In December, Devonia Inman walked out of Augusta State Medical Prison after spending 23 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit. It took more than six years by a dedicated team of Troutman Pepper attorneys, in consultation with the Georgia Innocence Project, to overturn his wrongful conviction. Three of those lawyers graduated from Georgia State University College of Law.
Tiffany Bracewell (J.D. ’14), Alan Long (J.D. ’16), and Majda Muhic (J.D. ’17) each played a role in Inman’s habeas corpus case. Muhic and another law alum, Michael Williford (J.D. ’17), began investigating the case and advocating for Inman while attending the College of Law.
Inman had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1998 murder of Donna Brown, a Taco Bell employee in South Georgia. Troutman Pepper took over the case in 2016 after a judge ruled that new DNA evidence found on a ski mask in the victim’s car was still not enough to warrant a new trial.
“We spent a couple of years really reinvestigating the case from top to bottom,” Bracewell said. “We were digging up old records, we went to South Georgia and knocked on doors. If we had a claim, this was the chance to bring it, we couldn’t leave any stone unturned.”
Most legal avenues had already been explored in Inman’s case, but the team was able to file a petition in state court through a new piece of evidence. The attorneys dug up a document they claimed proved prosecutorial misconduct during the trial in 2001.
Their claim was successful and in November 2021, a superior court judge granted Inman’s petition for habeas corpus relief. The Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney then moved to dismiss all underlying charges against Inman, officially exonerating him of the 1998 murder.
“The whole time I kind of refused to let it set in,” Long said. “The day that he was actually released really brought it all together for me. It was the most rewarding experience in my short practice so far and may continue to be for my entire career.”
Helping a client overturn a decades-old conviction is not something many attorneys will experience during their practice. Bracewell said because of what she learned at Georgia State Law, she felt prepared to step into her role on Inman’s legal team shortly after she started at Troutman Pepper.
“I had lunch with Tom Reilly, the partner on the case, my second week at the job,” Bracewell said. “He asked if I had experience doing habeas work and I did because I was just coming off a federal clerkship, which was an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t attend Georgia State.”
Bracewell continued, “I think Georgia State, more than any other law school, preps its students to practice and to make an impact immediately. You can get all the experience you need to be several steps ahead and that’s ultimately what landed me on Devonia’s case.”
Written by Mara Thompson