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Man Convicted In Taco Bell Murder Exonerated After 23 Years In Prison
Devonia Inman spent more than two decades in prison for the 1998 murder of Donna Brown, but DNA evidence ultimately linked another suspect to the case.
A Georgia man is free after a judge overturned his 23-year-old murder conviction.
Devonia Inman was convicted for the 1998 shooting death of Donna Brown, a Taco Bell night manager who was slain in the parking lot of the restaurant's Adel, Georgia location, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The killer took $1,700 from Brown’s possession and got away in the victim’s car.
Inman was convicted on charges of armed robbery and murder, according to Fox News. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
In November, Chattooga County Chief Judge Kristina Cook Graham threw out Inman’s conviction, citing DNA evidence that pointed to another suspect in the case.
“We, along with Mr. Inman and his family, were extremely gratified to receive the court’s final order,” said Inman’s lawyer, Tom Reilly. “We are hopeful that the court’s order will finally bring an end to this matter and that Mr. Inman will be reunited with his family as soon as possible.”
On Dec. 20, 2021, Inman was released from the Augusta State Medical Prison.
According to the AJC, which examined the case in season four of its “Breakdown” podcast, Inman’s conviction was based mainly on the testimony of four witnesses. Three of the four later recanted their testimony.
Although last month’s decision allowed for a new trial for Inman, the Georgia General Attorney’s Office declined to appeal the ruling, prompting the Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney to dismiss all charges, according to the Georgia Innocence Project.
“I spent 23 years behind bars for something I didn’t do,” Inman said upon his release, according to the Innocence Project. “It took a really long time to fix, even though it was so clear I wasn’t guilty.”
Factoring into Judge Graham’s ruling was a ski mask found in the victim’s car after the murder, according to the AJC. The Georgia Innocence Project conducted DNA testing that linked the mask to Hercules Brown, a man convicted of killing two people during an armed robbery only months after Brown’s murder. It was the only DNA found on the homemade mask.
Hercules Brown, who has no relation to Donna Brown, is currently serving a life sentence.
At Inman’s trial, the judge refused to allow testimony related to Hercules Brown, according to the Innocence Project. The ski mask also wasn’t made known to Inman’s defense.
In November, Judge Graham stated the mask would have been “independent, reliable, and admissible evidence tending to connect Hercules Brown to the murder, corroborating the defense’s theory of mistaken identity,” according to the AJC.
There was no physical evidence tying Inman to Donna Brown’s murder.
“This court recognizes that the miscarriage of justice exception is reserved for extraordinary circumstances and is to be sparingly applied,” stated Judge Graham in her ruling. “But this is an extraordinary case.”
Inman was released just in time to spend Christmas as a free man.
“I’m glad I get to finally go home,” Inman continued. “And I’m grateful to everyone who helped make that possible.”
The Office of Attorney General Chris Carr told Oxygen.com that they were unable to comment at this time.