Garrard sentencing begins, Affordable Care Act anniversary and colorectal cancer awareness month

Mar 23, 2015

Joyce Hardin Garrard at trial March 20.
Credit Eric T. Wright, AP

A jury will debate whether to recommend the death penalty today after convicting the woman accused of running her granddaughter to death of capital murder.

The panel will hear additional evidence for sentencing today as they decide between execution or life in prison without parole for 49 year old grandmother Joyce Hardin Garrard. The judge has the final say.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty. They argue Garrard brutally forced the girl to run for hours as punishment until she collapsed into seizures.

Garrard's defense says there's no way she could have fully realized the consequences of her actions having only a ninth grade education. They're also asking jurors to take her husband and eight surviving grandchildren into account.

The Obama administration is touting the apparent success of the Affordable Care Act in Alabama on its fifth anniversary.

It was on this date in 2010 when the President signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 171,000 Alabamians were enrolled during the most recent sign-up period.

HHS Regional Director Pamela Roshell says there’s wellness care available through the act along with insurance coverage.

“Staying healthy and getting screened for possible problems is at no cost for these consumers, so this will definitely put many people on the right track as it relates to managing their health better, and seeing if there’s a problem.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a challenge on the legality of tax subsidies help purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The White House says there’s no “plan B” if the payments are struck down.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

New studies show that the risk of developing the disease increases with advancing age. The number of cases in Alabama is about on par with the national average.

Doctor Dennis Ahnen is with the American College of Gastroenterology. He says there are a number of causes of colon cancer, but only one real way to prevent it.

"Obesity is a risk factor, lack of physical activity is a risk factor, diets that are high in red meat and processed meat and low in fiber containing foods like fruits and vegetables -- those are all risk factors, but each are only modest risk factors. In fact, the biggest risk factor for getting colon cancer is not getting screened."

Ahnen says getting screened is the best way to prevent colon cancer. This allows doctors to find and identify polyps and remove them. Screenings should start at age fifty if you have no family history and continue every ten years.

The chairman of the Jefferson County Housing Authority Board has resigned from his position after failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in past due property taxes.

County Commissioner David Carrington says Keith Hall submitted his letter of resignation Friday. Records show Hall owes at least $103,000 in property taxes dating back to 2011. Hall has said his tax debt is around $35,000.

Carrington says he appreciates Hall's passion for providing housing for low-income residents, but that "his past due property taxes became an unneeded distraction to the Authority's mission."

Hall has been housing board chairman since 2009. It's unclear at this point how the commission plans to fill the vacancy.