February 23, 2012 By Wallin & Klarich

In a tragic case of punishment gone horribly wrong, a grandmother and a stepmother have been charged with murder in the death of a 9-year-old girl. As more details in the case unfold it may become clearer if a murder defense attorney will have their hand full or if they will have a slam dunk defense. What is beyond a shadow of a doubt is that an absolute tragedy has occurred.

Initial police reports indicate that Savannah Hardin (9) lied to her grandmother, Joyce Hardin Garrard, about eating some candy bars.

To punish her for lying the grandmother and stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, force Savannah to run in the yard for 3 hours straight without stopping.

Eventually, Savannah got so dehydrated that she had a seizure, was rushed to the hospital, and died three days later. Police are still trying to determine if Savannah was forced to run via physical coercion or simply from verbal threats.

At least one neighbor has come forward saying they recall seeing the little girl running around the yard but doesn’t recall seeing anyone chasing her or yelling at her to keep running.

Local police have said that the received several calls from concerned citizens who saw Savannah running around in the yard.

The severe dehydration is the sticking point in this case. Prosecutors could easily argue that denying the child water during the punishment qualified as malice aforethought. In essence, the argument is that a reasonable person would have known that lack of water would have been severely hazardous to the little girl’s health. By continuing on with the punishment, it showed a deliberate disregard for human life.

If the prosecution can convince a jury that the stepmother and grandmother meted out the punishment with little to no regard for the health and safety of Savannah, both could be convicted of murder.

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