NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Weeks after the Davidson County District Attorney asked a judge to overturn his conviction, Joseph Webster's murder conviction was vacated, and he was released from prison.
Webster appeared in Judge Steve Dozier’s courtroom Tuesday morning. He and Webster's attorney, Daniel Horwitz, agreed that he was wrongfully convicted after a new investigation revealed evidence never presented during his trial.
Webster was convicted of killing Leroy Owens in 1998 and was sentenced to life in prison.
In late October, Webster’s attorney announced that Davidson County DA Glenn Funk had vacated his sentence after a reinvestigation by the Conviction Review board – clearing the way for Webster’s possible release.
#BREAKING: After a reinvestigation by its Conviction Review Unit that was so thorough I complained about its length, @DavidsonCoDA has filed notice of its intent to vacate Joseph Webster's wrongful conviction: https://t.co/CBr3nbjth2. I am so happy I could cry.— Daniel A. Horwitz (@Scot_Blog) October 29, 2020
“The Conviction Review Unit no longer has confidence in the conviction of Mr. Webster,” the motion stated. “We recommend Mr. Webster’s conviction be vacated and the charges against him dismissed.”
In early 2019, DA Funk said he would reopen the case after new testing revealed that Webster's DNA was not found on the murder weapon. The only witness in the case allegedly changed her story several times.
Webster's DNA was never found on the murder weapon and new witness testimonies point to a different suspect. Based on the new information, Judge Dozier ruled his case will be thrown out.
With the victim's family in the courtroom, the state said there was no other option but to free Webster.
"We are not blind to the weight of disturbing the decision of a jury and would not be asking the court to disturb that decision if we had not lost confidence in this conviction," said Conviction Review Unit Director Sunny Eaton. "Sir, at this point the state has fully lost confidence in the conviction of Mr. Webster and we believe vacation of the conviction is the appropriate remedy."
The judge initially said it would take days to come up with a decision, but it only took him four hours. Webster was released later Tuesday.