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He's spent more than 20 years behind bars after his murder conviction. Georgia Supreme Court votes in favor of his retrial

Justices voted unanimously in favor of a new trial for Joey Watkins. He was convicted in 2001 for the shooting death of Isaac Dawkins.

FLOYD COUNTY, Ga. — After more than two decades behind bars, a Floyd County man convicted of murder could be granted a retrial.

On Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of a new trial for Joey Watkins. The state now has 10 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

A jury previously convicted Watkins in 2001 and a judge sentenced him to life in prison in the murder of 20-year-old Isaac Dawkins. On the night of Jan. 11, 2000, Dawkins was driving in his truck along Hwy 27 in Rome, Georgia, when someone opened fire and shot him in the head. Dawkins died the next day. 

Watkins was 19 years old at the time.

Credit: WXIA
Isaac Dawkins

RELATED: Proving innocence: Could podcast prove man was wrongly convicted for murder?

For more than 20 years, Watkins has maintained his innocence. His case has been in the national spotlight – being featured on the popular podcast called "Undisclosed," which investigates wrongful convictions. 

Investigators with the podcast along with an attorney with the nonprofit Georgia Innocence Project previously claimed they uncovered evidence of a "juror's misconduct" during Watkins' initial trial.

Throughout the podcast, the producers also looked into cell phone records that led them to believe Watkins was on the other side of town – at the time of Dawkins' murder.

Story continues after the gallery below.

"During Joseph Watkins’s murder trial, a juror conducted a “drive test” during a break in deliberations to see whether the defendant could have been physically present at the time and place the victim was shot. The next day, the jury voted to convict Watkins of felony murder and other crimes, and he was sentenced to life in prison," a release from the Georgia Innocence Project stated. 

Since then, Watkins has lost multiple appeals over the years until now. 

Credit: WXIA
Joey Watkins

"There’s still a long road ahead, but every day we are getting closer,” Georgia Innocence Project Communications Manager Blis Savidge said. “We would not have gotten this far without the tireless efforts of the GIP legal team, our fantastic co-counsel Ben Goldberg, investigative journalists at the Undisclosed podcast, and the countless supporters from around the world that believe in Joey and have supported our work over the years.”

In the next few weeks, if the State does not challenge the motion or if the Georgia Supreme Court denies the motion by the State, Watkins will be transferred back to Floyd County Jail, where he'll await his retrial.

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