GADSDEN, Ala. – A woman who "tortured" her granddaughter by forcing her to run until she dropped and later died should be convicted of capital murder in the girl's death, an Alabama prosecutor told jurors Friday.
"The reason that child is dead is that she was forced to run for hours," Assist District Attorney Carol Griffith said.
But a defense attorney for 49-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard portrayed his client as a devoted, helpful grandmother who was helping her son and his wife look after 9-year-old Savannah Hardin while her father was overseas in the military.
Prosecutors contend Hardin forced Savannah to run for hours as punishment for a lie, leading to her collapse and death in a hospital days later.
Griffith said Garrard killed the child intentionally by berating her and making her run around the yard picking up sticks
"She was tortured," Griffith said.
The question of intent is crucial. Garrard could face a death sentence if convicted.
Some witnesses who testified about seeing Garrard force Savannah to run seemed more upset in recalling the scene from the stand than Garrard appeared to be, Griffith said.
But Rhea urged jurors to ask why none of the witnesses intervened, if they thought the abuse was so awful that day.
He said, "I think we have all had the thought: 'If it was that bad, why didn't they do something?'" He said witnesses didn't notify police about their concerns until days later, after they heard girl was on life support.
"Then it becomes 'Oh yeah, I witnessed boot camp. I witnessed the drill sergeant from hell,'" he said.
Garrard was the final witness Wednesday, denying she meant to harm Savannah.
She initially denied the girl had run any faster than a trot on Feb. 17, 2012, the day she fell unconscious with seizures that evidence showed were caused by low sodium levels.
But later, during cross-examination, Garrard testified she was training the girl to win foot races at school. She said Savannah loved to run and it was impossible to force the child to run.
Griffith asked jurors not to believe the "sweet little voice" that Garrard used during her testimony. She said no one would have done what Garrard did unless she meant to harm the child
"This woman intended exactly what happened," she said.
Jury deliberations will start after closing arguments.