The Alabama grandmother who forced her 9-year-old granddaughter, Savannah Hardin, to run for three hours as punishment for lying about eating candy bars has been convicted of capital murder.
Joyce Garrard, 49, who showed no emotion as the verdict was read out on Friday, could face the death penalty in the wake of the conviction in the February 2012 death of the young girl, according to the Associated Press
The grandma had testified earlier this week that she’d “die” before hurting Savannah. With tears welling in her eyes, she told the court Wednesday of the moment the 9-year-old collapsed. “I was calling to Savannah, ‘Savannah, it will be all right,’ ” Garrard said. “But it wasn’t.”
However, prosecutors disputed her weepy testimony, replaying a conversation between the grandma and Savannah’s bus driver, captured by a surveillance camera on the bus. In it, Garrard can be heard saying, “She’s going to run till I tell her to stop … I don’t play with her.”
Savannah died after being forced to run for three hours while carrying firewood, prosecutors said. Garrard denied ever forcing the 9-year-old to do anything, insisting she “couldn’t make [Savannah] do anything.”
She said Savannah loved to run and that the 9-year-old had asked her to coach her that fateful February day. “She asked me to coach her. Instead of coming in second in her running class at school she wanted to come in first,” Garrard said.
But jurors didn’t believe her. It took them just three-and-a-half hours of deliberation before they returned a verdict. Sentencing is scheduled to begin Monday, according to the AP.
Savannah’s stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is currently awaiting trial on a murder charge in the girl’s death. Police say she knew what was happening and failed to intervene.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.