GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Attorneys for an Alabama woman convicted in her granddaughter’s running death asked a judge Wednesday to throw out the case over allegations of juror misconduct.
Lawyers for Joyce Hardin Garrard told the judge they have evidence of misconduct by at least four jurors.
With jurors outside the courtroom, defense attorney Dani Bone told Etowah County Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree he had obtained evidence of “widespread juror misconduct” during Garrard’s trial.
Ogletree has repeatedly told jurors to stay off social media including Facebook and to avoid all news during the trial, but Bone said there was evidence jurors had violated the admonishment. Some jurors weren’t truthful when they said in open court that they had followed the judge’s instructions, Bone said.
“I believe the misconduct by the jurors is broad, rampant,” Bone told the judge.
With attorneys conferring at the judge’s desk, District Attorney Jimmie Harp told Ogletree that the one juror who was dismissed for unspecified reasons before deliberations had been investigated without any misconduct being found. He urged the judge to let the sentencing phase continue.
But Ogletree took attorneys and Garrard into his office as the defense urged him to conduct a review.
“I believe there is some sort of duty to investigate,” Bone told the judge.
Ogletree didn’t say what he would do, but his options include questioning jurors about whether they have seen news or been on social media during the trial.
Jurors weren’t forced to stay in motels during the trial, but Ogletree told them not to go to work on days when court wasn’t in session and to avoid any discussion of the trial, even with spouses.
Jurors later convicted Garrard of capital murder. The remaining jurors are considering a sentence. Garrard could get a death sentence or life in prison.
The defense wants the judge to dismiss all charges or declare a mistrial. The judge and lawyers are discussing the claims behind closed doors.
Garrard was convicted of running granddaughter Savannah Hardin to death as punishment for a lie about candy.
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