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Black Man Freed From Georgia Prison After Serving 23 Years For A Murder He Didn’t Commit —

Justice Ain’t Blind, It’s Racist: Black Man Freed From Georgia Prison After Serving 23 Years For A Murder He Didn’t Commit

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A Black man had more than half his life stolen from him by a racist justice system and now we’re in a position where we’re celebrating him winning his freedom after an uphill legal battle he should never have had to endure.

43-year-old Devonia Inman walked out of a Georgia prison on Monday after spending 23 years locked up for a murder and robbery he did not commit.

Prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that likely would have set him free. Judges refused to allow testimony or hear new cases that likely would have set him free. Witnesses recanted testimony that helped send him to prison.

America’s so-called “blind” justice system failed Inman at every level—as it has done to countless Black men—but we should just be happy he’s free now, right?

According to the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution, Inman never stopped professing his innocence after he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1998 murder of Donna Brown, a Taco Bell night manager who was shot and killed by a gunman who then robbed her for $1,700 the branch made that day.

Last month, an appeals judge threw out Inman’s conviction and ordered a new trial on the grounds that prosecutors withheld evidence that strongly suggested he was innocent of Brown’s murder. But the new trial never happened as the state Attorney General’s Office declined to appeal the judge’s order, and on Monday, Cook County Superior Court Chief Judge Clayton Tomlinson signed an order to toss the case altogether and set Inman free.

“It is the state’s assessment that continuing to litigate this case is not in the interest of justice,” the order stated.

Inman was reportedly convicted despite there being zero physical evidence tying him to Brown’s murder. Instead, he was convicted based largely on the testimony of four witnesses, three of whom later recanted.

In fact, according to the Daily Mail, all three witnesses including Marquetta Thomas, the sister of Inman’s girlfriend at the time, admitted they lied either to appease overzealous detectives, because they were snitches looking for reduced sentences or, in Thomas’ case, for petty personal reasons.

Thomas admitted that Inman and her sister were in a toxic relationship and it was for that reason she told a lie that would help send him to prison while innocent for more than two decades.

“Basically, I made it up, just to get him out of the picture,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to get this guy.”

As terrible as all of that is, lying witnesses weren’t the only forces working against Inman.

AJC reported that the judge presiding over Inman’s murder case refused to hear testimony from witnesses who claimed another man, Hercules Brown (no relation to the murder victim), told them he was the one who killed Donna. Then, a decade after Inman’s conviction, the Georgia Innocence Project found in the clerk’s office a mask prosecutors said was worn by Brown’s killer, andwouldn’t you know itthe Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime lab ran a DNA test on the mask and found it matched Hercules’ DNA.

Even with that new evidence, a judge denied a motion for a new trial, and the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case at all.

As for the evidence prosecutors failed to turn over to the defense, Chattooga County Chief Judge Kristina Cook Graham, the judge who ordered the new trial for Inman, said information about Hercules Brown’s arrest in September 2000 for illegal gun and crack cocaine possession was withheld. Now, Hercules being in possession of drugs and an illegal weapon doesn’t make him a murderer in and of itself, but when police searched his car, they reportedly found a makeshift mask similar to the one used in Donna’s killing.

If that information would have been disclosed to Inman’s lawyers, it “would have been independent, reliable and admissible evidence tending to connect Hercules Brown to the murder, corroborating the defense’s theory of mistaken identity,” Graham wrote in a statement.

And if The Innocence Project, Atlanta attorney Jessica Gabel Cino, who spent years fighting to overturn the conviction, and the Atlanta law firm Troutman Pepper, which agreed to represent Inman for free, hadn’t been relentless in working to free a victim of a racist and egregiously negligent justice system, Inman would still be in prison for a crime he didn’t commit right now.

This wasn’t justice. This wasn’t accountability. Inman is a victim and the state has just barely begun to make right what it has taken from him.


Justice Ain’t Blind, It’s Racist: Black Man Freed From Georgia Prison After Serving 23 Years For A Murder He Didn’t Commit

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