BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A state appeals court refused to dismiss a capital murder charge against an Alabama woman jailed in the running death of her 9-year-old granddaughter, potentially setting the stage for her trial early next year.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a challenge by Joyce Garrard, who is accused of forcing Savannah Hardin to run until she collapsed as punishment for a lie about eating candy.
Garrard, 49, of Boaz has been held since March 2012, but the court rejected defense claims that two trial delays violated her constitutional right to a speedy trial.
One of the postponements was at the judge's discretion, the appeal's court ruled, and the second was caused by a motion filed by the defense, not prosecutors.
Authorities contend Garrard forced the girl to run for hours outside her home in rural northeast Alabama. The child collapsed and died later in a hospital.
Garrard pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a potential death penalty, and her lawyers blame the child's death on health problems they say the girl experienced before the episode.
The girl's father has filed a malpractice lawsuit that makes claims similar to the defense arguments.
The decision by the appeals court did not address Garrard's claims about potential problems with the girl's autopsy.
The judges ruled Friday. Garrard's trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 23 in Etowah County.
The girl's stepmother also is awaiting trial on a murder charge and is accused of failing to intervene and save the child. She has pleaded not guilty.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and Cuba will begin taking steps to restore full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in more than half a century. Key elements of changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, some of which President Barack Obama announced at the White House this week:
WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — One of two girls accused of stabbing a classmate in a southeastern Wisconsin park to please a fantasy character known as Slender Man is competent to stand trial for attempted homicide, a judge ruled Thursday.
A state psychiatrist determined that the girl would be able to assist in her defense, but her attorney disputed the finding, saying he had a report from another doctor who disagreed. Both reports are sealed.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren, who ruled at the end of a three-and-a-hour hearing, said that by all accounts, the girl is highly intelligent.
"I'm satisfied that the issues of age and maturity do not override her competency," the judge said. "She's competent to make the decisions that have to be made."
The decision keeps the case moving in adult court. Bohren scheduled a preliminary hearing, at which point he would have to decide whether there's enough evidence to warrant a trial, for Feb. 18 and Feb. 19.
Two psychologists, Anthony Jurek and Michael Caldwell, testified for the defense that they interviewed the girl several times. They said although she is clearly intelligent, the girl has trouble making decisions when she's bombarded with information and lacks an understanding of the nuances of the criminal justice system, including the ramifications of accepting a plea bargain.
Another psychologist, Robert Rawski, testified for the state that he found the girl to be highly capable. And Ted Szczupakiewicz, an assistant district attorney, said it appears the girl answered the defense experts' questions about the legal system correctly.
"She does understand she ... would be an important source of information for a defense attorney," Szczupakiewicz said.
Bohren scheduled a Thursday afternoon hearing to decide whether the other defendant is competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors have charged both girls with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the attack in May in Waukesha, a city of 71,000 about 15 miles west of Milwaukee. They say the girls plotted for months to kill classmate Payton Leutner, luring her to a wooded park after a sleepover and stabbing her 19 times. After her attackers left, Leutner crawled through the woods to a sidewalk where a bicyclist found her and called 911.
The two girls charged in the case were found walking toward a national forest where they said they believed Slender Man lived in a mansion. They told investigators they believed killing Leutner would curry favor with the figure.
All three girls were 12 at the time of the attack. The girl whose competency was in question has since turned 13.
Wisconsin law requires suspects in severe crimes to be charged as adults if they are at least 10 years old. The Associated Press is not naming the girls because their attorneys have said they may still try to move their cases into juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says the Obama administration's decision to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba won't impact immigration rules just yet.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. would normalize relations with the island's Communist government and open a U.S. embassy sometime next year.
In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Thursday, Johnson says policy change won't impact immigration rules for now. He added that Cubans should not to try to come to the U.S. illegally.
Under current law Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, by sea or land, are generally allowed to permanently stay in the country under the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy. Most other immigrants face deportation if caught trying to sneak into the country.
BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge is weighing whether two men at the center of a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people should be freed until their criminal trials.
Barry Cadden, a co-founder of the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center, and Glenn Chin, the Framingham-based company's supervisory pharmacist, were in federal court Thursday. They are among 14 people charged in what authorities say is the largest U.S. criminal case ever brought over contaminated medicine.
Their lawyers argued that the men have deep ties to their communities and have long been aware of the investigation.
But prosecutors said they pose serious flight risks, given they now face possible life sentences.
Judge Marianne Bowler took the arguments under advisement after a hearing lasting more than two hours.