Alabama appeals court tosses death sentence in toddler’s shooting death

Published 6:09 am Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Madison County judge wrongly sentenced a man to die for the shooting death of his 20-month-old daughter four years ago, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The court said Lionel Rory Francis, 38, of Huntsville could not be condemned for his capital murder conviction in the killing of Alexandria Francis because a judge mistakenly ruled he had a prior felony conviction for aggravated assault in North Dakota years before.

The case actually was a misdemeanor, the appeals court said, so it couldn’t be used as a reason to increase Francis’ punishment for the child’s slaying. Francis must be sentenced again with a maximum punishment of life in prison without parole, the court ruled.

The court refused to overturn Francis’ capital murder conviction.

Evidence showed the child suffered a point-blank gunshot to the head, the ruling said. Her mother was Francis’ girlfriend, and the three of them lived together. Francis claimed the shooting was an accident.