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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott signs death warrant for killer on Death Row since 1975



Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant Monday for Thomas Knight, one of the longest-serving Death Row convicts in Florida history.

Knight, 62, was sentenced to die in 1975 for the murders of Sydney and Lillian Gans of Bay Harbor Islands. That death sentence was reversed on appeal, but later upheld by an appeals court. While at Florida State Prison in Starke, Knight killed a prison guard, Richard James Burke, in 1980 and that is the crime cited on the death warrant signed by the governor. Only two other inmates have been on Death Row longer than Knight. Here's background on his crimes from David Ovalle of The Miami Herald.

While awaiting trial for the Gans murders, Knight escaped from the Dade County jail and killed a liquor store clerk in Cordele, Ga., the governor's office said.

After Knight stabbed prison guard Burke to death, prison officials insisted on handcuffing all inmates for out-of-cell movements, and inmates responded by flooding toilets, setting fire to mattresses and other incidents. Those two weeks in October 1980 are remembered on the Department of Corrections website as among the "darkest days" in FSP's history.

While in prison, Knight began using the name Askari Abdullah Muhammad, court documents show, but he's still listed as Thomas Knight on the prison system's website.

Here's what the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said about Knight's case just last month: "To learn about the gridlock and inefficiency of death penalty litigation, look no further than this appeal. Askari Abdullah Muhammad kidnapped and murdered Sydney and Lillian Gans four decades ago, in 1974. A Florida jury convicted Muhammad of murder, a Florida judge sentenced him to death, and the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed his conviction and sentence on direct appeal. While he awaited state collateral review, Muhammad killed again; this time, Muhammad murdered a prison guard because he was upset that he had been denied permission to meet with a visitor."


[Last modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 6:39pm]


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