But while the same jury declined to send Ms. Garrard to death row, county judge Billy Ogletree will have a unique option to reverse that decision and instead sentence the grandmother who punished too hard to herself receive capital punishment.
Alabama is one of three states – the others are Delaware and Florida – that allow so-called judicial override of jury sentences in order to impose the death penalty. The option is rarely used in Florida and Delaware has abolished the death penalty, making Alabama, where judges are elected, the only state in the union to regularly utilize the option.
Savannah collapsed and later died in her grandmother’s Etowah County yard after being forced to run for hours as a punishment for lying about taking some candy and eating it. On its face, it was a difficult murder case to prove, since prosecutors had to convince the jury that Ms. Garrard was so angry at Savannah that she intended to kill the girl with her barked demands for the girl to keep moving even as the sun began to set.But the jury agreed with the prosecution’s logic, that by the time the punishment was into its third hour, and given wounds on Savannah’s arms from having to carry sticks and pieces of firewood, Garrard was indeed in a murderous frame of mind as she attempted to break her granddaughter of perceived obstinacy.
Five out of 12 jurors voted for the death penalty, while seven voted for life in prison without parole. Given the peculiar nature of the case, prosecutors had not recommended either sentence for jurors to mull.
To read more CLICK HERE