Defense asks judge to move running-death trial

AP News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2015 8:40 PM

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — A woman charged with making her granddaughter run until she died asked a judge Friday to move her trial to another county because of three years of intense news media coverage.

Attorneys for Joyce Hardin Garrard, 59, requested the change of venue on the day before final jury selection in her capital murder trial.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are due in court Friday to pick a jury, provided wintry precipitation doesn't make travel hazardous, and testimony is set to start next week.

The defense said only three of 125 potential jurors told lawyers they haven't heard of the case, and 11 prospective jurors already have been removed after saying they had made up their minds about the woman's guilt.

Garrard's lawyers cited examples of news media coverage that they described as "inflammatory," including a newspaper headline that mentioned a prosecutor's remark that referred to the woman as a "drill sergeant."

The state did not file an immediate response, but prosecutors previously argued to keep the trial in Gadsden.

Prosecutors contend the Boaz woman made 12-year-old Savannah Hardin run for hours as punishment for a lie in February 2012. The child eventually collapse and died days later in a hospital.

Garrard has pleaded not guilty. The defense has blamed other factors, such as previous medical conditions, for the child's death, and her attorneys have said the woman had no intention of harming the girl.

Questions asked during jury selection indicate medical evidence could be important during the trial. Lawyers asked jurors about a condition called hyponatremia, or abnormally low sodium levels in the body.