Joey Watkins is a prisoner in Georgia. In 2001, he was sentenced to life plus 5 years for the murder of Isaac Dawkins. Watkins says he is innocent. He is supported by the Innocence Project of Georgia.
Mark Free, who was accused of committing the murder together with Watkins, was found not guilty in a separate trial.
Several people the police talked to early in the investigation voiced their suspicions of Watkins. One reason for their suspicions was an earlier alleged shot fired towards a group including Dawkins and a girl who had dated both Watkins and Dawkins. At the time, the people in the group thought that Watkins might have been responsible. This was later proven to be false, as Watkins was in Florida at the time and had documentation to prove it. Nonetheless, suspicions of Watkins remained.
Time of the Shooting
The exact time of the shooting is disputed. The Rome Police Department initially said Dawkins' truck wrecked at 7:18pm. Ambulance records show a dispatch time of 7:19pm, and the call to the ambulance company was itself recorded, 47 seconds into a taped 911 call. By the time of the trial, the prosecution was arguing that the shooting happened at 7:20pm, based on hand-written 911 dispatch records which show that time.
Cell Phone Evidence
Watkins' cell phone pinged a cell tower on the other side of a ridge at 7:15pm on the day of the murder. His then-girlfriend answered the call at 7:16pm. The ridge is important because cell phone signals travel only in straight lines and not through rock. The ridge was 8 miles away from the site of the murder. To be at the location of the murder, Watkins would have to drive those 8 miles, down Route 27, turn around to be traveling in the opposite direction, then fire the fatal shot. Depending on what times one believes, and also on the unavailable seconds within the given minutes, Watkins would therefore have had between two and six minutes to drive eight miles, find Dawkins' truck heading in the opposite direction, switch to the opposite side of the highway, then fire the fatal shot.
In 2014, Watkins' case caught the eye of the Innocence Project of Georgia. They worked on the case for two years. Clara Gilbert of the Innocence Project said she was convinced of his innocence, but legally, she couldn't see where she could go with the case. So she contacted the Undisclosed Podcast, which had was finishing up its first season, focussing on the Adnan Syed case. Undisclosed agreed to cover the case.
Watkins was the subject of season 2 of the Undisclosed podcast. Undisclosed sought to copy the tapes from the Watkins trial, which they wanted to play so that listeners could hear Watkins saying he was innocent. The court initially agreed, then changed its mind before they actually copied the tapes. This led to further litigation, with the Georgia Supreme Court eventually ruling that the state did not have to allow Undisclosed to copy the tapes.
- Chris Fincher (July 2, 2001). "Killer gets life plus 5 years in murder of Isaac Dawkins". Rome News-Tribune. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- "Georgia Innocence Project requests new trial for Joey Watkins". January 20, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Chris Fincher (February 23, 2002). "Jury acquits Free of Murder Charge". Rome News-Tribute. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Amelia McDonell-Parry (June 18, 2016). "'Undisclosed': Inside Gripping Season 2 of Unofficial 'Serial' Spinoff". Rolling Stone.
- Jim Moser. "Investigator's Summary" (PDF). Rome Police Department.
- "The Panama City Incident". Undisclosed podcast. July 11, 2016.
- "Writ of Habeas Corpus Filed in Floyd County Murder Case". Cosa Valley News. January 20, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
- "S2, Episode 21 - Time and Distance". Undisclosed. December 19, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
- "S2, Episode 2 - In Situ". Undisclosed. July 22, 2016. 6:00. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "The State v. Joey Watkins Episodes". Undisclosed. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Bill Rankin (October 30, 2017). "Public has no right to courtroom recordings, Georgia justices rule". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
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