A 74-year-old woman from Tennessee, USA, who spent around 27 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of her great-niece’s murder has been exonerated.
Joyce Watkins, the woman, was found guilty alongside Charlie Dunn, her boyfriend, of the rape and murder of Brandi, 4, in 1987.
As a result of the incident, the woman spent 27 years in prison before being granted parole in 2015 and DUnn passed away in jail the same year while waiting for his parole hearing.
After her release, the case of Watkins was taken up by the Tennessee Innocence Project leading to re-examination of the investigation by the Nashville Conviction Review Unit.
The incident culminated a new report in 2021 and it showed that the convictions of the couple at the time were a result of a prosecution that was labeled as “dishonest”.
It also said that the prosecution relied on discredited methods to determine their guilt.
On January 12, 2022 a judge from Nashville ruled to dismiss the charges against Watkins and Dunn.
The judge also cleared their names and removed Watkins from the Federal Sex Offenders registry, on which she had remained after being released from prison.
During an interview with News Channel 5, Watkins said:
It’s been a long struggle, but I want to thank the DA’s office. I want to thank Mr. Gichner here with the Tennessee Innocence Project and all the people for their prayers and just helping me to get out of this mess which cost me half of my life for nothing.
Jackie, the daughter of Dunn, was in attendance to see her father being officially exonerated.
Jackie said the verdict was bittersweet because her father was not there to witness getting justice.
I wish my daddy was here to witness this day. He knew he was innocent. He knew he did not commit those crimes… He died in a place he was never supposed to be.
On June 26, 1987, Brandi, who was just 4, was picked up by Watkins from another relative’s house and was taken to stay with her and dunn at their house in Nashville, however a day after that, Watkins found Brandi unconscious and took her to a hospital, where she passed away.
Doctors at the hospital found signs of rape and head trauma when she was brought there and the leading investigators ended up charging Watkins and Dunn with rape and murder.
Medical experts re-examining the case found that the methods that were used during the investigation were not rooted in science.
It also stated that there was no evidence that the couple carried out the attack.
The lawyer of Watkins also said that everyone in their families knew that they were innocent.