John Hanlon

Adjunct Professor


John Hanlon is the legal director of the Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS), where he identifies and works on cases where there is a reasonable possibility that DNA testing will lead to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted prisoner. As adjunct professor, he instructs the Illinois Innocence Project course.

At UIS, he has served as adjunct faculty for the Legal Studies and/or Criminal Justice departments since 2004. He presently teaches a class on wrongful convictions.

Previously, Professor Hanlon was employed for many years by the Illinois State Appellate Defender’s office in Springfield. During his early years there, he worked almost exclusively on the appellate defense of death penalty cases, during which he represented four of the 20 wrongfully convicted individuals who were released to freedom from Illinois’ death row (Rolando Cruz, Randy Steidl, Joseph Burrows, and Ronald Kitchen). More recently, he worked as a trial lawyer with the OSAD’s Capital Trial Assistance Unit, where he was a member of trial teams in four death penalty cases that were tried to successful verdicts.

Professor Hanlon was awarded, in May of 2002, the Richard E. Cunningham Award by the Illinois Public Defender Association, for “distinguished service as a death penalty defense advocate who, in the course of performing high quality representation, has demonstrated extraordinary and tenacious commitment to the capital client’s cause and whose continuing dedication and tireless advocacy is an inspiration to all defenders in the continuing struggle for fairness and justice in Illinois capital cases.”

Professor Hanlon was also awarded, with two other members of the Rolando Cruz defense team, the 1994 Legal Eagle award of the Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) for successful appellate work on the Cruz case from 1990-1994.

Professor Hanlon received his BA in social studies education in 1979 from the University of Illinois. He received his JD from Wake Forest University in 1983. He has guest lectured at Northwestern University Law School, Chicago-Kent Law School, Knox College, Southern Illinois School of Medicine, and Lincoln Land Community College, and has presented at dozens of continuing legal education seminars.



JD Wake Forest University
BA University of Illinois



Innocence Project