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VOL. 45 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 12, 2021

Prosecutors support Innocence Project push to reopen case

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Prosecutors are supporting a push by the Tennessee Innocence Project to reopen a post-conviction appeal for two people in the rape and slaying of a 4-year-old child more than 30 years ago.

Attorneys from the Tennessee Innocence Project filed a motion Wednesday asking a Nashville judge to reopen the case of Joyce Watkins and Charles Dunn, the Tennessean reported. Watkins and Dunn were convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated rape and sentenced in 1988 life in prison.

The Nashville district attorney's office said it would support the wrongful conviction push under the direction of its Conviction Review Unit, the newspaper reported.

"The inescapable reality is that we may never know for certain what happened," Sunny Eaton, director of the unit, said in a report filed to the court Wednesday.

Eaton said it was clear that Watkins and Dunn did not commit aggravated rape or cause the child's death.

"The case against them was purely circumstantial and failed to exclude other reasonable theories or possible perpetrators," the report said.

Watkins, the child's great aunt, and Dunn, her boyfriend, had picked the child up from another relative hours before she died.

Watkins was released on parole in 2015 and remains under strict Sex Offender Registry conditions. Dunn died in prison.

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