Garrard's attorneys ask again for change of venue

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Joyce Garrard on Monday, June 16. Source: WBRC video Joyce Garrard on Monday, June 16. Source: WBRC video

Attorneys for Joyce Garrard have renewed their motion to move her capital murder trial out of Etowah County.

Garrard is charged with capital murder in the 2012 death of her granddaughter, Savannah Hardin, in the Carlisle community.

Prosecutors allege Garrard forced her granddaughter to run endless laps around the house until she collapsed as punishment for eating a candy bar and lying about it. The child's stepmother, Jessica Hardin, is also charged.

Defense attorneys filed a supplemental change of venue motion as Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree ruled, or delayed, a stack of motions in a Monday morning hearing.

It was originally supposed to be the final motions hearing before the trial, until the trial was delayed until September.

Prosecutors said they heard no testimony or evidence to suggest Ogletree should revisit his earlier ruling to keep the trial in Etowah County.

But then, attorneys for both sides approached the bench and apparently discussed the motion privately, away from where courtroom observers could hear it.

The only clue as to what they were discussing came when defense attorney Dani Bone showed Ogletree what appeared to be a recent issue of the Gadsden Times newspaper. Ogletree did not appear to make a ruling.

Media outlets reported late last week the defense had filed a motion limiting testimony from medical personnel, and that prosecutors countered with a motion suggesting Garrard lied to medical personnel who were treating Savannah Hardin.

Ogletree denied the motion to limit the testimony, saying he would address any issues that may come up as the trial progresses.

In other rulings Monday, Ogletree:

-granted a defense motion for special cautionary instructions to the jury;

-granted a defense motion to exclude potential jurors that would automatically vote in favor of the death penalty upon conviction;

-denied a request for the district attorney to disclose in advance any relationships he may have with potential jurors;

-acknowledged a pending motion to suppress any statements from the defendant, and any statements from anyone repeating what the defendant said (the defense wanted 30 more days to respond to a prosecution filing on that motion).

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for August.

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