Alabama woman on trial for granddaughter’s death testifies she did not make girl run as punishment

GADSDEN, Ala. — An Alabama woman charged in her granddaughter’s running death testified Wednesday that she would “rather die” than hurt the little girl, and denied it would have even been possible to make her run as punishment, as prosecutors contend happened. Joyce Hardin Garrard took the witness stand to say she never intended any harm to 9-year-old Savannah Hardin. “I pray for her every day,” Garrard said of the child, wiping tears from her eyes. Prosecutors contend the woman made the girl run for hours as punishment for a lie, leading to her collapse and death in a hospital days later. Garrard initially denied the girl had run any faster than a trot on Feb. 17, 2012, the day she fell unconscious with seizures that evidence showed were caused by low sodium levels. You can’t make Savannah do anything. Bottom line. You can’t do it. But later, during cross-examination, Garrard testified she was training the girl to win foot races at school. She said Savannah loved to run and it was impossible to force the child to run. “You can’t make Savannah do anything. Bottom line. You can’t do it,” she told a prosecutor. Garrard was expected to be among the final witnesses to testify, but it was unclear when jurors might get the case. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but jurors could also consider lesser charges depending on the judge’s instructions. When defense attorney Richard Rhea asked if she would have done anything to hurt Savannah or any other grandchildren, Garrard replied: “I’d rather die first.” The 49-year-old Garrard said she and Savannah had been in the yard picking up sticks and talking, taking frequent breaks to get a drink of water and to play. She said she was telling Savannah the importance of not lying. “I was picking up sticks with her because I felt just as Continue Reading

Jury in Aaron Hernandez murder trial doesn’t reach a verdict, deliberations will continue into second week

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The jurors in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial failed to reach a verdict at the Fall River Justice Center Friday afternoon before breaking for the weekend. It was the third day dedicated to deliberations. The seven women and five men were told to avoid any coverage of the case while away from the courthouse. "Please keep your minds suspended," Justice E. Susan Garsh said. RELATED: AARON HERNANDEZ TRIAL JUDGE BANS CAMERAMAN, WARNS MEDIA Hernandez, 25, faces a first-degree murder charge, as well as illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition charges related to the murder of Odin Lloyd. Prosecutors proved exhaustive in trying Hernandez. There were 135 witnesses called and 439 pieces of evidence introduced since proceedings commenced on January 29. During closing arguments earlier in the week, Hernandez's attorney, James Sultan, acknowledged that Hernandez was at the murder scene, but Sultan maintained that Hernandez had nothing to do with the killing. Lloyd was shot to death in the undeveloped section of an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's house in North Attleborough, Mass. There were no questions seeking clarification on legal issues from the jurors on Friday. Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, was in attendance. Hernandez has been in jail since June 26, 2013. He will face a separate trial for a 2012 double homicide in Boston after the Lloyd case is over. Continue Reading

Bronx effort to speed up trials as part of Justice Reboot plan gets off to slow start

Now if only the defendants can make it on time. A Bronx judge, heeding the mayor’s call for a “justice reboot,” moved Wednesday to help the borough’s accused felons get their day in court a lot quicker. But the move to accelerate the judicial process got off to an unfortunately slow start, with the initial defendants brought to court more than an hour after the scheduled 9:30 a.m. opening. Chief Administrative Judge Robert Torres personally took control of the new Part 86, operating out of an empty courtroom in the basement of Bronx Supreme Court. Torres began plowing through the first 30 of the 546 unresolved Bronx cases where an accused felon remained behind bars more than a year after their arrest. Mayor de Blasio wants the qualifying cases resolved with a plea deal or a trial date within 45 days. The Bronx is notorious for its legal logjams. The judge acknowledged he was facing a tall order: “We’re handicapped on staffing. We don’t have the trial capacity that we had two years ago.” There was another and immediate problem when the delivery of prisoners to the courtroom from Rikers Island started about an hour after the 9:30 a.m. start of business. Thirty cases were scheduled on day one of the Bronx’s effort to meet Mayor de Blasio’s mandate to keep things moving quickly in the courtroom. Two plea deals were reached on the first day of the project. Several others were put off until May 27. Torres urged competing sides to work out agreements. “I’d like both sides to reconsider their position,” the judge told lawyers in the case of Hector Lebron, locked up for a February 2013 slaying. “I haven’t heard an offer yet,” said defense attorney Michael Marley. “But I’m all ears.” Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Gruesome autopsy photos shown to jurors in trial of admitted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Jurors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial wept and others turned away as gruesome autopsy photos of a slaughtered 8-year-old boy were shown in court Monday as the prosecution rested its case. Martin Richard’s left arm was nearly ripped off and his chest blown open by a blast so strong it also sliced through his liver, pancreas and large intestine, fractured his ribs, ruptured his stomach and cut both his abdominal aorta and his spinal cord almost in half, a medical examiner testified in Boston Federal Court. The youngest victim of the April 15, 2013, bombing was watching runners cross the finish line with his family when the second of two explosions tore through a crowd of spectators, killing him and two others and injuring more than 200. Holding up the boy’s shredded green Boston Celtics jersey, black jacket and black pants that had been melted by the blast, Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Henry Nields said almost every part of his body suffered injuries, including third-degree thermal burns from the heat generated by the explosion. “All of the injuries would have been painful,” said Nields, testifying at the Federal Court terrorism trial of admitted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The boy’s parents were in the courtroom as the pictures were shown to members of the jury, some of whom were moved to tears at the sight of the boy’s mangled body. The photos were not released publicly. Jurors were also shown Boston University student Lingzi Lu’s autopsy photos. The bomb placed near a Boylston St. restaurant by Tsarnaev exploded with such force that it severed her femoral artery and vein, causing her to bleed to death on the sidewalk in “seconds to minutes,” a medical examiner testified. Surveillance video (left) shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carring at backpack containing the bomb. (Right) Tsarnaev is seen in a courtroom Continue Reading

Suge Knight to stand trial on murder charge: judge

Suge Knight’s murder rap stands. Prosecutors showed enough evidence this week to force the founder of Death Row Records to answer charges for murder, attempted murder and hit and run, a Los Angeles judge ruled Thursday. Judge Ronald Coen said that while it did appear Knight was physically attacked by Cle (Bone) Sloan at Tam’s Burgers in Compton, Calif., on Jan. 29, the cigar-chomping rap impresario “was attacked with non-deadly force and responded with deadly force” as he left the scene. “It appeared to me it was not an attempt to escape but an attempt at murder. And he’ll be held to answer,” Coen said. Sloan  testified with immunity Monday that he initiated a physical confrontation with Knight at Tam’s when he punched him through his truck window after a shouting match on the nearby set of the NWA biopic "Straight Outta Compton." But the 51-year-old former gang member denied he was armed when Knight ran him over with his truck and then mowed down Terry Carter, 55, as he sped away. Carter died from his injuries. The judge handed a small victory to Knight’s camp Thursday when he consolidated the two hit-and-run counts filed by prosecutors into one and reduced the rap mogul's bail to $10 million from $25 million. Knight’s fiancee Toi Kelley cheered the bail reduction outside court. “I feel like we made some progress today,” Kelly, the mother of Knight’s 5-year-old son, said. “He’s innocent, so it will be proven.” She said Knight, 49, previously told her that the men he encountered at Tam’s were “speaking of a gun being present,” so he believed he was the victim of an armed assault. “He heard them verbally saying they were going to shoot him, and not to shoot him actually in the truck, (but) pull him out of the vehicle and shoot him,” she said. “It’s just Continue Reading

MIT student connects Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to murder of cop, jury sees shredded backpack that carried bomb during trial

An eyewitness identified Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as one of the men he saw standing beside the cruiser of a murdered MIT campus cop. “That’s him,” Nathan Harman said and pointed at the 21-year-old Chechen immigrant. Harman, 24, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he “startled” Tsarnaev when he biked by the car. “He snapped up, stood up, turned around,” Harman testified. “I remember thinking he had a big nose.” Prosecutors contend Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan murdered MIT Officer Sean Collier in a failed attempt to steal his gun three days after the bloody April 15, 2013 bombings. MIT Officer David Sacco told the court said he dispatched a sergeant to check on Collier when he couldn’t raise the doomed cop by radio or cellphone. “Officer down! Officer down!” Sgt. Clarence Henniger could be heard yelling minutes later on a recording that echoed through Boston federal court. Throughout the dramatic testimony, Tsarnaev sat slumped in his chair. On day 5 of his trial, he hadn’t bothered to wear a tie, opting instead for a T-shirt under a jacket. His lawyers admit Tsarnaev took part in the bombings that left three dead, and injured and maimed scores more. But they contend his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an Islamic fanatic who masterminded the bomb attack — and killed Collier. Video footage shown in court showed two men approaching Collier’s cruiser. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed two days later in a shoot-out with cops in Watertown, Mass. Earlier, jurors were shown the backpack in which Tsarnaev carried his shrapnel-packed pressure cooker bomb to the finish line. And like many of the victims, it too was in shreds. Special Agent Sarah De Lair held up the tattered pieces of what had once been a Continue Reading

Discovery of Ramona Moore’s comes as murder trial looms against Bronx building super

The cold case prosecution of a cocky accused killer in the Bronx heated up quickly with the stunning discovery of the victim’s long-missing body. Nasean Bonie taunted a federal marshal when he was arrested last year for the July 2012 murder of his 35-year-old neighbor Ramona Moore, court documents showed. “Where is the body?” asked Bonie, now 29. “You don’t have a body. You can’t charge me with murder without the body.” Then, last Friday, a crew of utility workers stumbled upon Moore’s skeleton in a section of upstate Orange County near the home of a Bonie relative, sources told the Daily News. Dental records confirmed Monday that the remains were Moore's. “He had said, ‘How can you try me, you don’t have a body,’ ” said Moore’s sister, Nicole Moore, 44, of Queens. “Well, now they do.” The remains were uncovered just days before a scheduled hearing in what loomed as the first-ever Bronx murder trial without a corpse, sources told The News. Dental records confirmed the body was that of Moore, and an autopsy was expected to reveal the exact cause of death. State police, once at the scene last week, reached out to NYPD Detective Malcolm Reiman, a 28-year veteran known as a dogged investigator. A source said Reiman had a standing request to be notified if a woman’s body was found in the area. A friend of Bonie had told cops the suspect had confessed to choking Moore and dumping her body “by the highway,” according to the source. Bonie was the superintendent in the building where Moore was a tenant, and he admitted fighting with her over unpaid rent the last time he saw her. On the day of her disappearance, Moore twice called 911 to report that Bonie was threatening her, sources said. And witnesses told police that Bonie was spotted lugging a heavy garbage can from Continue Reading

Judge will allow BASE jumpers to visit 1 World Trade Center prior to trial

The trio of BASE jumpers who leaped from One World Trade Center in 2013 will be able to visit their 1,776-foot crime scene, a Manhattan judge said Tuesday. Lawyers for Andrew Rossig, Marko Markovich and James Brady—who took a flying leap off the tower in 2013—asked for roof access in advance of the May trial to prove they didn’t jump from inside of the building, which would expose them to burglary charges. Justice Charles Solomon said he would sign an order forcing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to allow some of the defense team, including at least one skydiver, to return to the roof. Prosecutor Joseph Giovannetti objected to the BASE jumpers’ return to 1 WTC—even though he has personally toured the top of the 104-story tower himself. Lawyers for the group, which also includes “lookout” Kyle Hartwell, have said the burglary charge—the top count—is misapplied because the jumpers were not indoors when the act occurred. Rossig’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, assured Solomon there would be no client funny business for the experienced daredevils. “I would consent to them searching my client to make sure that he's not carrying a parachute,” Parlatore said. A trial date has been set for May 18. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Jury selection in NHL scam trial includes judge’s hockey quiz

CENTRAL ISLIP — It’s not every day that an esteemed federal judge quizzes ordinary citizens about their level of interest in hockey. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco administered that test Monday on each candidate for the jury that will determine if a former financial adviser who called himself a “lifestyle coach” and a race car driver who counted Playboy as a sponsor stole millions from a group of NHL players and other investors. Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys watched closely Monday as Bianco questioned about 200 people summoned to the Alphonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse for jury duty. The resulting panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was a cross section of Long Island, including a self-described “hockey mom” and people with no interest in the sport at all. The jury includes a teacher, a graphic designer and a restaurant general manager. Over the next six weeks they will consider if Phil Kenner and Tommy Constantine committed fraud and money laundering in a case the government says cost victims upwards of $30 million. RELATED: JUDGE DENIES REQUEST FOR TRIAL TO BE MOVED TO BROOKLYN The FBI and IRS have been gathering evidence they say will show the duo diverted the hockey players’ money to their own bank accounts stretching back to at least 2006. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges that could send them to lengthy prison terms if convicted. Prosecutors say Kenner and Constantine stole tens of millions from as many as a dozen current and former NHL players who thought they were investing their money in Mexican and Hawaiian real estate deals and in a prepaid credit card company. Instead, the feds say, Kenner and Constantine used that money to fund lifestyles that included lavish homes, private planes and unrelated business ventures. Kenner faces nine felony charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Constantine was Continue Reading

Colo. theater shooter James Holmes’ trial to start Monday, as gun debate dwindles

DENVER — The trial of Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes is scheduled to begin Monday, as the state’s gun debate has quieted down. When Holmes opened fire inside a packed movie theater in July 2012, killing 12 and injuring 70, it did more than spread fear and heartbreak across the Denver suburbs. It helped revive the national debate over gun control. That argument gained intensity in the state five months later when a gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults at Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut. Democrats in the state legislature in 2013 muscled through new laws requiring universal background checks and banning magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Gun control advocates boasted that they had found the formula to enact their policies in a libertarian swing state. Then furious gun rights supporters recalled two state senators who supported the measures. “It’s in a sort of gridlock,” said nonpartisan Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “The violence issue we’re playing out right now is the Ferguson issue (of police shootings). You see nothing coming out in terms of gun control.” Part of the reason is that the two sides have essentially fought to a draw. Though gun rights groups were successful in the recalls, the pro-gun state senators were voted out in the regular elections last year. And, despite big GOP victories, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper won re-election despite signing the gun control laws. Guns were rarely discussed in a campaign where Republicans attacked Democrats on the economy and President Obama’s health care plan. This year Republicans tried to roll back the new gun laws but failed because they only control one of the two state legislative houses. The gun debate is also shifting westward, away from Colorado. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to keep the issue alive Continue Reading