Florida man on death row for 40 years executed

TALLAHASSEE, Florida Tue Jan 7, 2014 7:57pm EST

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida man who spent nearly 40 years on death row for killing a Miami couple and later stabbing a prison guard to death with a sharpened spoon was executed on Tuesday, a state prison official said.

Askari Abdullah Muhammad, 62, who was known as Thomas Knight when he killed his former employer and his wife in 1974, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. EDT (2345 GMT) from a lethal injection, said Misty Cash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

Muhammad won a stay of execution last month after he legally challenged the use of a sedative, midazolam hydrochloride, as the first in a series of three drugs used for lethal injections in Florida.

The state switched to midazolam last year when makers of another sedative, pentobarbital, refused to supply it to states using the drug in executions.

Attorneys for Muhammad said the new drug was an ineffective sedative and caused inmates to suffer pain when the subsequent two drugs - a paralytic agent and heart-stopping drug - were administered to complete the injection process.

A Florida circuit judge ruled, however, there was insufficient evidence of pain in two previous executions carried out with midazolam last year.

Muhammad was sentenced to death for the 1974 murders of Sydney and Lillian Gans in Miami. Muhammad had previously worked for Gans at a paper bag company, and abducted him from a parking lot with a rifle, forcing Gans to drive home and get his wife before making them withdraw $50,000 from a bank.

He shot the couple in the back of their heads and fled but was captured a short time later.

Muhammad escaped while awaiting trial and was implicated in the fatal shooting of a liquor store clerk in October 1974 in Cordele, Georgia. He was not charged in that case but was returned to Florida for trial in the Gans murders.

In 1980, while on death row, Muhammad stabbed correctional officer Richard Burke while being escorted to a shower room. Three years later, he was sentenced to die for Burke's killing.

Muhammad made a final appeal in late December, arguing that the state withheld evidence of his mental condition that might have disputed premeditation in the slaying of the prison guard.

The state's highest court rejected that appeal without comment on Monday.

(Editing by Kevin Gray, G Crosse and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (9)
RammmerJammer wrote:
It is unconstitutional to allow a convicted murderer to take such an excessive length of time to be executed. The appeals are simply used to delay the execution of the guilty and the courts should prevent that abuse from occurring. Otherwise the public loses faith in the system due to justice denied for the victims family. Then the perception is the system is rigged for the assailant. When that occurs it is time to storm the Bastille to do the job ourselves since the system has been commandeered by the guilty.

Jan 08, 2014 12:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
runfast3 wrote:
The only problem with this is,this bastard should have been executed 35 years ago. What kind of justice do we have to hold a man on death row for 40 years.

Jan 08, 2014 3:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
carlo151 wrote:
The problem is runfast3 that we find there have been too many cases of poor legal representation on enough of our legal system to cast doubt about guilt. I cannot help but have the same feeling when I read about some horrible can cruel killing, then weeks later read about somebody on death row for 15 years who truly did not do it.

I no longer support the death sentence, but I could strangle some of these people with my bare hands when I read what they did. We need to shrink down the prison system to those that truly need to be there, the violent, and spend our dollars making sure they never get out after a truly fair trial.

Jan 08, 2014 8:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
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