Dad convicted of murdering daughter, 10, should get new trial, Supreme Court rules

awilson1@herald-leader.comApril 22, 2011 

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that Patrick Watkins, who was found guilty of murder in the death of his 10-year-old daughter, Michaela, should be granted a new trial.

The court on Thursday found that it had no choice but to grant Watkins' appeal after finding that his wife, Joy, who was also convicted of Michaela's murder, had made 17 incriminating statements about Patrick Watkins to police, that the statements were played for jurors, and that Patrick Watkins was never allowed to respond to or refute those statements.

That violated Patrick Watkins' Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser, the court said.

Michaela was found dead March 11, 2007, in the Winchester home she shared with Patrick Watkins, her biological father, and Joy Watkins, her stepmother. Investigators found evidence that Michaela had skin-peeling burns on her legs and buttocks, bite marks on her ears, and crushed ribs; she had a total of 77 injuries, 35 of them to her head.

In September 2008, both Patrick and Joy Watkins were given life sentences with possibilities for parole after serving 20 years.

The Kentucky Attorney General's Office has 20 days to file for a petition for rehearing, which is a motion asking the court to reconsider. Once the 20-day period has passed, the Department of Corrections will send Patrick Watkins back to Clark County and a pre-trial hearing will be set.

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