- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama woman facing a possible death sentence in the death of her 9-year-old granddaughter is asking a judge to prevent lawyers from eliminating potential jurors who oppose capital punishment.

Joyce Garrard’s attorneys, in written arguments filed in Etowah County Circuit Court, contend that culling death penalty opponents from the jury, a standard part of a practice known as “death-qualifying” jurors, is unconstitutional since it would result in jurors more likely to vote for conviction.

Even asking potential jurors about the views on the death penalty makes them think the defendant is guilty, Garrard’s lawyers argued.

The defense suggested three alternative methods of empaneling a jury, including the use of separate juries for the main trial and a second for a sentencing phase should Garrard be convicted.

Prosecutors have yet to respond to the defense arguments, but Circuit Judge William Ogletree issued an order saying would consider Garrard’s arguments during a hearing set for Aug. 18 in Gadsden.

Richard Jaffe, a defense lawyer who specializes in death penalty cases in Alabama, said such motions aren’t unusual in capital cases and rarely succeed.

“That is a pretty standard motion that is typically denied,” said Jaffe, of Birmingham, who isn’t involved in the Garrard case.

Garrard, 49, is scheduled for trial Sept. 22 on a capital murder charge in the death of Savannah Hardin.

Prosecutors claim Garrard made the child run for about three hours outside her rural home as punishment for a lie about eating candy. The child collapsed and died days later in a hospital.

Garrard has pleaded innocent, and the defense blames the girl’s February 2012 death on other health problems. The girl’s father has filed a malpractice suit against a hospital where the child was treated, claiming doctors mishandled the child’s care.

The child’s stepmother, Jessica Hardin, also is charged with murder. Authorities contend the woman witnessed the punishment and failed to intervene to save the child.

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