Man exonerated after he spent over 20 years in Georgia prison. Now he’s fighting for compensation

FLOYD COUNTY, Ga. — A Floyd County man is trying to rebuild his life and one Georgia organization is raising money to help.

Joey Watkins spent the past 23 years in prison to be exonerated last week, and now the fight begins to get compensation for the years that he lost behind bars.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Channel 2′s Candace McCowan spoke with Watkins on Tuesday.

In 23 years, this is the first week Watkins can call himself a free man.

Watkins was convicted of killing Isaac Dawkins in Floyd County in 2001 when he was 20 years old. Prosecutors said he pulled the trigger, killing Dawkins while he was driving.

But the entire time he proclaimed his innocence.

“Part of me wanted to believe in the justice system but as time went by, I saw that the justice system is not what people believe it is,” said Watkins.

For years the Georgia Innocence Project fought on his behalf, saying there was juror and prosecutorial misconduct.

“There was some evidence that was withheld from the defense that should’ve been provided by law and it was not and that was one of the reasons the judge overturned Joey’s case,” said Christina Cribbs with the Georgia Innocence Project.

Eventually, a judge granted Watkins a new trial set for November. But last week, with the stroke of a pen, Joey was free.

“We now have a document signed by the prosecutor and the judge acknowledging that there is no evidence on which they can retry Joey,” said Cribbs.

Joey is now ready for his second chance.

The Georgia Innocence Project is raising money to help him get on his feet and promising to fight for state compensation for his time behind bars.


“What we do have is a very long complicated political process for folks like Joey to be compensated for the years that they lost,” added Cribbs.

Even after losing 23 years of his life in prison, Watkins said he’s not angry. But instead, he is focusing on the small things that most take for granted.

“Actually being able to get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee and talk to my mom,” said Watkins.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]