(DailyVantage.com) – A man wrongfully convicted of murder in 2001 in Rome, Georgia, is now free, following two decades in prison. Joey Watkins was wrongfully convicted for the shooting death of Isaac Dawkins a year after the murder occurred.
The prosecution claimed that Watkins drove a vehicle involved in the shooting that tragically took Dawkins’ life, a claim that has been disproven due to Watkins having a strong alibi. Despite Watkins’ alibi being provable through phone records and numerous witnesses, a jury found Watkins guilty of murder and sentenced him to life behind bars. Another man connected with the crime by prosecutors, Mark Free, was tried separately and acquitted of all charges. Free was accused of being the shooter but didn’t spend time behind bars following his criminal trial.
Following an appeal, Watkins attained a new trial when Judge Don Thompson overturned his conviction in April 2022. Watkins’ defense team accused the prosecutors of Watkins’ case of misconduct and the jurors. Thompson seemingly agreed and granted Watkins a new trial. Following the new trial’s approval, the prosecution abruptly dropped all charges against Watkins, freeing him from incarceration two decades after his initial conviction. Watkins’ acquittal is the latest instance of an individual being released following a wrongful murder conviction, an alarming trend many feel identifies flaws within the criminal justice system.
The Georgia Innocence Project took Watkins’ case and advocated for a retrial alongside other attorneys supporting Watkins’ claims of innocence. Following the charges being dropped, Watkins reportedly “cried like a baby.” Watkins spent over half his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, opening the door to potential civil litigation against the court that wrongfully convicted him.
Watkins hasn’t indicated if he plans on pursuing legal action, but other men in similar situations have received millions in settlement payments. Although Watkins is now a free man, more legal action on his behalf seems almost certain to materialize in the coming years. According to Watkins, his plans for the immediate future are to relax and have a beer at the Harvest Moon Cafe.
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