Georgia Man Exonerated 22 Years After Being Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder



(Photo Via The Georgia Project)
(Photo Via The Georgia Project)

By James Meyers
6:20 PM – Friday, September 22, 2023

After 22 years in prison, a man from Floyd County, Georgia, has been exonerated following a wrongful conviction for murder. 

On Thursday, Joey Watkins was exonerated of murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm, and stalking.

Watkins, now in his forties, was sentenced to life in prison back in July 2001 over the 2000 murder of 21-year-old Isaac Dawkins.

For the past 22 years, Watkins had been behind bars while continually fighting for his innocence.

“I didn’t think it was real at 19. I knew I was a suspect, but I didn’t really take it serious because I didn’t do this. I didn’t commit the crime. When the conviction came through, it was the worst day of my life,” Joey Watkins said during a news conference Friday.

According to the Georgia Innocence Project, law enforcement identified Watkins and his friend Mark Free as suspects by connecting them to a small blue Honda, which was seen engaging in “aggressive driving.” Watkins was accused of being behind the wheel and charged with murder despite presenting an alibi that was later confirmed by cell phone records.  Free, who was allegedly in the passenger seat at the time, was acquitted on all charges. 

In a 2018 hearing, Watkins argued his case for release, stating there was a newly discovered juror and prosecutorial misconduct. During the trial, prosecutors presented cell phone location evidence that put Watkins and the blue Honda in the area at the time of Dawkins’ murder.

However, an out-of-court test was conducted by one of the jurors during that time. The juror later admitted that the test became a deciding factor in their decision to convict Watkins. 

According to the Georgia Innocence Project, despite the new information about the test, the petition was dismissed due to the amount of time that had elapsed since trial. 

Later, he ruling was reversed by a Georgia Supreme Court, allowing the appeal to be heard.

“Over three days in February and March of 2022, Joey was finally able to argue to the Walker County Superior Court his conviction should be overturned due to compelling evidence of juror misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct,” the Georgia Innocence Project said.

On January 3, 2023, Watkins was offered a $75,000 bond on the grounds that he would be forced to wear an ankle monitor.