Joey Watkins’ Case Updates

January 2023

Joey’s bond hearing took the morning of January 3rd, 2023, before Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryan Johnson.  At the hearing, both sides presented witnesses, and GIP plus co-counsel Ben Goldberg and Noah Pines, were there to support Joey and argue that he should be freed from incarceration because he does not pose a risk to the community and he would return for a retrial, should there be one. 

At the end of the two-hour hearing, the judge ruled in Joey’s favor and granted him a bond of $75,000. You can read more details about the hearing in the Rome News-Tribune.

While Joey’s original conviction has been overturned and he has been released from custody, his battle to prove his innocence is not over. As always, GIP and our co-counsel will continue to fight for Joey Watkins.

December 2022

On December 20th, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously affirmed Habeas relief for Joey Watkins.

This means Joey’s conviction is vacated, and a new trial is granted! HOWEVER, Joey will not be released just yet. The State can still ask the Supreme Court of Georgia to reconsider its decision. 

The State now has 10 days to file a motion for reconsideration, asking the Supreme Court to undo its decision. 

If the State does not file a motion for reconsideration, or if the Supreme Court of Georgia denies such a motion by the State, a remittitur will be issued, and Joey will be transferred back to Floyd County, where he will await retrial.

READ the decision here

October 2022

On October 4th, GIP’s Senior Attorney Christina Cribbs presented oral arguments for Joey Watkins in response to the Attorney General’s appeal. She argued that there is no legal basis for the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn the Walker County habeas court’s order granting Joey a trial on three separate constitutional grounds.

You can watch the oral argument here.

The Court now has until mid-March to make a decision.

July 2022

The Attorney General’s Office filed its first brief in July 2022. Joey’s attorneys will file their brief in August 2022.

The oral argument in this case is scheduled for October 3rd, 2022, and will be live-streamed.

JUNE 2022

The Georgia Supreme Court received the record in Joey Watkin’s case and assigned a new case number (also known as “docketing”).

MAY 2022

The Georgia Attorney General filed a notice of appeal in Joey Watkins’ case.


At the 3-day evidentiary hearing in February/March,  Joey’s attorneys argued that his conviction is unconstitutional because of junior misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct (hiding favorable evidence and presenting false or misleading testimony). 

Walker County Superior Court Judge Don Thompson agreed with Joey’s attorneys and GRANTED Joey’s Habeas Corpus Petition on April 11th.

MARCH 2020

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the habeas court’s order dismissing Joey’s petition and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on his claims.

JULY 2019

GIP and pro-bono counsel filed a Motion for Reconsideration. In a rare move, the Georgia Supreme Court changed its mind and decided to allow Joey to appeal the order dismissing his petition.

JUNE 2019

The Georgia Supreme Court denied Joey permission to appeal the habeas petition.

MAY 2018

At a hearing for the second Habeas Corpus Petition, GIP and pro bono counsel, Ben Goldberg, brought the juror’s misconduct and official misconduct to the Court’s attention. The State moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the evidence should have been brought forward earlier. The court ruled for the State, and Joey sought to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.


On January 11th, 2000, Isaac Dawkins was found in his truck crashed on the side of the highway with a bullet to his head. He later died from his injuries. Witnesses testified that a small blue Honda was seen engaging in aggressive driving behind Isaac moments before the shooting, but investigators weren’t able to make much progress after months on the case and Isaac’s family successfully petitioned for new investigators to take it over.

The new investigators quickly zeroed in on Joey Watkins and his friend as the people responsible for the shooting. Joey was charged with murder a year after the crime, despite having an alibi.


The night of the shooting, Joey had driven his white pickup truck to see his girlfriend who lived about 30 miles away in Cedartown, Georgia. As he drove, he was talking with his girlfriend on his cell phone. At trial, both the State and defense presented cell tower experts that agreed Joey could not have been at the location where Isaac was shot based on his cell phone records.


The State’s case rested on the theory that somehow, Joey switched cars, identified Isaac’s truck driving the opposite direction in the dark, did a u-turn to get behind Isaac, and shot him, all while on the phone with his girlfriend, who did not hear anything unusual while talking to Joey.


The State’s theory was very complicated and at times confusing. Attorneys on both sides struggled to paint a full picture of the evidence for the jury, leaving some with unanswered questions. This led one juror to conduct her own independent “drive test” against the court’s instructions. However, she did not have the correct information to perform such a test. This resulted in an inaccurate conclusion which influenced her to change her vote from “not guilty” to “guilty”.  She also told other members of the jury about the results of her “drive test”.

Not all the available evidence was presented to the jury that convicted Joey Watkins. More than 15 years after the trial,  GIP discovered exculpatory evidence that was buried by the State, including a medical examiner report, evidence submission forms, a chain of custody report, photographs, and a property receipt relating to a deceased dog found near Isaac’s grave, which the prosecutor argued Joey had killed and represented his “signature” or “calling card.” While the jury was allowed to consider the highly prejudicial testimony about the dog—that evidence was in no way connected to Joey—the State concealed the fact that the deceased dog was killed with a different caliber bullet than the victim, proving it was killed with a different weapon and likely a different perpetrator.

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