Judge to decide July 25 if Lionel Francis will get death sentence for daughter’s killing

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. --  On July 25, Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall will decide if Lionel Francis will get the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

He was convicted in May of fatally shooting his 20-month-old daughter. If a death sentence is ordered, it will be the first time in 11 years in Madison County. The last defendant to receive a death sentence was Benito Albarran, in 2008, for the 2005 shooting death of Huntsville Police Department officer Daniel Golden.

A Madison County jury deliberated just three hours before finding Francis guilty.

The jury later recommended, by an 11-1 vote, that Francis should get the death penalty.

Hall will make the final decision next Thursday.

Francis told police the gun went off accidentally at the family's home on Lockwood Court in the May  2016 shooting. He didn’t testify at his trial. His lawyers, Bruce Gardner, and  Eric Wood, argued there was no evidence he intended to kill his daughter.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit,  who prosecuted the case with Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County DA's office, said the death penalty in Alabama is designed to address the worst offenses.

"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," Douthit said, following Francis' trial.

If Francis is given a death sentence, he will join 174 other inmates on death row.

A WHNT News 19 analysis of Alabama Department of Corrections figures, found the average death row inmate has been on death row for 15 years.

The oldest inmate was born in 1948 and the longest tenure on death row is Arthur Lee Giles, who’s been there since 1979,

There are 169 men on death row and 5 women, figures show.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said there are no executions currently scheduled.

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