Timothy Atkin’s 1987 murder conviction was overturned by a judge seven years ago, but last week, he was finally found “factually innocent” by L.A. County Judge Michael Tynan. This ruling is a necessary step toward compensation for Atkins, who spent more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Under California law, individuals who meet all the legal requirements of being wrongfully convicted can get $100 for every day wrongfully spent in prison. Atkins could potentially receive $800,000.
Atkins says that he is more interested in the state acknowledging they were wrong, “You should never give up…Fight for what you think is right.”
“Though we celebrate at this moment, I know that tomorrow we will be fighting battles – most of them losing battles – for other inmates who are actually innocent and deserve justice,” said Wendy Koen, a lawyer with the California Innocence Project.
Atkins was just 17 when he was arrested and accused of a 1985 carjacking and robbery that killed Vincente Gonzalez. He was convicted of second-degree murder and robbery after a jury trial. He was 40 years old, when the key prosecution witness finally recanted her false testimony. Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law said that like almost everyone emerging from the justice system, Atkins found it hard to make a living and reintegrate into a society vastly different from the 80s. Atkins moved away from L.A. and went to school. He worked as a bus driver for Bakersfield until he had a leg injury. He hopes he can go back to work soon, but is currently in physical therapy.