Joyce Hardin Garrard is looking at spending the rest of her days behind bars after an Alabama jury recommended that the 50-year-old be given life in prison for forcing her 9-year-old granddaughter to run until she died.
Garrard was convicted on March 20 of capital murder for forcing granddaughter Savannah Hardin to run in the backyard while carrying sticks in 2012. Savannah had been caught eating candy, which was forbidden due to a medical condition.
Savannah became severely dehydrated and then collapsed, having a seizure. The young girl was taken to a hospital, where she died three days later. The trial attracted quite a bit of nationwide attention, with coverage from several national news outlets.
A surveillance camera from Savannah’s bus recorded her grandmother saying the young girl would be forced to run as a lesson for lying about eating a candy bar. The prosecution said that Joyce Hardin Garrard made Savannah run until she was vomiting and begging to stop.
“She was tortured,” Assistant District Attorney Carol Griffith told the jury.
“That lady right there ran her granddaughter until she was on her knees begging, ‘I’ve got to stop’,” District Attorney Jimmie Harp said during closing arguments.
During the trial, Garrard’s attorney tried to compare the young girl’s death to a youth sports practice, saying the case could allow parents to sue coaches if their children were ever injured.
“If you do what they want you to do… every single coach out there is going to quit within 30 seconds. If a kid slides into second and skins his knee, what’s the charge going to be?”
During the sentencing arguments, the prosecution claimed that Garrard had no remorse. They had asked for the death penalty.
“This is the ultimate criminal trial, where the ultimate punishment is on the table,” chief deputy district attorney Marcus Reid said, according to WVTM.
But the defense tried to ask for leniency, referencing the Bible and asking that jurors not “throw the first stone.”
On Thursday, a jury in Gadsden voted 7 to 5 that Garrard be sentenced to life in prison rather than receive the death penalty.
Joyce Hardin Garrard is not the only one facing charges in the death of Savannah Hardin. The girl’s stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is charged with murder for failing to intervene while the young girl was running to death. She has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond awaiting trial.
Joyce Hardin Garrard will face sentencing on May 11.
[Image via AL.com]