A Georgia man was released from prison after serving 23 years for a crime that he was innocent of, the New York Post reports.
Devonia Inman received a sentence of life without parole for a 1998 murder and robbery of a Taco Bell manager in southern Georgia, although no physical evidence linked him to the crime. According to the Georgia Innocence Project, who advocated for his release, three of the four witnesses later recanted their testimony.
The Taco Bell manager Donna Brown was shot dead in the parking lot of the restaurant and the killer fled with $1,700 in cash receipts and as well as with her vehicle, which, as Inman’s advocates noted, was discovered with a critical piece of evidence in it that was not presented during the initial trial.
Last month, a judge concluded that the prosecution team withheld evidence and granted Inman a new trial. DNA testing later proved that convicted killer Hercules Brown, no relation to the victim, left behind a ski mask in the victim’s car with his DNA on it.
The local DA dismissed all charges and Inman was set free.
“I spent 23 years behind bars for something I didn’t do,” Inman said. “It took a really long time to fix, even though it was so clear I wasn’t guilty. I’m glad I get to finally go home, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped make that possible.”
Jess Cino, a law professor at Georgia State University who launched the student-led investigation into the case, explained that Inman’s journey is just beginning.
“The hard part for the legal team ended on Monday,” Cino said. “For Devonia, the hard part began Monday,” he continued. “Devonia lost 23 years of his life and he is going to have to start completely over, get to know his family, grieve those he lost while incarcerated, and adjust to a brand new life. He went to prison in 1998. Life in 2021 is very different.”
Clare Gilbert, executive director of the Georgia Innocence Project, said that Inman’s fight for freedom was a hard road although “significant evidence supporting Devonia’s innocence and direct urging by leading justices of Georgia’s Supreme Court.”
“It would be easy to say that justice was done in this case, but justice was very much delayed,” Cino said. “We’ve had the DNA results for 10 years, but courts kept slamming the door.”