The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 7, 2013

Judge: No bond for grandma charged in girl's death


Associated Press

— GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — A judge refused to set bond Tuesday for a 48-year-old woman charged with capital murder in the death of her granddaughter, who prosecutors say was run to death as punishment for a lie.

Circuit Judge William Ogletree rejected defense claims that Joyce Hardin Garrard should be freed for health reasons as she awaits trial in the death of Savannah Hardin, 9.

Six neighbors testified they wouldn't mind having Garrard back in the neighborhood.

But the judge sided instead with prosecutors, who argued that bond isn't normally allowed in cases carrying a potential death penalty in Alabama.

"We adamantly object to it," said Assistant District Attorney Marcus Reid.

Garrard appeared somber as she left court. She seemed playful beforehand, smiling and shaking her legs to make her ankle shackles jangle as she entered the courtroom.

Garrard and Jessica Mae Hardin, Savannah Hardin's stepmother, were arrested after the child's death in February 2012.

Prosecutors contend Garrard forced Savannah to run around her yard picking up debris for about three hours as punishment for a lie about eating candy, and Hardin failed to intervene. The girl collapsed, and she died at a hospital three days later.

Both women say they are innocent.

Hardin, who had a baby shortly after her arrest, is charged with non-capital murder and was freed on $150,000 bond in January.

Garrard's lawyer, Dani Bone, argued the grandmother has a health history that includes a stroke and four heart attacks and could be freed under state law.

Garrard also suffers from depression, anxiety and sleep apnea that could affect her memory and prevent her from helping with her defense, he said.

"We're asking for a bond, the same as the co-defendant," Bone told the judge.

Dr. Roger Buck, who treats prisoners in Etowah County's jail, testified about Garrard's health issues but disagreed with defense claims that the woman's health would suffer if she remained in custody.

While six area residents said they wouldn't mind if the judge freed Garrard, Reid argued that Alabama's Constitution says defendants in capital cases are not eligible for bond. Garrard shouldn't be granted an exception, he said.

Reid — who called Garrard the "drill sergeant from hell" during a previous hearing — said the state was seeking the death penalty against the woman because the child's running death was particularly cruel and heinous.

"There's no more helpless victim than a child," he said.

Numerous relatives and neighbors of Garrard sat on the defense's side of the courtroom during the hearing, but no family members sat on the prosecution side.

No trial date is set.