Davidson County District Attorney's office looks to clear couple of wrongful conviction

Tennessee Innocence Project helped reopen the case
Joyce Watkins in court
Posted at 5:56 AM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 12:41:38-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Davidson County District Attorney's Office is shedding new light on a decades-old case saying a couple was wrongfully convicted after a 4-year-old died in 1987 of suspected child abuse.

The DA's Conviction Review Unit said Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn's convictions were a result of an aggressive and at times dishonest prosecution.

They were convicted of the rape and homicide of Watkins' niece Brandi Jessie Brooks in 1987.

The DA's office believes their prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence, since-discredited methods by medical examiners and defendants who initially spoke to police without an attorney.

Dunn died in prison while awaiting parole.

Watkins served 27 years in prison and was granted parole in 2015. She is expected to be present at the December 3 hearing along with several of Dunn's family members.

This case began unfolding in 1987 when Watkins picked up her niece, Brandi, from her sister's home where she had been for two months.

Watkins said she drove the little girl to Nashville General hospital after she said she felt sick. Our NewsChannel 5 cameras were there as she was transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Metro Police determined the child had suffered abuse and trauma to her head, and other injuries consistent with sexual abuse.

Watkins spoke to NewsChannel 5 about the police investigation more than three decades ago, on the day her niece died.

"I don't have a problem with whatever they say because they are thinking of everything that could've happened. But they're not really getting down to the facts of the possibility of what had happened," said Watkins.

The Tennessee Innocence Project helped reopen the case.