Lawyers questioning potential jurors about physical punishment in girl's running-death trial



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GADSDEN, Alabama — Attorneys questioned potential jurors on their beliefs about physical punishment Tuesday in the capital murder trial of an Alabama woman accused of making her 9-year-old granddaughter run until she died.

Some would-be jurors are former high school football players who described being forced to run as punishment during practice, and all said they benefited from the exertion and the discipline it instilled.

"I wouldn't call it punishment. I deserved everything I got," a prospective juror told defense lawyer Dani Bone, who represents Joyce Hardin Garrard, 59.

But another potential juror said making high-schoolers exert themselves that way is different than forcing a young child to run for hours, as prosecutors allege Garrard did to Savannah Hardin three years ago.

In a possible preview of the state's evidence, prosecutor Marcus Reid asked the juror what his coach might have done had a player wound up on his knees begging for help, crying, and vomiting after being forced to run for as long as four hours.

"He would have sought immediate attention," said the man.

Garrard, of Boaz, sat at the defense table staring downward during the exchange.

Authorities contend the woman forced the girl to run for hours as punishment for a lie about eating candy. The child eventually collapsed and died days later in a hospital.

Garrard says she is innocent, and the defense has suggested the girl died because of other medical problems and things that occurred after she lost consciousness at the family's home in rural northeast Alabama.

Jurors were questioned in open court after Etowah County Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree reversed himself and granted a defense motion to let the public witness the jury selection process. The first round of questioning, conducted Monday, was done behind closed doors.

Ogletree previously barred the news media from releasing any personal information about potential jurors, and he also issued a gag order barring attorneys from commenting on the case outside of court proceedings.

The judge dismissed 11 potential jurors after prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed they could not serve for reasons that included being related to people involved in the case.

More jurors will be questioned Wednesday and the judge told some to return Friday, suggesting opening statements won't begin before next week.

Jury selection was previously delayed three days because of wintry weather, and forecasters say north Alabama could receive more freezing rain and sleet late Wednesday.

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