Up until now, Joyce Hardin Garrard’s trial indicated she was facing life in prison but now, an Alabama county judge could change the whole situation. Joyce Hardin Garrard, the killer grandmother could receive the death penalty.
On Friday March 27, the jury found Garrard guilty of killing her granddaughter, 9-year-old Savannah Hardin, by literally making her run to death in the backyard in 2012. Although the jury considered life in prison was an appropriate punishment, the state of Alabama is one of the three U.S. states (besides Florida and Delaware) that permit judges to override jury’s decision in order to impose capital punishment.
And this is the exact case. County judge Billy Ogletree has the power to do that.
In Florida and Delaware, where the death penalty has been abolished, such situations are rare. This makes Alabama the only state in the U.S. where such judicial options are used regularly.
Savannah died after her grandmother made her run as a punishment for lying about having eaten some candy. The girl collapsed after being forced to run for hours in the backyard and then died.
At first it was difficult to prove the woman’s murderous intentions but prosecution managed to convince the jury that Ms. Garrard was so angry with her granddaughter that she wanted to kill her. So she made her run even after the sun began to set.
The jury was convinced by the presented arguments. The girl had wounds on her arms from having to carry pieces of firewood during her 3-hour running spree which indicated that, indeed, Garrard had murderous intentions.
Out of the 12 members of the jury, 5 voted for the capital punishment while the others agreed upon lifelong incarceration without parole. As the case is very odd, prosecution did not recommend either sentence for jurors to excessively think about.
Sam Bone, Garrard’s attorney, said he will appeal the case on a simple argument: that what neighbors and prosecution considered a cruel punishment was for Garrard a way of building her granddaughter’s character which in Savannah case, ended tragically.
Another odd factor in this case is the neighbors’ reaction. The question on everyone’s lips is “Why didn’t anyone interfere?”
Everyone is now anxious to see what the judge will decide on May 11 when the final punishment will be announced.
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