A 74-year-old woman was exonerated of the rape and murder of her niece after spending 27 years in prison

·2 min read
woman guard standing in prison cell HMP Bronzefield
A cell in the new HMP Bronzefield (women's prison) in Ashford Middlesex, England.Tim Ockenden - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
  • Joyce Watkins was exonerated after a wrongful conviction led serving 27 years in prison.

  • Watkins, 74, was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated rape of her niece in 1988.

  • She thanked all the people who worked to get her "out of this mess which has cost me half of my life."

A 74-year-old woman from Tennessee was exonerated this week after she spent 27 years in prison due to a wrongful conviction.

Joyce Watkins and her boyfriend at the time, Charlie Dunn, had been convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated rape in 1988 after the death of Watkins' 4-year-old niece Brandi, CNN reported.

Watkins and Dunn in 1987 picked up Brandi from the home of her great aunt in Kentucky and found her unresponsive a day later. They took her to Nashville Memorial Hospital, where doctors examined her vaginal injuries and head trauma.

A medical examiner determined that the injuries had been sustained in the nine hours that Brandi had been in the care of Watkins and Dunn, according to the CNN report.

Before Watkins and Dunn had picked Brandi up, a social worker visited Brandi's great aunt's home after receiving a report of child abuse. Rose Williams, Brandi's great aunt, told the social worker that Brandi had sustained injuries while at the playground. The social worker closed the case shortly after, CNN said.

In a report filed with the Davidson County Criminal Court, Watkins said she noticed that Brandi had blood in her underwear when she and Dunn brought her home to Nashville. The report also included testimony from pediatric expert Dr. Shilpa Reddy, who called into question the medical examiner's methodology.

The methodology used to date the time of the head injury Brandi sustained in 1987 "is not a legitimate method for dating pediatric head trauma," Reddy's report said, according to CNN.

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

Watkins and Dunn had spent 27 years in prison before they received parole in 2015. Dunn died just ahead of his release, according to CNN. Dunn was also posthumously exonerated.

"I wish my daddy was here to witness this day," Dunn's daughter, Jackie, told CNN affiliate WTVF on Wednesday. "He knew he was innocent, he knew he did not commit those crimes."

In statement to CNN affiliate WZTV, Watkins said she's grateful for the ruling.

"I thank all the people for their prayers and helping me get out of this mess which has cost me half of my life for nothing," she said. "But I'll get over it."

Read the original article on Insider

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting