Jury Recommends Life Sentence For Woman Who Ran Granddaughter To Death

** FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH YEAREND COPY ** FILE -- This 2006 photo provided by Patrick Blackwelder shows his former stepdaugh
** FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH YEAREND COPY ** FILE -- This 2006 photo provided by Patrick Blackwelder shows his former stepdaughter, Savannah Hardin. Authorities have charged Savannah Hardinᅢ까タᅡルs paternal grandmother, Joyce Hardin Gerrard, and stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, with murder in her death. Police say the 9-year-old girl was run to death as punishment for lying, making it one of the top stories in Alabama for 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Blackwelder)

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By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., March 26 (Reuters) - An Alabama jury recommended on Thursday that a woman convicted of running her 9-year-old granddaughter to death as punishment for lying about having eaten chocolates spend the rest of her life in prison, prosecutors said.

Joyce Garrard, 50, was found guilty of capital murder last week in the 2012 death of Savannah Hardin. After finding her guilty, the jury was charged with determining whether to recommend a life sentence or the death penalty.

The judge in the case will ultimately decide whether to accept the jury's recommendation or sentence Garrard to death at a hearing scheduled for May 11.

Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said he was pleased with the outcome and would ask the judge to accept the jury's recommended sentence.

"We believe that Savannah Hardin has received justice today, something that we've been looking forward to since February 17, 2012," Harp told reporters, referring to the date of the incident.

On that day, after running for almost three hours while being made to carry wood, the girl, who lived in Etowah County, in northeast Alabama, collapsed and went into seizures, authorities have said.

She died days later in the hospital from dehydration and low sodium.

Garrard said in a conversation with the girl's school bus driver captured on a bus video that "she's going to run till I tell her to stop," as punishment.

Hardin had a bladder condition and was not allowed to have sweets or caffeine, Garrard told the bus driver.

The girl's stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, has also been charged with murder, with authorities saying she witnessed the punishment and failed to intervene. (Reporting by Sherrel Wheeler Stewart in Birmingham, Ala.; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Eric Beech, Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)



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