Possession of a Firearm
Life + 6
CO-COUNSEL: Ben Goldberg
Floyd County, Georgia
Floyd County, GA | January 11, 2000
At 7:19 pm on January 11, 2000, Rome-Floyd County 911 dispatched an ambulance to the scene of a single vehicle accident on Hwy 27, which runs between Rome and Cedartown, GA. The driver, 21 year old Isaac Dawkins, was rushed to the hospital. X-rays would later reveal that Isaac had been shot in the head; he died shortly thereafter. Police initially identified Joey Watkins was a suspect, since Joey had admittedly driven past the wreck scene that night, and Joey and Isaac both previously had argued over a girl named Brianne that they each dated on separate occasions. The Rome Police Department eventually 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 and Floyd County Police Department take over 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, and although Joey had a confirmed alibi, police zeroed in on Joey Watkins. One day after taking over the case, the Floyd County Police Department posted $10,000 reward posters throughout the jail; the first jailhouse informant came forward within hours.
Twelve months after the crime, the State charged Joey and his friend, Mark Free, with Isaac’s murde. There were glaring issues with the State’s theory. One issue was that the man who had first reported Isaac’s wreck to 911 explained to police that he saw a small, older-model blue car interacting aggressively on the road with Isaac’s truck in the minutes and moments before the wreck. Investigators determined that the fatal shot was fired from that small blue car, which was also what State argued at trial. The night of the murder, however, Joey had driven his white pickup truck to see his girlfriend, Aislinn, who lived about 30 miles away in Cedartown, Georgia (he passed Isaac’s wreck and police cars on the way). He was seen by several witnesses departing in his white truck, and approximately 45 minutes later, several other witnesses saw him in Cedartown in his white truck.
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 met up with his friend Mark Free, switched from his white truck to the small, blue Honda, drove down to around Floyd College to either wait for or intercept Isaac as he drove home from college, engaged in aggressive driving with Dawkins, and then shot Dawkins through the back window of Dawkins truck while driving at 55+ miles per hour (and talking on the phone to his girlfriend Aislynn). According to the State, Joey then switched cars again and drove to his girlfriend’s house in Cedartown, where he arrived in his white truck.
There was another major problem with the State’s theory. It is undisputed that Joey was using his cell phone in the time frame before, during and after the crime. Cell phone and cell tower records, and expert testimony, placed him miles from the scene of the crime at the time of the shooting.
He would have to travel a minimum distance of 8.2 miles in an absolute minimum of 4 minutes and 30 seconds - an average speed of at least 109 miles per hour, and likely much, much faster if every possible variable were not interpreted most favorably to the State.
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.
Update: March 13, 2020
On March 13, 2019 the Georgia Supreme Court allowed Joey's post-conviction claims to proceed. Read the decision below: