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Running death: Grandmother wants charge dismissed

Created: 11/14/2014 5:22 AM
By: JAY REEVES

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman accused of running her granddaughter to death has asked an appeals court to dismiss a capital murder charge against her, citing potential autopsy problems and legal delays.

Lawyers for Joyce Garrard Hardin, 49, have filed papers with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals saying they found numerous problems with the state's autopsy of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin in 2012.

Hardin has been jailed since Feb, 22, 2012, accused of making her granddaughter run for hours as punishment for a lie about candy. Authorities have said the girl was exhausted to the point of collapsing. She died three days later in a hospital.

The defense contends the child died because of long-standing health problems, adding testimony about the girl's physical condition and the autopsy could be vital at trial. Those lawyers have asked the appeals court to order a circuit judge in Alabama's Etowah County, William Ogletree, to throw out the charge.

Hardin has pleaded not guilty but faces a possible death penalty if convicted. Her trial is set to begin Feb. 12 in Gadsden; two previous trial dates were pushed back.

Prosecutors have yet to respond to the defense document, which was filed Oct. 28 in Montgomery. The document was released by the appeals court Thursday at the request of The Associated Press. The state has until later this month to file an answer with the appellate panel and is under a gag order barring out-of-court comments.

A petition filed by the defense contends the girl's autopsy was performed by a doctor who was later fired over allegations that included possible falsification of documents and dereliction of duty. The physician has since failed to testify in other cases and may not be available to testify in Hardin's trial, the defense argued in the document.

Hardin's trial has been delayed twice despite defense attempts to move the case along, the attorneys argued. They said in their document that the postponements violate the woman's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Also, the defense claimed, Hardin is suffering from numerous health problems in the Etowah County jail and should be freed.

Ogletree has previously refused to dismiss charges against Hardin.

The child's stepmother is free on bond after being charged with murder for allegedly failing to intervene while the girl was running outside Hardin's rural home.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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