A 74-year-old woman spent 27 years in prison for a murder she did not commit. This week she was exonerated

On June 26, 1987, Joyce Watkins, now 74, and her then-boyfriend Charlie Dunn picked up Watkins’ four-year-old grandniece Brandi in Kentucky, according to a report filed with Davidson County. Criminal Court.

The next morning, Brandi was unresponsive, so Watkins took her to Nashville Memorial Hospital.

Brandi suffered from severe vaginal injuries and head trauma. She was pronounced dead the next day, according to the report. The two were with Brandi for just nine hours, but medical examiner Dr Gretel Harlan concluded the injuries were sustained during that time.

A year later, in August 1988, Watkins and Dunn were convicted of first degree murder and aggravated rape.

The two spent 27 years behind bars before being granted parole in 2015.

Prior to his release, Dunn sadly died in prison.

Before Brandi was picked up by the couple, she was living with Rose Williams, Brandi’s great-aunt. Brandi’s mother was in Georgia at the time.

Throughout this time, a Kentucky Department of Social Services worker attended the home after receiving a report that Brandi had been abused.

Williams explained that Brandi Brandi’s injuries were the result of a playground accident and the investigation has been closed.

Erase his name

Now, 35 years later, Watkins has been exonerated after insisting on clearing her name.

Dunn was also cleared of the crime and exonerated posthumously.
His daughter, Jackie Dunn, was in court Wednesday. “I wish my dad was here to witness that day,” she said. “He knew he was innocent, he knew he didn’t commit these crimes,” Dunn told CNN affiliate WTVF.
Watkins got help from the Tennessee Innocence Project and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office.

“We got this case because she (Joyce) came to see us,” Jason Gichner, senior legal counsel for the Tennessee Innocence Project, told CNN. “She just showed up at the office and said, ‘Let me tell you my story. I need your help. “

The report was filed on November 10, 2021, asking that the couple’s convictions be overturned.
Joyce Watkins spent 27 years in prison and was released on parole in 2015.

The filing said Watkins noticed blood in Brandi’s underwear when they arrived home, only an hour and a half after the couple picked her up, with at least an hour of that time spent in return to Nashville.

A report by Dr. Shipla Reddy was also included in the filing, which stated that “Dr. Harlan’s head injury dating methodology based on a lack of histiocytic response in brain tissue is not a legitimate method of dating a pediatric head trauma”.

He was wrongfully convicted of murder as a teenager.  After fighting for 26 years, his name has finally been cleared

The ruling noted that Harlan admitted the error in his methodology years after the trial.

“Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn are innocent,” District Attorney Glenn Funk told CNN. “We cannot restore Mrs Watkins or Mr Dunn their lost years, but we can restore their dignity; we can restore their names. Their innocence demands it.”

According to Sunny Eaton of the district attorney’s office, Watkins is the first black woman to be exonerated in the state and the third woman in Tennessee history.

“Miss Watkins, this charge against you is dismissed,” Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton said Wednesday morning, according to WTVF.

As for Watkins or Dunn’s family being compensated for their lost time in jail, Gichner said he wasn’t sure what would happen next.
In a comment to media and CNN affiliate WZTV Watkins said, “I thank everyone for their prayers and helping me out of this mess that cost me half my life for nothing, but I’ll get over it.”


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