Jury recommends death penalty for man found guilty of 20-month-old daughter’s murder

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A Madison County jury has recommended the death penalty for Lionel Francis in the case of his daughter's murder.

Francis, 37, was found guilty last week of the May 2016 intentional shooting death of his 20-month-old daughter Alexandria Francis at the family’s home on Lockwood Court.

Francis claimed the shooting was accidental.

The jury had the option of choosing life without parole or the death penalty, but the judge is able to override their recommendation. The process of overriding jury recommendations in capital murder cases has ended in the state, but cases that began before the law changed in 2017 still give the judge the final word on sentencing.

The jury vote was 11-1 in favor of the death penalty. It takes 10 jurors out of 12 to recommend the death penalty. A jury vote with fewer than 10 jurors is considered a recommendation for a life without parole sentence.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit said it is difficult to ask for someone's execution, but in this case, that's what justice demands.

"In Alabama we allow for the death penalty, we reserve it for the worst of the worst," Douthit said after the jury's recommendation was issued. "People that have gone above and beyond in the evil acts they have done. I can, as a prosecutor, as a father, as a citizen, I can think of nothing worse than to take a gun, to look into the eyes of an 18-month-old child, put that gun into her head, press it and pull the trigger. Life without parole was just not equivalent to the crime in this case, it had to be death."

The judge has set the final sentencing date for July 25.

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