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

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

The next morning, Brandi did not respond, so Watkins took her to Nashville Memorial Hospital.

Brandi suffered severe vaginal injury and head trauma. She was pronounced dead the next day, the report said. The two were with Brandi for only nine hours, but the doctor, Dr. Gretel Harlan, concluded that the injuries had been 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 both were released on probation in 2015.

Prior to his release, Dunn sadly died in prison.

Charlie Dunn was awaiting his probation in 2015 when he suddenly died in prison.

Before being picked up by the couple, Brandi lived at the home of Rose Williams, Brandi’s great-grandmother. Brandi’s mother was in Georgia at the time.

Throughout this period, a Kentucky Department of Social Services employee visited the home after receiving a report that Brandi had been abused.

Williams explained Brandi’s injuries, Brandi was due to a playground accident, and the investigation was closed.

Clears her name

Now, 35 years later, Watkins has been acquitted after she made it a point to clear her name.

Dunn was also acquitted of the crime and posthumously acquitted.
His daughter, Jackie Dunn, was at the hearing on Wednesday. “I wish my father was here to witness this day,” she said. “He knew he was innocent, he knew he was not committing those crimes,” Dunn told CNN affiliate WTVF.
Watkins got help from Tennessee innocence project and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office.

“We got this case because she (Joyce) came to us,” Jason Gichner, senior lawyer at 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, requesting that the couple’s convictions be dropped.
Joyce Watkins spent 27 years in prison and was released on parole in 2015.

The filing clarified that Watkins noticed blood in Brandi’s underwear when they got home, just an hour and a half after the couple picked her up, with at least an hour of that time spent driving back to Nashville.

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

He was wrongly 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 can not give Ms. Watkins or Mr. Dunn their lost years, but we can restore their dignity; we can restore their names. Their innocence requires it. . ”

According to Sunny Eaton of the District Attorney’s Office, Watkins is the first black woman ever to be acquitted in the state and only the third woman in Tennessee history.

“Miss Watkins, this charge against you has been denied,” Davidson County Criminal Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton said Wednesday morning, according to WTVF.

As for Watkins or Dunn’s family receiving compensation for their wasted time in jail, Gichner said he is unsure what will happen along the way.
In a comment to the media and CNN affiliate WZTV Watkins said, “I thank all the people for their prayers and for helping me get out of this mess, which has cost me half my life for nothing, but I get over it.”


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