Killer of guard, couple is executed

STARKE — A Florida inmate was executed Tuesday for fatally stabbing a prison guard with a sharpened spoon while on death row for abducting and killing a Miami couple.

Askari Abdullah Muhammad, previously known as Thomas Knight, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison, the governor's office said. The execution took place in the same prison where Muhammad killed corrections officer Richard Burke in 1980.

"This is where my dad took his last breath," said the slain guard's daughter, 47-year-old Carolyn Burke Thompson. She was among several family members who witnessed the execution and could be seen crying in the front row as it was carried out.

"The system finally has worked. I am at peace knowing I don't have to wait any longer. I miss my dad a lot," she said.

Muhammad, 62, was initially condemned to die for the 1974 abduction and killings of Sydney and Lillian Gans of Miami. Tuesday's execution was specifically for Burke's killing.

Muhammad was visited by his four sisters Monday and earlier Tuesday by a friend. He declined to make any statement before the sentence was carried out. A small group opposed to the death penalty protested outside the prison.

His execution was delayed for so long by numerous appeals and rulings, including a 1987 federal appeals court tossing out his original death sentence because he hadn't been allowed to put character and background witnesses on the stand during the penalty phase.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeals, but Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent he would have granted a stay to hear Muhammad's claims that it may be unconstitutional to execute an inmate after such a long time on death row.

Killer of guard, couple is executed 01/07/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 10:41pm]

    

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