A Georgia man was finally released from prison after serving 23 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
Devonia Inman, 43, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 murder of Taco Bell manager Donna Brown. Brown was a night manager at a Taco Bell in Adel, Georgia when she was killed in the restaurant’s parking lot and robbed of $1700. Her car was stolen and later found by police. Inside the car, police found a homemade ski mask which would be an important piece of evidence in the case.
According to the Georgia Innocence Project, there was no physical evidence linking Inman to the murder and three of four key witnesses in his trial later recanted their testimony.
During the trial, Inman’s defense attorneys tried to call witnesses to testify that another man, Hercules Brown — no relation to the victim — had allegedly committed and confessed to the murder. However, the judge refused to let the defense put the witness on the stand and jurors were never made aware of Brown’s possible connection.
Another key piece of information the jurors never heard was that Brown had been stopped by police prior to the murder. In his car they found a homemade ski mask similar to the one found in Donna Brown’s stolen car.
Months after the Taco bell murder, while Inman was in jail, Brown committed another armed robbery leaving two more people dead. Brown would plead guilty to those murders and be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Years after being convicted and sentenced, Inman’s case was picked up by the Innocence Project. They had a DNA test done on the mask which showed that the only DNA on the mask was Hercules Brown’s.
Last month a judge concluded that Inman was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors withheld evidence. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office declined to appeal that ruling, prompting the local district attorney to dismiss all charges and set Inman free.
“I spent 23 years behind bars for something I didn’t do,” Inman said after walking out of the Augusta State Medical Prison on Monday, according to the Georgia Innocence Project. “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.”
A donation campaign set up by the Georgia Innocence Project has now raised more than $10,000 to “help Devonia rebuild his life.”