(Updates with execution, details)
By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Jan 7 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
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)