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Georgia judge’s ruling bolsters new trial bid for longtime inmate

Paula Smith of the point out lawyer general’s business office advised Graham that Inman’s new promises are being raised as well late and are barred on procedural grounds. “Those should have been elevated way back when,” she stated.

In court docket filings, point out lawyers contend Inman experienced support in the armed robbery and murder of Donna Brown.

Inman’s circumstance, chronicled in Year 4 of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast, is extraordinary. With no actual physical proof tying him to the criminal offense, he was convicted mostly on the testimony of four essential witnesses, a few of whom have because recanted their testimony.

As for the fourth witness, Choose Buster McConnell, who presided in excess of the 2001 trial, has claimed he didn’t feel that woman when she claimed she saw Inman in Brown’s car soon after the killing.

Also noteworthy is that before the demo, Inman’s lawyers tried to contact witnesses who have been likely to testify that Hercules Brown, who experienced worked at Taco Bell and was unrelated to the target, had explained to them he committed the murder. But McConnell disallowed that testimony.

Brown and another person would eliminate two persons during an armed theft of Bennett’s Grocery in Adel months after Donna Brown’s killing. Hercules Brown later on pleaded guilty to these murders and is serving daily life without the need of parole.

A ten years right after Inman’s demo, the Georgia Innocence Venture was allowed to perform DNA screening on a makeshift mask located in Donna Brown’s motor vehicle after the killing. The GBI crime lab discovered a match: Hercules Brown.


The mask uncovered in murder sufferer Donna Brown’s automobile. GBI criminal offense lab checks established that DNA observed on the mask belonged to Hercules Brown, who was not billed in the circumstance. (AJC file photograph)

Inman’s attorneys submitted a movement for a new demo, but McConnell declined to grant it.

Inman appealed that get, but in 2014 the Ga Supreme Court docket declined to even think about it. Still, legal professionals symbolizing Inman filed a lawsuit asking for Inman’s conviction to be overturned since he is truly harmless.

Hercules Brown, who is serving a life-without-parole sentence for a double murder. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

Hercules Brown, who is serving a everyday living-devoid of-parole sentence for a double murder. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

The legal professional general’s place of work sought to get that fit dismissed. When Graham declined to do so, the state appealed to the Ga Supreme Court docket. In an additional remarkable improvement in the case, the large court docket not only allowed Graham’s determination to stand, two justices wrote concurring thoughts questioning the ongoing imprisonment of Inman.

A single of individuals justices, David Nahmias, stated he regrets the condition Supreme Court’s conclusion in 2014 declining to listen to Inman’s appeal. With the new evidence, he wrote, “there is no question that a new demo would be really different than the one particular in which Inman was uncovered guilty.”

Of the much more than 1,500 murder scenarios that Nahmias reported he’s reviewed as a justice, Inman’s circumstance is the one particular that triggers him “the most worry that an harmless human being continues to be convicted and sentenced to provide the relaxation of his lifestyle in jail.”

Take a look atHear to Season 4 of the AJC’s “Breakdown” podcast: “Murder Beneath the Gnat Line”

On Monday, Inman’s new legal professionals made a Sept. 28, 2000, police report that confirmed Hercules Brown was arrested for illegal gun and crack cocaine possession exterior a supermarket in Adel, fewer than a mile absent from the Taco Bell in which Donna Brown was killed. Within Hercules Brown’s car or truck law enforcement identified a home made mask.

Brown would be released on bond from those people expenses and dedicate the double murder at Bennett’s Grocery a couple months later on.

Reilly, a person of Inman’s new legal professionals functioning totally free of cost, contended Monday that the state withheld the September 2000 law enforcement report tying Brown to an additional handmade mask even although prosecutors understood the protection was hoping to tie Brown to the Taco Bell killing.

Lawyer Bud Siemon, who represented Inman decades in the past in his original appeals, said he would have pursued the matter if he had only identified about it. “It would have been a excellent challenge,” reported Siemon, a person of two witnesses who testified at Monday’s listening to. “That would have produced our argument substantially stronger.”

Past year, Graham signed an order enabling Inman’s new legal professionals and condition attorneys to get videoconferenced testimony of Brown on Dec. 7. But an formal at the jail the place Brown is incarcerated stated he “absolutely refused” to appear out of his mobile and solution concerns.

Inman’s lawyers then asked Graham to attract an “adverse inference” from Brown, acquiring he had incriminated himself in Donna Brown’s murder by refusing to be questioned about it. Over objections by point out attorneys, Graham signed the purchase at the outset of Monday’s hearing.

“Judge Graham, in essence, explained she is authorized to suppose that Hercules’ refusal to respond to issues reflects the reality he is guilty,” mentioned Atlanta protection legal professional Don Samuel, who has adopted the scenario. “This may perhaps have tipped the equilibrium.”

THE Story SO Much

Sept. 19, 1998 Night time manager Donna Brown is shot and killed through an armed robbery outside the Taco Bell in Adel.

2001 Devonia Inman is convicted at demo of Brown’s murder and sentenced to lifestyle in prison devoid of parole.

2011 The GBI crime lab finds DNA from saliva on a makeshift mask matches Hercules Brown, who labored at Taco Bell and was unrelated to the target.

2014 The Ga Supreme Court docket declines to listen to Inman’s appeal soon after he was denied a new demo primarily based on the DNA evidence.

2018 Inman’s new attorneys file a lawsuit looking for to overturn Inman’s conviction on grounds he is basically harmless. In reaction to the state’s movement to dismiss that lawsuit, the Georgia Supreme Courtroom questions Inman’s continued incarceration, and 1 justice expresses regret that the high court docket refused to listen to Inman’s attraction 4 a long time prior.

June 28, 2021 Choose holds hearing on lawsuit and is envisioned to rule in coming months.