Jury selected for trial of Huntsville man charged with killing 20-month-old daughter

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A jury was selected Wednesday for the trial of Lionel Francis, a Huntsville man who is charged with capital murder. Francis, 37, formally pleaded not guilty Monday. This week will decide his future.

He’s charged with shooting his daughter, 20-month-old Alexandria Francis, at their home on Lockwood Court in May 2016. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Nearly 80 potential jurors were brought into court Monday morning. The jury was given a 35-page questionnaire. After the potential jurors filled out their questionnaires Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall excused them for the day.

The 35-page questionnaire addressed a number of subjects with the jury pool, including an emphasis on their views on the death penalty.

The child was shot in her room by Francis, who told police it was an accident.

The child’s mother, Ashley Ross, told WHNT News 19 after the killing that Francis was a doting father and never abusive to her or their daughter.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit said the police investigation found the couple argued before the shooting.

“As a result of that fight, or maybe for some other reason, he essentially went into the bedroom, took a gun, cocked it, pointed it at his daughter’s head and pulled the trigger,” Douthit said.

Opening statements in the case are expected to begin Thursday morning.

If the jury convicts Francis, the case would then move into the penalty phase. The same jury will hear arguments and evidence on whether Francis should receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

It takes 10 out of 12 jury members to recommend a death sentence in Alabama. Because this case began before Alabama ended judicial overrides, where the judge has the last word on sentencing in capital cases – the jury’s role would be to recommend a sentence, but Judge Hall is not bound by the recommendation.

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