If Andrews' defense had known about Watts in 1975, there is a reasonable chance he may have been acquitted, said Howe.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Robert McClelland agreed. On Friday, McClelland threw out Andrews’ conviction and ordered a new trial on the basis Andrews’ defense was never provided evidence regarding Watts.
"There is no way of telling whether the information concerning Watt was withheld or simply ignored as irrelevant when he was eliminated as a suspect by the police. Regardless, the information was not in the hands of the defense team to make their own decision of whether it would provide a defense for their client," the judge wrote in his ruling.
And on Wednesday, following a late afternoon bond hearing on Monday, Andrews finally walked out of prison a free man.
“It’s hard to say that Isiah Andrews is lucky after all the wrongs that have been done to him the course of his life,” said Howe. “But in 99 times out of 100, he would have died in prison. This would have been successfully covered up. No one would have found out about Willie Watts.”
“There are so many cases where the evidence never comes out and the person maintains their innocence until they die, and the case is forgotten,” said Howe. “How many other people are out there who just don’t get lucky like that?”
As for Andrews, he feels both overjoyed and vindicated, said Howe. The OIP is working to assist him to secure housing where he can safely quarantine due to his medical vulnerability from COVID-19 and with other needs.
“Isiah Andrews can’t possibly get justice for this,” said Howe. “There’s nothing anyone can do to make this right for him. This is just about not continuing to make things worse. This is the least we can do, and maybe the most we can do.”