Capital murder trial begins for Huntsville man charged with killing 20-month-old daughter

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Attorneys in the capital murder trial of Lionel Francis gave opening statements Thursday morning. Francis is charged with killing his 20-month-old daughter at their home Huntsville in May 2016.

The child was shot in her room by Francis, who told police it was an accident. Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit said the police investigation found the couple argued before the shooting.

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.

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.

Thursday Morning Court Action: 

The capital murder case of Lionel Francis seems to come down to one major issue for the jury: Did he mean to kill his 20 month old daughter, as prosecutors claim, or was it an accident as he told police?

The killing took place in May 2016 at the home Francis shared with his girlfriend and their daughter, Alexandria Francis. The girl’s mother testified today that she had just gotten out of the shower when she heard a gun cocked, then fired.

Police interview video played in court shows Francis telling police in he walked into the bedroom planning to put his gun away under the mattress. His daughter came towards him, wanting to play. He said he pulled back with the gun, trying to keep it from her, when it fired.

First responders testified today that when they arrived at the scene of the shooting, Francis was sitting on the curb, calmly smoking a cigarette. When police arrived he told an officer, ‘I invoke my rights.”

A state medical examiner testified the autopsy showed the gun was placed very close to the child’s forehead when it was fired.

Testimony resumed at 1pm. We will have a live report with the latest from the trial on WHNT News 19 at 5.

Below is a running account of the court proceedings: 

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