An Alabama prosecutor has announced that the state will seek the death penalty for Joyce Garrard, 46, who is accused of killing 9-year-old Savannah Hardin by making the child run for hours as punishment for eating candy. The charge raises the question of the evolution of the standard set by the Supreme Court
In Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639 (1990), the Supreme Court upheld Arizona laws allowing a death sentence based on the finding of an aggravating factor that the murder was “especially heinous, cruel, or depraved.” The ruling set aside prior rulings finding such terms to be unconstitutionally vague and raised concerns that we were returning to a broader use of capital punishment for more conventional murders (since most would fit this language).
In this case, Calhoun County District Attorney Jimmie Harp stated “The grand jury thought that Joyce Garrard had the intent or should have known that if you run a child to the point in time where it gets to the point that the body shuts down and can’t support life anymore, that you could infer that intent was there.”
This case has certainly appalled most of us with the death of this child. However, it is now unclear how much more heinous a murder must be to constitutionally justify the death penalty. “Should have known” how a body shuts down is a far distance from the standard assumed after Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). This would appear to sweep criminal recklessness into the category of death penalty offenses. There is no evidence that I have read suggesting that this grandmother wanted to kill the child.
It is often difficult to separate our anger from our analysis in such cases. However, it is unclear if there remains a significant remaining difference between murder cases certified as “death qualified” and those that are not. That raises the very question of consistency that led to the Court’s historical ruling in Furman.
What do you think?
43 thoughts on “Alabama Accuses Grandmother Of Senseless Killing of Granddaughter . . . Then Seeks To Kill Grandmother”
It’s nearly impossible to find knowledgeable people for this subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
It looks like this might not be as simple (bad mother, really bad bad grandmother, poor innocent daddy deployed at war) as it seems.
Looks like it might actually be: Good-enough mother, really bad father, custody battle, really rotten or utterly corrupt judge, money-grubbing criminalistic lawyers, “not my problem” others by the dozens, really bad (or terribly passive and scared) STEP-MOTHER, child deprived of all contact with her real mother who really loves her, and subjected to a dangerous and loveless situation in which she cannot survive, and psycho-sadistic grandmother. Just maybe.
THE PRESS IS APPARENTLY WRONG: The mother and grandmother did NOT get arrested in this case. The STEP-MOTHER and grandmother got arrested. Mom’s totally innocent and probably always was totally innocent of all wrong-doing. She just married a man whose own family was filled with monstrous psychopaths and when the time came for divorce, a “blameless” judge took away her child and handed her child over to dangerous people. Dad remarried someone who wouldn’t argue with her mother-in-law who was in the process of killing the ex-wife’s nine-year-old child.
The real mother was the only one “stable” enough to do right by her child?
The real mother was the only one whom the law would not permit to continue to perform her natural and legal duties of love and protection for this child, who was endangered by the state itself, and who was negligently killed. I hope the mother gets a really good lawyer to sue everyone involved for the death of her beloved daughter. I hope people re-read the US Supreme Court case of Joshua DeShaney versus Winnebago County, and think back on how much differently this case might have come out had there been a ruling in that case that really suggested accountability when the state becomes involved in telling a mother she cannot see her child.
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