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Ventura Man To Go Free After Judge Overturns 1978 Murder Conviction

Michael Hanline and an unnamed woman in an undated photo.
California Innocence Project
Michael Hanline and an unnamed woman in an undated photo.

The longest wrongful incarceration in the state’s history is about to end, according to the Innocence Project at California Western’s School of Law.

A judge has overturned the conviction of Michael Hanline, imprisoned for a 1978 murder. Hanline was behind bars for 36 years. He was arrested when he was 33. He’s now 69.

Ventura prosecutors argued more than three decades ago that Hanline killed J.T. McGarry out of jealousy. Hanline and McGarry were dating the same woman at the time.


Hanline had always maintained his innocence.

California Western School of Law’s Innocence Project took the case in 1999.

“DNA evidence showed that Mike was not on the crime scene,” said Justin Brooks, director of the Innocence Project.

He said a review showed testimony had been fabricated at trial and pivotal police reports proving the fabrications had been sealed.

Hanline is the 15th person that the project has helped free from prison, Brooks said.


“This is what I live for,” he said. “This is what the job is all about, going out and finding evidence of innocence and then having the right result happen.”

Hanline is also the first of the so-called dozen people in prison — called the California 12— that the Innocence Project has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to release.

“They’re all like Mike’s case,” Brooks said. “They’re all innocent and they deserve to go home.”