Joyce Hardin Garrard, center, is escorted to a court appearance at the Etowah County Judicial Center onThursday in Gadsden, Ala. Garrard is the grandmother of Savannah Hardin, 9, who died after being made to run for three hours as punishment for eating a candy bar. Garrard, along with Jessica Mae Hardin, Savannah's stepmother, are both charged in the child's death last month.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
GADSDEN, Ala. — A judge is going to screen twice more than usual potential jurors for the capital murder trial of an Alabama woman accused of making her 9-year-old granddaughter run until she collapsed and died.
Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree said Monday that there could be "publicity issues" in selecting a jury for the case, which has received widespread news coverage.
Ogletree told lawyers he would call about 750 potential jurors; courthouse officials say about 375 are called for a typical trial.
The trial of 49-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard is set for Sept. 22.
Prosecutors say Garrard forced Savannah Hardin to run for about three hours in February 2012 as punishment for a lie. Savannah collapsed and died days later.
Hardin says she's innocent and blames the death on the girl's medical problems.
The judge's comments about potential jurors were directed to attorneys who gathered at his desk after a brief hearing in the case. The judge asked lawyers whether they were satisfied with calling 375 potential jurors for Sept. 22 and another 375 for Sept. 23.
"I'm great," defense lawyer Dani Bone told the judge.
The judge and lawyers discussed logistical issues such as parking, juror questionnaires, security, news media access and what clothes Garrard would wear during the trial. The woman has attended hearings in striped jail uniforms, but the discussion indicated she would be allowed to wear street clothes in front of jurors.
Earlier during the hearing, Ogletree said he would reconsider a previous ruling that required prosecutors to provide information on potential criminal backgrounds for anyone involved with the state's case.
District Attorney Jimmie Harp said he doesn't believe the state would be legally allowed to reveal information to the defense from national crime databases. Defense lawyer Richard Rhea suggested that prosecutors simply provide the defense with copies of anyone the state does run a criminal background check on.