Jury selection begins in Alabama girl's running death

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 12:38 PM

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Jury selection began Tuesday in the capital murder trial of an Alabama woman accused of making her granddaughter run until she collapsed and died.

The judge, meanwhile, considered prosecutor's request that could gut defense claims about what killed the girl. The defense blames the girl's death on medical problems and care, and prosecutors want to prevent jurors from hearing any evidence about that.

A group of about 300 potential jurors were called to court for the trial of Joyce Hardin Garrard, court officials said, and another 300 were summoned for Thursday.

The 59-year-old Boaz woman, who has been jailed since her arrest, is charged in the death of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin three years ago. She could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors contend the woman made the child run around her yard picking up sticks for hours as a punishment for a lie about candy. The girl collapsed outside the rural home and died three days later at a hospital, authorities said.

The defense blames the child's death on other medical problems.

Opening statements are set for next week.

Before then, Etowah County Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree could hold a hearing on a motion by prosecutors to limit testimony about the child's treatment following her collapse on Feb. 17, 2012.

In a request Friday, the state asked Ogletree to bar the defense from presenting evidence about the way Savannah was treated at two hospitals.

While the defense has indicated it might present evidence pointing to problems with the girl's care, the state argued jurors shouldn't be allowed to consider it, saying "her condition had deteriorated to such a degree that she could not have survived."

The defense didn't immediately file a response.

The girl's treatment also is an issue in a lawsuit filed by Savannah's father Robert Hardin, the son of Joyce Garrard. He said workers made mistakes treating the child for abnormally low sodium levels at the hospital in Gadsden before she was transferred to Birmingham.

The child's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is charged with murder in the girl's death for allegedly failing to intervene with the punishment. She is free on bond and will be tried separately.