GADSDEN, Ala. – A plea deal may be in the works for the stepmother of a 9-year-old Alabama girl who prosecutors said was run to death as punishment for lying.
Richard Rhea indicated during a court hearing that talks between 28-year-old Jessica Mae Hardin and prosecutors may be under way. Rhea represents the dead girl's grandmother, 47-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard.
Authorities in northeastern Alabama said Savannah Hardin died after she was forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars.
Savannah became severely dehydrated, had a seizure and died three days later.
The stepmother was charged because prosecutors said she failed to intervene.
Prosecutors said they planned to file a capital murder charge against Garrard. The charge carries the possibility of the death penalty.
Both women have said they were innocent.
One witness, Roger Simpson, told police he saw a little girl running, but didn't see anybody chasing or coercing her.
Hardin was in court because she had a baby after her arrest. She was asking a judge to reduce her $500,000 bond. The hearing was adjourned with no ruling.
Court records showed the girl's father, Robert Hardin, filed for divorce from Jessica Hardin in August of 2010. In his complaint, he asserted his wife had bipolar disorder and alcoholic tendencies. He previously accused her of having run off with the couple's own child. In her response, Jessica denied all of Robert's allegations.
Five months after filing for divorce, the two asked a judge to dismiss their case.
(The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.)