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Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn Exonerations

“It’s been a long struggle. But I want to thank the DA’s Office. I want to find thank Mr. Gichner with the Innocence Project. And I thank all the people for their prayers.”

– Ms. Joyce Watkins

 

NewsChannel 5 | January 12, 2022

NewsChannel 5 Vicki Yates: Nothing can bring back the time they lost. But a judge has now dismissed two convictions dating back to 1988. That’s when Joyce Watkins and her late boyfriend Charlie Dunn were convicted for the rape and death of her great niece. 

 

Levi Ismael was in the courtroom where a closer look at the evidence helped to finally prove the couple’s innocence.

 

Levi Ismael: The entire hearing lasted no more than 20 minutes. But this

 

Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton: Miss Watkins, this charge against you is dismissed.

 

Levi Ismael: is more than 30 years in the making for Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn. Watkins fought back tears with her attorneys from the Tennessee Innocence Project as she heard Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton clear Watkins and Dunn of all charges.

 

Joyce Watkins: It’s been a long struggle. But I want to thank the DA’s Office. I want to find thank Mr. Gichner with the Innocence Project. And I thank all the people for their prayers.

 

Levi Ismael: It’s a moment Jackie Dunn wished she could share with her father who died in prison.

 

Jackie Dunn: It’s a bittersweet day. I wish my dad he was here to witness this day. He knew he was innocent. He knew that he did not commit those crimes.

 

Levi Ismael: Watkins and Dunn were convicted in 1988 after bringing her 4 year-old niece to the hospital. Doctors claim the child had been raped and later died from her injuries.

 

Now, just last month, Nashville’s Conviction Review Unit called on new experts who claim the evidence used against the couple as at best circumstantial, at worst deceptive.

 

Male voice: Is there any evidence now that tells you these injuries happened under the care of Ms. Watkins and Charlie Dunn?

 

State’s Medical Examiner: No.

 

Levi Ismael: Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk says it’s clear that the wrong people were behind bars.

 

District Attorney Glenn Funk: Fortunately, wrong convictions are rare. But when they happen, they are real tragedies.

 

Levi Ismael: The couple spent 27 years in prison before Watkins was released in 2015. Dunn passed away in prison that same year.

The Dunn and Watkins families have been close since the beginning, but even closer since last month. That’s when for the first time they heard Watkins was offered a deal to testify against Dunn and avoid prison. She declined. When asked why, she said because Charlie was innocent. We were innocent.

 

Jason Gichner: They always knew they were innocent. Their families always knew they were innocent. And now today, everybody knows they were innocent.

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