The lawyer for Joyce Garrard, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for making her 9-year-old granddaughter run for three hours as punishment until she died, says Garrard’s sudden death last week compounds a tragedy the family has been unable to properly mourn.
“The abuse that Joyce Garrard has taken is a travesty the injustice of a lifetime,” Garrard’s attorney Dani Bone tells PEOPLE exclusively.
Garrard, 50, collapsed Feb. 7 from an apparent heart attack at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, and died Feb. 12 at a hospital. She was serving life without parole after jurors last year found her guilty of murder by forcing her granddaughter, Savannah Hardin, to run for three hours while carrying firewood after she lied about eating candy.
The charges and the verdict – Savannah’s stepmom, Jessica Mae Hardin, is scheduled for trial later this year on a murder charge for allegedly failing to intervene in the February 2012 incident – have left the family “living a nightmare,” Bone says. They are “hated by the world,” and consequently have “never been able to properly mourn the death of Savannah.”
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“Savannah was just worshiped,” he says. “Human beings cannot be run to death It has never happened. Human beings, we’re designed to run.”
The conviction rested in part on a school bus surveillance video, which captured Garrard telling Savannah’s bus driver, “She’s going to run till I tell her to stop I don’t play with her.”
Disputing the verdict, Bone says the video was “overplayed” and “very much insignificant.”
“Savannah wasn’t afraid of Joyce,” he says. And despite the allegation and outcome against his client, the Garrard family stood by Garrard’s side, he adds.
“They loved Joyce,” he says.
Reporting by ADAM CARLSON