Man Exonerated After Being Imprisoned 15 Years For A Crime He Didn’t Commit

Key in Jail Cell Door

On November 10, 2020 Joseph Webster was reunited with his mother, Marie Burns after spending 15 years in prison. 

He also became the first person exonerated in Nashville’s history, since the Davidson County Conviction Review Unit was established in 2016. 

Webster’s attorney, Daniel Horwitz worked four years to get the exoneration, which finally came after the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office said it “no longer has confidence in the conviction against Mr. Webster.” 

Webster was convicted of first-degree murder in 1998, after witnesses identified him as the person who fatally beat Leroy Owens.

Owens was reportedly at a friend’s home when two men in a white station wagon pulled up and beat him, over a drug debt according to witnesses at the time. 

Court documents say that Owens was able to escape, and ran to another home, missing a shoe. The resident of the home asked the bruised and visibly afraid Owens to leave. One of the men caught up to Owens and killed him with a cinder block. 

At the time, witnesses identified Webster as the man who delivered the fatal blow to Owens. 

Webster’s family told police that another family member admitted to Owens’ murder, according to court documents. Further investigation revealed that the car used in the murder belonged to this family member, not Webster. 

One of the original witnesses in the case was shown a picture of this relative and identified him, not Webster as the person who had killed Owens. 

A hearing on Tuesday (November 10) authorized Webster’s release. 

His attorney told reporters, “After a decade and a half in prison for a murder that he did not commit, I am overjoyed that Joseph Webster’s wrongful conviction will finally be overturned.” 

He added, “Mr. Webster is also thinking of the entire Owens family at this time, which has to process the painful news of learning that the wrong person was convicted of committing this brutal murder.” 

Photo: Getty Images  

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