Couple exonerated by new evidence; one died in custody, declared innocent posthumously
A couple convicted in the brutal rape of a young child in the late 1980s are innocent and should have their names cleared, the prosecution and defense say.
Joyce Watkins and Charles Dunn always maintained their innocence. Dunn died in custody in 2015.
“We cannot give these people justice, but we can acknowledge what happened to them and finally clear their names,” said Jason Gichner of the Tennessee Innocence Project.
Watkins was the child’s great-aunt and Dunn was her longtime boyfriend. Neither had a previous criminal record. They both held steady jobs
The District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit agreed the original trial was riddled with errors that undermine the confidence of the convictions, according to the Nashville Tennessean.
Unfortunately, Watkins spent 27 year in prison, lost her home and her job, and can’t have children or even vote. She also had to sign up for the sex offender registry when she was finally released from prison in 2015, the Dec. 3, 2021 article reported.
Both were convicted in 1988 of child rape and murder. New evidence shows they were innocent, defense and prosecutors agree. This case was reopened in November 2021.
Dr. Adele Lewis, the state’s chief medical examiner, testified that the medical analysis used in the original trial was wrong.
“How does something like this happen?” Gichner questioned. “How did two innocent people spend 27 years in prison for something they didn’t do? The simple answer, your honor, was that no one told the truth,” Gichner said in court.
Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton of Division II of the Davidson County Criminal Court said she would issue a written opinion on the case, and on January 12 she voided Watkins’ and Dunn’s convictions. “In short,” she wrote, “the evidence in this case supports the claim that Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn are innocent and were convicted of crimes they did not commit.”