Ala woman: Toss charge in girl's running death

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Associated Press

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 13 at 11:32 AM

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman charged with capital murder in her granddaughter's running death is asking a judge to dismiss the case because of what her attorneys claim is prosecutors' failure to turn over potential evidence just weeks before trial.

Joyce Garrard, 48, argued in court documents that prosecutors have not abided by a judge's schedule to disclose potential expert witnesses who could testify about the death of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin in 2012.

For that alleged failure, the defense asked a judge in papers filed late last week to dismiss charges.

"Such a blatant disregard by the state for the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial requires an equally drastic remedy to address such a miscarriage of justice," Garrard's lawyers, Dani Bone and William Rhea, argued in court papers.

Prosecutors allege Garrard made her granddaughter run for hours outside her rural home as punishment for a lie about eating candy. Garrard maintains she is innocent, instead blaming the child's death on ongoing medical problems.

Prosecutors argued that Garrard's lawyers are wrong in claiming the state has withheld anything. They say the defense already has its list of witnesses and that attorneys are trying to win public sympathy for the woman before her trial.

Claiming defense lawyers have dribbled "reckless allegations, unfounded in fact and law, into the public" despite a gag order, Etowah County prosecutors asked Circuit Judge William Ogletree to seal all future written pleadings in Garrard's case.

The defense opposed that request, and it also asked Ogletree to prevent jurors from hearing testimony from police or medical workers who spoke with Garrard while the girl was being treated in hospitals before her death.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday in which the judge could consider all the motions. Garrard's trial is set for June 23. She could be sentenced to the death penalty if convicted.

The girl's father filed a lawsuit that parallels the defense arguments by claiming a hospital treated the girl improperly after she collapsed.

The child's stepmother, Jessica Hardin, also is charged with murder, accused of failing to intervene while the girl was being forced to run. She has pleaded not guilty, but no trial date is set.

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