Why is it so hard to right a wrong in Georgia?

Why is it so hard to right a wrong in Georgia?

“Justice, not victory, is our chief goal.”

So say the Guiding Principles on the website of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.  

Yet the AG’s actions in the Devonia Inman case belie their stated chief goal.

Today we must ask a few questions. Why is it so hard to right a wrong in Georgia? When will the State demonstrate accountability and own up to its miscarriage of justice in the Devonia Inman case? Why is there such a double standard? And why is justice in Georgia such a moving target, subject to the whims of the powers that be? 

Former GIP client Devonia Inman has been wrongfully imprisoned for over 20 years. Yesterday, he appeared in a Chattooga County Superior Court with his attorneys from Troutman Pepper for a hearing on the merits of his habeas corpus petition, arguing that his conviction should be vacated because he is innocent and did not get a fair trial. 

Devonia was convicted of armed robbery and murder at a Taco Bell in Adel, Georgia in 2001, despite having an alibi and a lack of any physical evidence tying him to the crime. At his death penalty trial, the State said that Devonia wore a homemade mask as he shot and killed the victim. Devonia’s attorneys tried to argue to the jury that a man named Hercules Brown had confessed to the crime, but the judge refused and the prosecutor asserted there was not “one scintilla of evidence” linking Hercules Brown to the crime. Devonia Inman was sentenced to die in prison.

Years later, the Georgia Innocence Project was able to secure DNA testing on that homemade mask, which implicated none other than Hercules Brown, who had gone on to kill two other people while Devonia Inman sat in jail awaiting trial. Yet in 2014, the Cook County trial judge ruled the new evidence was not enough to grant Devonia a new trial. 

In 2019, two Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court urged the prosecuting attorneys to exercise their discretion and consider giving Inman a new trial.

“Everyone involved in our criminal justice system should dread the conviction and incarceration of innocent people…

Of the multitude of cases in which a new trial has been denied, Inman’s case is the one that causes me the most concern that an innocent person remains convicted and sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison,” said Presiding Justice Nahmias. “Let justice be done.”

 Read both opinions in full below.

The Georgia Attorney General declined, and instead has fought to uphold Inman’s conviction.  All of the original trial witnesses against Inman have recanted their testimony, except for one, who received a $5,000 reward and whose testimony is not only difficult to believe, but is directly contradicted by a person who was standing next to her. 

Monday’s hearing focused on the fact that not only did the jury not hear that the homemade mask at the Taco Bell crime scene had Hercules Brown’s DNA on it, but that Brown was subsequently caught with a similar homemade mask in the trunk of his own car. During the trial, the State knew about the second homemade mask and failed to tell the judge or jury about it, even as the judge ruled that there was no reliable evidence linking Hercules Brown to the the Taco Bell murder. 

Monday, Devonia Inman finally had his day in court on his habeas hearing, and for that we are grateful. Now we wait for the post-hearing briefing and Judge Graham’s decision. Will it be justice for a wrongfully convicted man? Or victory for the State?

You can read more about the hearing here, in the AJC. 

To learn more about Devonia Inman’s story listen to The AJC’s podcast, “Breakdown” (Season 4), or the podcast “Murderville” by The Intercept.

4 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to right a wrong in Georgia?”

  1. This infuriates me! I live in Cook County, Ga and I have been following this story since I first found out about it. The injustice of this whole entire case is insane! I do not understand how Mr. Inman can still be in prison when the evidence clearly shows that another person is responsible for this crime. I do not know his background or whether he has a criminal background prior to this but tto be in jail for a crime you didn’t commit is a travesty of justice. It is every part of what is wrong with this system.
    I was just reading in our local paper the Adel-News Tribune about the new ruling that could allow Mr. Inman a new trial. I am also concerned as to when he was first tried why none of the evidence that would show reasonable doubt was not allowed into evidence. Did the sheriff’s office need to prove a point and needed a quick resolution? Did they know Mr. Inman due to his background and thought well it must have been him and made the evidence fit? Do the words “systemic racism” fit this case?

    What is wrong with our Justice System? Why is the AG’s office not doing something about this? Why hasn’t this man been dismissed of all charges and been allowed to go home? Why does he have to have a new trial when the evidence clearly shows that he is not the one that did this?

    Is there anything I can do to help petition on Mr. Inman’s behalf to the AG’s office?

    I apologize for the rant but I just feel really passionate about this case for some reason.
    I would like to know more if possible.
    Thank you,

  2. Andrea Arlen

    Devonia Inman needs to be released ! Please look at the new evidence !!! Is it fair that your decision stand , when clearly there is other evidence clearing Mr Inman . Let him have his day in court with the correct evidence , why are these cops allowed to pressure people into making statements ? Threatening to take someone’s children? Threatening the man in jail to lie ? This is so wrong!

  3. From the GBI coercing witnesses to bear false witness, to Buster McConnell’s refusal to allow a retrial, to the Georgia Supreme Court’s denial of an appeal despite the presiding judge’s “concurrence” that indicates he thinks there should be a retrial and encourages the A.G. to reconsider the case… (but then, why deny the appeal!?)… and finally the A.G. who refused to take that advice to reconsider the case. How utterly reprehensible on so many levels. And I hate to say it ’cause I’m white as they come, but all these positions of power were held by white men, and the the young man (now middle aged) whose life was stolen is black. This is systemic racism in action. It must end.

  4. Heather Johnson

    I just saw this case on a show about murder in a small town. I’m outraged, but not surprised. We have given people too much power, and it seems to be about winning now and not justice. Judges have a responsibility to every citizen. Had the jury members saw the excluded evidence, I do not believe they would have convicted. I pray for this family. 20 years is a long time. Someone needs to pay with their freedom. Take away qualified immunity now!!!

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