Joyce Garrard will be sentenced May 11 for the death of her granddaughter

By Jeff Truesdell
March 26, 2015 08:10 PM
Eric T. Wright/The Gadsden Times/AP

The prosecutor described her as “pitiless” and said she deserves to die, but in the end an Alabama jury recommended life without parole for the woman convicted of murdering her 9-year-old granddaughter, who died after being forced to run for three hours.

The Etowah County jury reached its recommendation Thursday, rejecting the death penalty option for Joyce Garrard, 49, who was convicted by the same jurors on March 21 in the death of her granddaughter, Savannah Hardin.

Garrard’s defense was unable to shake off the prosecution’s allegation that Garrard forced Savannah to run for more than three hours while carrying firewood in 2012 as punishment for lying about eating candy on a school bus. The girl collapsed that evening and died in a hospital days later.

Her attorney, Dani Boone, said Garrard was thankful her life was spared but called the trial “a travesty of justice,” according to

“Joyce Garrard did not receive a fair trial,” he said. “I couldn’t get my case out. We are confident that there are many appeal reversible-plain error-type issues.”

The jury vote was five for death and seven for life in prison. Judge William “Billy” Ogletree set a sentencing hearing for May 11.

During the punishment hearing that led to the jury’s recommendation, Savannah’s mother, Heather Walker, had testified that Garrard showed no remorse and “shouldn’t be spared.”

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