published Friday, January 10th, 2014

Bond denied, trial set for grandmother in Alabama child's running death

GADSDEN, Ala. — A judge refused bond Friday for an Alabama woman jailed for nearly two years while awaiting trial on charges she killed her 9-year-old granddaughter by making the child run until she collapsed and died.

Turning down defense arguments that the 48-year-old grandmother is in poor health and unjustly charged, Etowah County Circuit Judge William Ogletree ordered Joyce Hardin Garrard to remain in custody and scheduled a June 23 trial.

Ogletree also said he would hold a hearing Feb. 21 on Garrard's request to dismiss a capital murder charge in the 2012 of Savannah Hardin, whom prosecutors say was forced to run for three hours outside her rural home as punishment for a lie about eating a candy bar.

Defense lawyer Dani Bone called the charges a "travesty of justice," arguing that Garrard is sick and could better assist with her defense if out of jail.

Medical forms filed in court show Garrard complained in September and October of numerous maladies including severe headaches, chest pains and knots in her groin and a breast. The health issues had been going on six months at the time, according to a form completed by Garrard.

"There's no doubt she has health problems," Bone told the judge.

District Attorney Jimmie Harp opposed bond, which is rare in capital cases in Alabama, and said the only travesty in the case was the girl's death.

Ogletree also refused previous requests to set bond for Garrard, but he did allow the release a year ago of the child's stepmother, who also is charged in her death. She is free on $150,000 bond.

Garrard sat silent during the hearing and shuffled out afterward with shackles on her feet and arms. Following the hearing, while relatives of Garrard were still seated in the courtroom, Bone asked supporters to pray for the woman.

"Joyce has faith in the system. She has faith in us," he said.

The charge against Garrard could carry a death sentence upon conviction, although the defense maintains the woman is innocent and says the circumstances of the death don't fit capital punishment laws.

Savannah's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is charged with murder for allegedly sitting by without intervening as the child ran until exhausted. Hardin, who does not face a capital charge but still could receive life imprisonment, maintains she is innocent.

Defense lawyers maintain the girl had health problems that led to her death.

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