Man Exonerated Over 20 Years After Being Convicted

Man Exonerated Over 20 Years After Being Convicted

(USNewsBreak.com) – The United States justice system has many safeguards in place to ensure that people don’t go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. However, sometimes, the people involved get it wrong. Many organizations dedicate themselves to freeing those wrongfully accused and convicted, and internet sleuths often become involved as well. One man, incarcerated for more than 20 years, is finally walking free, and a podcast is at the center of the case.

In 2001, a Georgia jury convicted Joey Watkins, then in his early 20s, of several crimes related to the death of Isaac Dawkins in 2000: felony murder, weapons violation, misdemeanor stalking, and aggravated assault. The court sentenced him to life in prison plus five years. An assailant had shot Dawkins in the head while he drove his pickup truck on Highway 27 in early 2000. Watkins staunchly maintained his innocence. His father said they would “be back in court,” while his mother insisted he wasn’t “guilty of this” crime, according to Rome News-Tribune.

Watkins remained in jail for more than 22 years before Don Thompson, a Walker County Superior Court Judge, overturned the conviction, paving the way for Watkins to receive a new trial. Watkins bonded out of jail in January 2023 while awaiting the proceedings. However, the Floyd County District Attorney’s office decided not to prosecute and officially exonerated him.

The “Undisclosed” podcast highlighted Watkins’ case. The podcast centers on “investigat[ing] wrongful convictions, and the US criminal justice system, by taking a closer look” at crimes and all the factors involved. Susan Simpson, one of the hosts, expressed her happiness over Watkins’ exoneration because prosecutors had access to evidence that could have cleared him before arresting him but chose to ignore it.

The wrongfully-convicted man is now free and said he cried when he got the news. However, he won’t be receiving compensation from the state of Georgia — it’s one of the few in the US that doesn’t offer it. He is working at the family business in the meantime and enjoying his freedom.

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