74-Year-Old Woman Exonerated After She Spent 27 Years In Prison For Crimes She Didn’t Commit

Joyce Watkins wrongfully accused of first-degree murder and aggravated rape in 1988

Joyce Watkins, a 74-year-old woman who was wrongfully convicted of murdering her great-niece, spending 27 years in prison, was exonerated last week.

According to CNN, on June 26, 1987 Watkins and Charlie Dunn, her boyfriend at the time, went to pick up Watkins’ four-year-old great-niece Brandi in Kentucky. The next morning, Brandi was unresponsive, so Watkins took her to Nashville Memorial Hospital.

A report filed with the Davidson County Criminal Court claims the young girl suffered from severe vaginal injury and head trauma. She was pronounced dead the following day.

Watkins and Dunn were with Brandi for only nine hours, yet Dr. Gretel Harlan, the medical examiner, concluded the injuries were sustained during that period.

A year later, in August of 1988, the pair were convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated rape. Both were granted parole in 2015 after spending 27 years in prison. Sadly, Dunn died in jail before his granted release.

RELATED: Wrongfully Convicted Black Man Receives $6 Million After Spending 23 Years In Prison

Watkins reportedly received help from the Tennessee Innocence Project and the Davidson County District Attorney's Office.

"We got this case because she (Joyce) came to us," Jason Gichner, senior legal counsel with the Tennessee Innocence Project, told CNN. "She just showed up at the office and said, 'Let me tell you my story. I need your help.'"

A report from Dr. Shipla Reddy was included in the filing and said the medical examiner’s "methodology for dating the head injury based upon a lack of histiocytic response in the brain tissue is not a legitimate method for dating pediatric head trauma."

The ruling noted that Dr. Harlan conceded the error in her methodology years after the trial.

"Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn are innocent," District Attorney Glenn Funk told the news network, "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."

It isn’t immediately clear whether Watkins or Dunn’s family will receive financial compensation for their time wasted in prison.

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