7) Bruce Reese (September 2023; Philadelphia County); and (8) Reafeal Fields (November 2023; Philadelphia County). 


Mr. Cooley has been investigating and litigating significant felonies, including death penalty, post-conviction DNA, and innocence cases for the last 20 years - during and after law school.  His cases have been profiled on 20/2060 Minutes, NBC Nightly News, and Investigation Discovery - as well as the award-winning Undisclosed podcast and the award-winning Wrongful Convictions podcast with Jason Flom. With a graduate degree in forensic science, Mr. Cooley has lectured nationally training defense attorneys how to challenge forensic identification evidence and to litigate post-conviction DNA testing motions.


Prior to starting his own practice in 2013, Mr. Cooley was a Litigation Attorney with the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence (NCCAI), where he represented indigent North Carolina inmates trying to prove their innocence with DNA and/or non-DNA evidence. Mr. Cooley helped represent two wrongly convicted men, Willie Grimes and Larry Lamb, who were ultimately exonerated based on non-DNA evidence.


Prior to working at the NCCAI, Mr. Cooley was a Staff Attorney with the Innocence Project in New York City for five years (2007-2012), where he represented indigent inmates across the United States trying to prove their innocence with DNA testing. Mr. Cooley obtained DNA testing for several of his clients that ultimately exonerated 11 innocent prisoners. As a Staff Attorney, Mr. Cooley also had three significant appellate victories that changed the post-conviction DNA testing case law in Tennessee and Pennsylvania: Commonwealth v. Wright, 14 A.3d 798 (Pa. 2011); Commonwealth v. Conway, 14 A.3d 101 (Pa. Super. 2011): Powers v. State, 343 S.W.3d 36  (Tenn. 2011).


While in New York, Mr. Cooley served as an Adjunct Law Professor at St. John’s University School of LawHofstra University School of Law, and Cardozo School of Law where he taught: Criminal Pocedure, Capital Punishment, Post-Conviction Relief, Wrongful Convictions, Forensic Evidence, and the Innocence Project Clinic.


Prior to joining the Innocence Project, Mr. Cooley was an Assistant Federal Defender in the Capital Habeas Unit at the Federal Public Defender's Office in Las Vegas (2005-2007), where he represented Nevada death row inmates pursing federal habeas relief. Mr. Cooley helped Ronnie Milligan gain his freedom after spending 30 years on Nevada’s death row for a murder he likely didn’t commit.


During law school, Mr. Cooley was an Investigator with the Death Penalty Trial Assistance Unit at the Office of the State Appellate Defenders in Chicago (2001-2004) where he provided assistance on several cases affected by Governor George Ryan’s 2003 pardons and commutations, including Leroy Orange's arson-murder case.  Mr. Orange was pardoned by Governor Ryan.


A graduate of Northwestern School of Law (2004), Mr. Cooley also received a graduate degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven (2000) before he attended law school. Mr. Cooley obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh (1996).


Mr. Cooley’s legal scholarship has been published in Stanford Law & Policy ReviewIndiana Law JournalTulsa Law ReviewCardozo Journal of Law and GenderCharleston Law ReviewGeorge Mason University Civil Rights Law JournalNew England Law Review, and others law reviews.  Mr. Cooley also co-authored a wrongful convictions textbook with forensic expert, Brent TurveyMiscarriages of Justice: Actual Innocence, Forensic Evidence, and the Law (Elsevier/Academic Press).  The textbook can be purchased at Amazon.


Mr. Cooley is also a member of the East Boros Sports Hall of Fame and the Plum High School’s Sports Hall of Fame (1988-1992).  Mr. Cooley was inducted into the Plum High School Hall of Fame in November 2014.

Michael Saunders walking out of prison

Litigation Experience

  • Solo Practitioner, Cooley Law Office (Cary, NC; Pittsburgh, PA) (June 2013-present)
  • Litigation Attorney, North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, Durham, NC (June 2012-October 2012)
  • Staff Attorney, Innocence Project, New York, NY (2007-2012)
  • Assistant Federal Defender, Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Public Defender's Office, Las Vegas, NV (2005-2007)

Investigative Experience

  • Investigator, Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Public Defender's Office, Harrisburg, PA (2004-2005)
  • Investigator, Death Penalty Trial Assistance Unit, Federal Public Defender's Office, Chicago, IL (2001-2004)

Law Teaching Experience

  • Adjunct Law Professor, St. John's School of Law (2007-2012)
  • Adjunct Law Professor, Hofstra University School of Law (2007-2012)
  • Adjunct Law Professor, Cardozo School of Law (2007-2012)
  • Courses Taught: Criminal Procedure, Capital Punishment, Post-Conviction Relief, Wrongful Convictions, Forensic Evidence, and Innocence Project Clinic

Admitted To Practice

  • State court: Illinois (inactive), North Carolina (active), Pennsylvania (active)
  • Federal court: Eastern District of North Carolina, Middle District of North Carolina, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Western District of Pennsylvania, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals  

Appointment Lists

  • Pennsylvania: 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (CJA Panel Attorney); 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (CJA Panel Attorney)
  • North Carolina: Capital/Non-Capital Direct Appeal appointment list; Capital/Non-Capital Post-Conviction appointment list; 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (CJA Panel Attorney)
  • California: Capital Federal Habeas appointment list (ED of CA)


Cooley Law Office

Pittsburgh Office

1308 Plumdale Court

Pittsburgh, PA 15239


412-607-9346 (cell)

919-287-2531 (fax)



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