Etowah County Judge William “Billy” Ogletree today sentenced Joyce Hardin Garrard, 50, to life in prison without parole for forcing her granddaughter to run for hours until she collapsed and died.
Garrard was found guilty of capital murder in March in the 2012 death of Savannah Hardin, her 9-year-old granddaughter.
A jury of 8 men and 4 women spent about three-and-a-half hours deciding to convict her, and then took about the same time to recommend she spend the rest of her life in prison. The jury vote was five for death and seven for life in prison.
District Attorney Jimmie Harp today said the jury decision of life imprisonment was the right call.
Prosecutors said Garrard forced the child to run for more than three hours as punishment for lying about eating candy bars on Feb. 17, 2012. Witnesses testified they saw Garrard in the yard of the child’s home shouting at her to continue running through the afternoon. Savannah collapsed and died days later in a Birmingham hospital.
Garrard testified that she never forced the child to run, but both a state pathologist and one testifying for the defense told the jury Savannah’s death was caused by extreme physical exertion. Dani Bone, Garrard’s defense attorney, said Garrard was glad the judge followed the recommendation of the jury. As he did following the trial, Bone said he plans an appeal of her conviction.