Murder conviction overturned for man imprisoned for 21 years

A judge has overturned the murder conviction of a Floyd County man who has served 21 years behind bars for a crime he insists he did not commit.

Joey Watkins was convicted in 2001 following the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Isaac Dawkins, who had dated Watkins’ ex-girlfriend. Dawkins, behind the wheel of a Toyota pickup truck, died Jan. 11, 2000, after being shot in the head on U.S. 27 in Rome and crashing into the woods.

In a recent order, Walker County Superior Court Judge Don Thompson threw out Watkins’ convictions based on findings of juror misconduct and because the state presented “false or misleading testimony” against him.

The integrity of Watkins’ conviction has been long challenged by his legal team — members of the Georgia Innocence Project and Mableton attorney Ben Goldberg. It was also featured on the popular “Undisclosed” podcast, which revealed that a juror had improperly conducted her own driving test of the scene.

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“Joey Watkins has been incarcerated for more than half of his life for a crime that he did not commit — this is despite the fact that there is very strong scientific evidence of innocence and it is now clearly established that the state secured his conviction by engaging in official misconduct,” said Christina Cribbs, an attorney with the Georgia Innocence Project.

“Joey has been fighting for justice for more than 20 years,” she added. “It should not take this long to right such an obvious wrong.”

The state Attorney General’s Office has until early next month to decide whether to appeal the judge’s order granting Watkins a new trial.