Meet the Exonerees

Timothy Atkins

State: California
Date of Birth: 1967
Incident Date: 01/01/1985
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 07/28/1987
Age When Exonerated: 39
Exonerated Date: 02/08/2007
Time Served: 23
Conviction: Murder
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

At the age of seventeen, Timothy Atkins was falsely accused of the 1985 murder in Venice, California of florist Vincente Gonzalez during an attempted carjacking. Police were led to Atkins when a homeless drug-user, Denise Powell, told police that Atkins had confessed to her that he was responsible for the murder. The victim’s wife, Maria Gonzalez, identified Atkins as the perpetrator despite a large discrepancy between Atkins’s physical appearance and her original description of the perpetrators, whom she only saw for a few seconds. Maria Gonzalez initially told police that the culprit was 5’6” in height and weighed 135-145 pounds. She later recanted this description after seeing Atkins, who at the time was 6’0”, and weighed 175 pounds. Lastly, a jailhouse snitch was allowed to testify that Atkins was responsible for the murder. More than twenty years after Atkins’s conviction, the California Innocence Project tracked down Denise Powell, the main witness, and she recanted her story. Powell confessed that she fabricated the story after police told her they would not allow her to leave the police station until she told them something. The same judge who had presided over Atkins's original trial overturned the conviction and ordered his release twenty years after he was wrongfully convicted. A California-based youth group agreed to pay for Atkins's education at California State University of Los Angeles, where he intended to study counseling.