Donald Watkins, 53, was convicted in 2007 of a home invasion and murder of Alfred Curry, 59.  Curry was killed by a shotgun in the presence of Verlisha Willis and her daughter.  Willis was the state’s star witness and acknowledged at trial that she was a drug addict, but denied being high at the time of the crime.  Willis later admitted to Medill Justice Project students that she indeed was high on heroin at the time of the crime.  Students also uncovered the fact that Watkins had sustained nerve damage to his left arm in 2003 making it less likely that he could have physically committed the crime in 2005.

In 2013, Kathleen Zellner wrote on behalf of Watkins to the State Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit raising these and other questions about the case.  Sally Daly, the spokeswoman for the Cook County office said the CIU received the request, but “absent of any additional information…” the unit will take no action on the case.  Zellner informed Watkins that the unit would not take his case and while she disagrees with their decision, she could no longer represent him.  Watkins is seeking new representation.

“I know Ms. Zellner wouldn’t have gotten involved if I didn’t have a good case,” he said during a telephone interview from the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, “What keeps me going everyday is the love of my family and the fact that I’m innocent. There’s nothing else that’s more powerful.”


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