Updated: January 7, 2014 The United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request for a stay of execution from Askari Muhammad.He has a remaining appeal for a stay of execution at the United States Supreme Court.

Updated: January 2, 2014

Askari Abdullah Muhammad, a/k/a Thomas Knight, is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm EST, on January 7, 2014, at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida.  Sixty-two-year-old Askari is convicted of murdering correctional officer Richard James Burke while on death row for the murders of Sydney and Lillian Gans.  Askari has spent the past 38 years of his life on Florida’s death row.

Askari Muhammad, then legally known as Thomas Knight, had been employed by Sydney Gans for about 10 days on July 17, 1974.  As Sydney exited his Mercedes Benz at work that morning, Knight ambushed Sydney, forcing him back into car to go pick up his wife, Lillian Gans.  After picking up Lillian, Knight had Sydney drive to the bank and withdraw $50,000 in cash.  Lillian and Knight remained in the car while Sydney made the withdraw.  Sydney informed the bank president, who then informed the police and FBI, that Sydney and his wife were being held hostage.

Sydney returned to the car with the money, out of fear for his wife’s safety.  Knight then ordered Sydney to drive to a secluded area on the outskirts of Miami.  Plainclothes police officers followed in unmarked cars.  A helicopter and a small fixed wing surveillance airplane were also used.  Police officers lost sight of the car for approximately five minutes, during which time Knight shot and killed Sydney and Lillian.

 

When police found the car, Knight was running away from the car with an automatic rifle.  Lillian was dead behind the steering wheel, shot in the neck.  Sydney was found 25 feet from the car, also shot in the neck.  Knight was apprehended approximately 2,000 feet from the car, four hours later.

In September of 1974, Knight escaped from prison, along with other inmates.  For 101 days, Knight evaded police.  During that time, Knight killed a liquor store clerk in Cordele, Georgia.  Knight was finally arrested in a shack on New Smyrna Beach in December of 1974.  Knight was convicted by a jury in 1975 for the murders of Sydney and Lillian Gans and sentenced to die.

In October of 1980, Knight killed correctional officer Richard James Burke with a sharpened spoon.  Knight’s reason was that they would not let him see his mother, who had come for a visit.

In 1981, Knight was given his first execution date.  It was stayed so that he could stand trial for the murder of Richard Burke.  He received a second death sentence in January of 1983.

In 1987, a federal appeals court threw out the death sentence for the murder of Sydney and Lillian Gans.  The court reasoned that Knight should have been allowed to present character and background witnesses during his penalty hearing.

Knight’s resentencing hearing was held in 9 years later, in 1996, under heavy security.  In the intermittent years, Knight had changed his name to Askari Abdullah Muhammad and grown a beard.  Muhammad was disruptive during the trial, cursing daily and exclaiming “Allah Akbar!” or “God is great!” in Arabic, forcing his removal from the courtroom.  Once again, a jury recommended, and a judge agreed, that Muhammad be given the death penalty.

The death warrant for Muhammad’s January 7, 2014, execution refers only to the murder of Richard Burke.

 

Please pray for peace for the families of Richard Burke and Sydney and Lillian Gans.  Please pray for the peace and strength for the family of Askari Muhammad.  Please pray that Muhammad find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.

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