After 30 Years, 2 People Wrongfully Convicted of Crimes Cleared With Help of the Tennessee Innocence Project

Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn were wrongfully convicted of sexual assault leading to the death of Ms. Watkins' 4-year-old niece.

Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn were cleared of a heinous crime they were wrongfully convicted of almost 30 years ago. 

“They always knew they were innocent,” Jason Gichner, senior attorney from the Tennessee Innocence Project said. “Their families always knew they were innocent and now today, everybody knows they’re innocent.”

The Tennessee Innocence Project helped reopen a case against Watkins and Dunn, who were wrongfully convicted of sexual assault leading to the death of Joyce Watkins' 4-year-old niece.

Watkins and Dunn were the adults who brought the little girl to the hospital for help back in 1987.

A recent report from the Conviction Review Unit said the former medical examiner's claims had no scientific basis and there was no medical evidence tying Dunn and Watkins to the child’s injuries.

The State of Tennessee admitted the wrongful conviction and asked a judge for the charges to be overturned.

“Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn are innocent,” Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said. “On behalf of the state of Tennessee, I move this court to dismiss this charge.”

There were hugs and congratulations in the courtroom for Joyce Watkins. But Charlie Dunn didn’t live to see his name cleared as he died in prison in 2015.

“It’s a bittersweet day,” his daughter, Jackie Dunn, said. “I wish my daddy was here to witness this day. He knew he was innocent, he knew he did not commit those crimes.”

After decades lost behind bars for a crime she did not commit, Joyce Watkins walked out of the courtroom a free woman.

 “It’s been a long struggle,” Watkins said. “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.

Related Stories