Case to open against woman accused of running granddaughter to death

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 09, 2015 7:06 AM

(Reuters) - Prosecutors were set to open their case on Monday in the trial of an Alabama woman accused of killing her 9-year-old granddaughter by forcing her to run non-stop for three hours.

Defense lawyers are expected to say the child's death was not the fault of the grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, who has been charged with capital murder.

Opening statements in the trial are set to come after a jury selection process that lasted nearly three weeks and after the judge in the case refused the defense's request to move the trial to a venue where it less well known.

Garrard is accused of forcing Savannah Hardin to run non-stop for three hours at her home in Etowah County, in northeast Alabama, in February 2012, as punishment for lying about having eaten forbidden chocolates.

The girl collapsed, went into seizures and died days later at a Birmingham hospital from dehydration and low sodium, a condition common in marathon runners, authorities have said.

The girl, a third-grader, suffered from unspecified medical issues that resulted in frequent doctors visits, according to court documents. Defense attorneys have said that it was her medical condition, and not the punishment, that caused her death.

Savannah Hardin's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, has also been charged with murder in the case, for allegedly witnessing the punishment and failing to intervene.

The girl lived with her father, who frequently traveled for work and was out of town at the time of the incident, authorities have said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Leslie Adler)