Co-counsel: Ben Goldberg
Floyd County, Georgia
Floyd County, GA | January 11, 2000
Around 7:20 pm on January 11, 2000, the Rome Police Department responded to the scene of a single vehicle accident. The driver, 21 year old Isaac Dawkins, was being rushed to the hospital. X-rays would later reveal that Isaac had been shot in the head; he died shortly thereafter. Joey Watkins was an initial suspect, since Isaac and Joey had both dated a girl named Brianne, and had previous run-ins with each other. However, a thorough investigation by the Rome PD ruled Joey out as a suspect.
After months with little progress on the case, the victim’s family successfully petitioned to have Sergeant Stanley Sutton with Floyd County Police Department, assigned to the case. Although a very similar shooting had occurred a few miles away, and within minutes of when police first received reports of Isaac’s accident, Sutton saw no link between the cases. Instead, he zeroed in on Joey Watkins. One day after taking over the case, seeking informants, Sergeant Sutton posted reward posters throughout the jail. Someone soon came forward willing to implicate Joey.
The State charged Joey and his friend, Mark Free, with Isaac’s murder, although there were two glaring issues with the State’s theory. Firstly, the man who had first reported Isaac’s accident to police noted to dispatchers that he saw a small blue car driving very aggressively right before Isaac crashed. Investigators determined that whoever was driving this small blue car was the killer. The night of the murder, however, Joey had driven his pickup truck to see his girlfriend, Aislinn, who lived 45 minutes away in Cedartown, Georgia. He was seen departing by several witnesses, and approximately 45 minutes later, several other witnesses saw him in Cedartown.
The victim's pickup truck that tailed off the side of the highway following the murder
Although Joey had been seen in his pickup truck, prosecutors argued that he switched cars on the way to his girlfriend’s house, picked up Mark Free, spotted Isaac driving the opposite direction on the freeway, made a u-turn, caught up with Isaac, and then shot him at 55 miles per hour. Joey then, allegedly, switched cars again and drove to Aislinn’s house—all within the 45 minute time frame.
There was another issue with the State’s theory—Joey was on the phone while he was driving to Cedartown, and extensive cell tower records proved that he physically could not have committed the crime. He would have had to travel 6.4 miles in 50 seconds (approximately 460 miles per hour) in order to arrive at the crime scene in time to shoot Isaac. Still, Joey sits in prison as GIP and pro-bono counsel, Ben Goldberg, fight to prove his innocence. You can hear Joey’s story on the second season of the Undisclosed podcast.